Peace & Peacemaking

Letter from Jeju Island


Caption: Villagers and Protestors chant for the release of village leader Kang on Jeju island during the events described below

This letter was sent out by Paco this morning in an email to supporters of the campaign to Save Jeju Island in South Korea. I’m posting it under Paco’s author account here on YAR – TimN

Hello Again,

Things have gotten very crazy around here. Yesterday we had a 10 hour long stand off against around 300 riot police. I apologize for bad grammer and spelling but I’m very tired.

Here is a short summary of the last 23 hours of our still on going struggle. If you want to follow more closely, as well as see pictures and videos, check the facebook links that I gave you before [http://www.facebook.com/groups/Saveprofyang/], or if you are a twitterer follow #gangjung or #savejejuisland (many of the posts are in korean but there are also pictures)

None of this is sensitive information so it can be shared freely.

Shortly after 2 p.m. yesterday the navy/police made what we believe to be a trap to arrest Village Leader Kang. They began assembling an illegal crane in the construction area. This led Village Leader Kang and several activists and village people to the area where they began to argue that this crane was illegal. (more…)

Christian Peacemaker Teams 25th anniversary celebration

I haven’t posted anything in the last month, partly because I’ve been doing planning and prep work for our upcoming Peacemaker Congress this fall (October 13-16). The theme is Re-imagining Partnerships for Peace: A 25th anniversary celebration. It’s going to be a wonderful opportunities to connect with others who care about peacemaking on the margins and help CPT think about its next 25 years. Come join us! http://www.cpt.org/participate/peacemaker-congress-2011.

Speakers and presenters include: Tony Brown, Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, Elaine Enns, Ched Myers, Fathiyeh Gainey, Angela Castellanos and Mohammed Salah.

The event will be hosted by Reba Place Church in Evanston, Illinois, USA.

Haunting straight Mennonites moderates, pt 2: crisis and conciliation

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I’ve been reading the thread of comments in response to my post on Anabaptist Ghosts on The Mennonite. I think the concerns by the Aaron Kauffman (read his comment) and Harold Miller (read his comment) are shared by others as well and need to be addressed.

As I understand them, one of the key arguments that Kauffman and Miller are making is that my focus on social advocacy and confrontation is “cutting [me] off from any word of wisdom that other parts of the Body of Christ might have to offer.” In other words, their claim is that the haunting social advocacy and confrontation, as I am describing it, does not leave room for dialogue.

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Haunting straight Mennonite moderates: the Christian tradition of confrontation

This piece is cross-posted from As of Yet Untitled

In this month’s editorial in The Mennonite, editor Everett Thomas quoted Mennonite Church USA executive director Ervin Stutzman as follows:

“The experience of Pink Mennos at Columbus in 2009,” Stutzman said, “introduced a new level of engagement in controversial matters … The techniques of social advocacy and confrontation that we have taught young adults in our schools has come to haunt our church’s most visible gathering, to the end that convention-goers feel immense pressure to take up sides against one another on [homosexuality].”

Mennonite pastor Amy Yoder McGloughlin has already written quite eloquently and diplomatically on how Ervin’s words ignore the real ghosts who haunt the Mennonite convention. So I’d like to focus particularly on Ervin’s use of the term, “haunt,” to refer to the use of social advocacy and confrontation by Pink Mennos. As a Mennonite, I find social advocacy and confrontation at the heart of the gospel and at the roots of my Anabaptist tradition. To suggest that those of us who sought to embody this tradition as Pink Mennos at Colombus were “haunting” the convention is highly problematic.

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Active, Effective Theology: A Response to J. Denny Weaver

Recently, J. Denny Weaver spoke of his conversion from “passive” non-resistance and two-kingdom theology to an active stance against evil (reflection: can Mennonites use the term “evil”?) in Wisconsin. http://www.themennonite.org/issues/14-4/articles/Protesting_and_the_reign_of_God
While I approve of his stand, I must disagree with the theological conclusions of his article.

In speaking of two kingdom theology, Professor Weaver emphasizes the passive inaction of the theology. That it has nothing to say to oppression, that God is the God who empowers violence and the non-resistant have nothing to respond to injustice. Perhaps this is the form of two-kingdom theology that Professor Weaver learned, and I can see with a title like “non-resistance”, a theology might be prone to inaction. Certainly passivity is a concern among many who are raised “non-resistant”.

But two-kingdom theology is not about passivity. Certainly there is a passive aspect to it, even as Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting.” So there are actions that those of Jesus’ kingdom do not take. However, the foundational law of the kingdom of Jesus is active: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love isn’t passive, but active. Like the Samaritan in Jesus story, the one of Jesus’ kingdom cannot look at one hurt in the gutter and not act. (more…)

Peace Chaplain, Part 1

A seminarian contributed this chapter about learning to love her enemies after a direct action at a military base to Radical Peace: People Refusing Waredited by William T. Hathaway. Because of her activism, this piece is posted anonymously to Young Anabaptist Radicals.

To celebrate Armed Forces Day the military base near my seminary held an open house, a public relations extravaganza to improve their image and boost recruiting. They invited the public in for a marching band parade, a precision flying show, and a sky diving demonstration. They even offered free lemonade and cookies.

A subversive seminarian, namely me, decided to disrupt the festivities and remind people that the military’s job is murder. I bought a jump suit and dyed it orange like the uniforms the prisoners in Guantánamo have to wear. I bought two U-shaped bike locks, three diapers, and a pair of rubber underpants.

All suited up, I had a friend drive me onto the base before people started arriving for the celebration. She dropped me off at the traffic circle just inside the main gate, kissed me on the cheek for good luck, and drove back out the gate. In the center of the traffic circle stood a flagpole flying the Stars and Stripes. I ran to the pole, fastened my foot to it with one bike lock and my neck to it with the other — pretty uncomfortable — and started shouting, “Close Guantánamo! No More Abu Ghraibs! Free the Prisoners!” People gawked as they drove by, some laughing like I was part of the show, some waving, some giving me the finger.

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Why I agree with Brian McLaren’s answer (and why it matters that more of us do the same)

Brian McLaren recently published an article addressing the question, “Is God Violent?” In it he makes a case for God’s nonviolent nature that merits a response—both internal and external—from those of us who desire to follow Jesus.

To read McLaren’s article, click here (NOTE: you will be prompted to register in order to view it).

I’ve wanted to respond to McLaren’s essay for a while.

So when the March 2011 issue of Sojourners showed up in my mailbox, I determined it was time to slow down and reflect on his propositions and the nature of God as I understand it.

McLaren frames his essay in response to the notion that God is violent, as is reflected in the Old Testament narrative and which culminates in Christ’s crucifixion at Calvary.

It’s an idea that many Christians (and Jews, and Muslims) hold true, but McLaren identifies how this profoundly impacts how we interact with one another on multiple levels.

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Stories from National Anthem Conscientious Objectors

Last year many of you were saddened to learn that the administration at Goshen College decided to begin playing the national anthem before sporting events.  A group of faculty, staff and students at the college is hosting a new website for those opposed to the decision to share life experiences that have shaped their convictions.  See http://anthemCOstories.posterous.com/ .

Several stories are being posted each week, and we encourage more submissions.  Stories currently posted share experiences from the U.S. as well as from conflicts in Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, and Vietnam.  Events of other stories originated in Costa Rica, Uruguay, Trinidad, and Haiti.  Take a look and consider sharing with others the experiences that forged your convictions about civil religion.

Running in Fear

Ever feel like you’re somewhere where you shouldn’t be?

Yesterday I was running on the Coal & Coke Trail outside Mount Pleasant when I found myself in the midst of hunting season in Western PA. Orange-clad hunters with rifles patrolled the woods on either side of the trail.

This isn’t abnormal this time of year…after all, the PA hunting season is short and the interest, strong (i.e. supply and demand sends hunters and the hunting-inclined out in droves), and I’ve certainly seen hunters out and about during my daily runs.

But I felt particularly vulnerable this time around.

Yeah, I was wearing bright red and running in a b-line down a wide jogging trail, and I realize that hunters for the most part are very careful with their rifles. Most of the hunters I saw even acknowledged me with a hand wave or a tip of the cap.

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Mennonite Takeover?

Just read this article. I feel misunderstood; but in a way they do call us out on some stuff. It’s called “Mennonite Takeover?.” What do you think?

An excerpt:

All these neo-Anabaptists denounce traditional American Christianity for its supposed seduction by American civil religion and ostensible support for the “empire.” They reject and identify America with the reputed fatal accommodation between Christianity and the Roman Emperor Constantine capturing the Church as a supposed instrument of state power. Conservative Christians are neo-Anabaptists’ favorite targets for their alleged usurpation by Republican Party politics. But the neo-Anabaptists increasingly offer their own fairly aggressive politics aligned with the Democratic Party, in a way that should trouble traditional Mennonites. Although the neo-Anabaptists sort of subscribe to a tradition that rejects or, at most, passively abides state power, they now demand a greatly expanded and more coercive state commandeering health care, regulating the environment, and punishing wicked industries.

Even more strangely, though maybe unsurprisingly, mainstream religious liberals now echo the Anabaptist message, especially its pacifism. The Evangelical Left especially appreciates that the neo-Anabaptist claim to offer the very simple “politics of Jesus” appeals to young evangelicals disenchanted with old-style conservatives but reluctant to align directly with the Left. Most famously, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, once a clear-cut old style Religious Left activist who championed Students for a Democratic Society and Marxist liberationist movements like the Sandinistas, now speaks in neo-Anabaptist tones.

Queerness, Mennonites and Bullying: Beyond Spirit Day and Wearing Purple

This week on Thursday, people around the world wore purple in response to a spate of suicides has raised the profile of bullying dramatically. Specifically, bullying of gay and lesbian adolescents and teens. Watching this video of Google employees got me thinking about my own experiences of bullying as I grew up.

For the first 8 years of my education, I attended New Danville Mennonite School, a small Mennonite elementary school in Lancaster county. Almost as early as I can remember during my time there, I was picked on.

It started on the bus ride to school, which included two bus trips. The first one went from my home to Penn Manor, the local public high school. Most of the other riders were going to public elementary or high schools. The second bus took us from Penn Manor to New Danville and so only had kids going to New Danville. It was on the second bus, of mostly Mennonites, where I faced regular bullying and harassment through my early grade school years.

Often one or two kids would egg each other on and so the tradition was passed down from brother to brother and cousin to cousin. Some of the names they called me still hurt enough that I won’t repeat them here. I remember the bus drivers one or two ineffective attempts to stop the harassment. But it was impossible for them to maintain any discipline while safely driving a bus full of kids over Lancaster’s winding hills.

Starting in fifth grade, the bullying became more physical. It seems I was a good way for boys coming into their adolescence to try out their new-found strength. I remember Todd* in particular because he was the popular boy in the class. It was as if he was experimenting to see how much pain he could inflict, where hitting me under the desk in class or kicking me in the back while we walked down the hall.

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CPT video of Israeli destruction of Palestinian tomatos going viral

With over 5,000 views and counting it looks like this video from the CPT Palestine team may be going viral. It seems like the absurdity of Israeli destruction of tomato plants is really connecting with people:

I’ve never really been connected with a video that has got this much attention before. In my capacity as CPT Outreach Coordinator, I’m trying to figure out how to best to build on this swell. My usual Google strategy failed since the keywords I thought of mostly turned up stuff on how to get a video to go viral. But once it is on that trajectory, what do you do about it? Anyone out there have experience with this or resources on how to manage a viral video infection? For example, at what level of viewership do media sources start to get interested in the story of the viral video itself?

You can read the whole story of the tomato destruction on the CPT website here: AL KHALIL/HEBRON: Israeli Border Police destroy vegetable fields in Al Beqa’a Valley

“Wow. What a ride!” – in memory of Gene Stoltzfus

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“None of us is promised tomorrow, which makes me wonder if maybe we all shouldn’t be living as if we’re on our final journey home… Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow. What a ride!’ – Barbara Baumgardner in My Fantastic Final Journey

I came across this quote this morning while I was reading an article by Joan Hershberger in the latest issue of the Mennonite. It made my laugh out load and think of Gene. It was such a life he lived. And he died on the first warm day of the year, enthusiastically pedaling his bike to town, back home, and beyond.

Godspeed, brother. Godspeed.

Reflections on the 4th anniversary of Tom Fox’s death

Today is the fourth anniversary of Tom Fox’s death. Tom was killed by his kidnappers in Iraq on March 9, 2006, 104 days after Harmeet, Norman, Jim and Tom were driving back from a Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) delegation visit when their car was pulled over by armed men and they were kidnapped. Since I didn’t know Tom personally, I can only really write about my experience of his loss. For a more intimate portrait of Tom, see these eulogies by my colleagues.

I found out about Tom’s death two days after he was killed. It was a Saturday morning. When I walked into the living room at the London Mennonite Centre and Charletta told me "There’s terrible news from Iraq." 

 
Four years later its hard to put myself back in the space I was in when I heard the news. I, along with thousands of others around the world had been working so hard for our colleague’s release. Every Wednesday for months, a group of us in London stood holding  photos of Tom, Harmeet, Normand and Jim and candles in Trafalgar square. At times we had spent days answering phone call after phone call from press and then worked hard to keep the story alive after coverage of our four colleagues dried up. We tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to talk about the thousands of Iraqis who were being held in similar conditions to our four friends. 

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How would you translate Menno’s TEF?

As part of the conversation that often occurred in response to Mennonites in Northern Ghana, who were asking me “what does it mean to be Mennonite?” I would quote a snippet from Menno’s document. (I mean, only sometimes, when they asked specifically about Simons, because “church founders” are a BIG deal there). But the language was such that I always found myself changing the words. These folks loved Jesus, and they weren’t necessarily asking me about what Jesus had to say about discipleship and prayer, but they wanted to know what Menno had to say. They had only relative familiarity with British English and most are distanced from the written word. I wonder if I translated the following accurately? I wonder if it matters? How would you translate/summarize this part of Menno Simon’s Why I Do Not Cease Teaching and Writing (1539)

“True evangelical faith is of such a nature that it cannot lie dormant, but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it dies unto the flesh and blood; it destroys all forbidden lusts and desires; it seeks and serves and fears God; (more…)