Peace & Peacemaking

When should we insist on peace and nonviolence?

In the past few months, we’ve discussed how to handle churches that stray from their nonviolent roots, why we should refrain from commenting on situations we don’t know in-depth, and why those of us in comfortable lives should hold their tongues when people in uncomfortable lives outside of North America use violence. Yes, that’s a simplistic way of saying it, but it’s a decent summary.

My question is, when should we insist on peace and nonviolence? When should we, as people committed to the peacemaking roots of our church tradition (and not because it is our tradition, but because we believe it, too), stand up and say, “Nope, I’m not going to let this get watered down”? If a person with a U.S. military background comes into our churches and says, “Don’t tell people in Palestine not to throw rocks when people point guns at them,” how do you respond? Should we insist on peacemaking and nonviolence for ourselves but decline to comment on how others live? Can we live in church fellowship with those who say otherwise, and if so, does this mean asking them not to promote their beliefs in our churches? (more…)

Christian Peacemaker Teams: Necrophiliacs or Prophets of Imagination?

This week I got an email from Cliff Kindy saying that he’s returning to Iraq for four months as part of a CPT Team. Cliff’s work as a Christian Peacemaker has been mentioned a few times before on YAR.

In his letter announcing his return to Iraq he said:

A friend asked why I go to Iraq at a time when the situation is deteriorating even further. I go in expectation, trusting that the Jesus way of nonviolence always brings more creativity and positive change to situations of injustice and violence than the tools of war. The resurrection for me is a sign that life trumps death. Yes, it is a high risk project, but a project that participates already in the future for which we pray and yearn!

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Mixed Congregations

Do any of you radical anabaptists have non-radicals in your home congregation? I attend a Mennonite Church that has a large number of James Dobson fans in the congregation and another large number of people who do not want to offend any of these folks for fear of conflict and/or losing valuable members of the congregation. A friend of mine who is very peace and social justice oriented is very frustrated by the lack of support in this congregation and even some outright hostility towards peace issues being brought up in church.

We have ceased being a peace church in order to appease veterans and their spouses in the congregation. Some Mennonite women it seems have married non-Mennonite men who have military backgrounds and feel that bringing up peace issues is disrespectful to the sacrifice they made for their country. The women fear that if peace issues are brought up, their husbands will either want to attend a different church or just not attend church, so they don’t really want any peace issues brought up in church.

How do other congregations deal with this? (more…)

Biblical Authority in the Global South

I am currently reading The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South by Philip Jenkins. It is a fascinating book and if you have a chance to read it, I would highly encourage it. You can also hear Philip Jenkins give a little bit of an overview of the book from his address at the Berkeley Theological Union.

I would like to share a few quotes for discussion. From the end of the the chapter “Power in the Book” which surveys contemporary African and Asian perspectives on the Bible and its striking conservatism in relation to Euro-American “scholarly” understanding of biblical interpretation, Jenkins writes:

By what standards, for instance, do churches decide whether particular biblical verses or passages carry special weight, or might be less authoritative than others? Except for the hardest of the hardcore fundamentalists, American Christians rarely believe that each and every verse of scripture carries the same degree of inspiration, and hence the same value. Instead, many assume an implicit hierarchy of texts, based on what is commonly viewed as the best scholarly opinion. So, for example, the assumption that St. Paul did not really write the Pastoral Epistles attributed to him – the letters to Timothy and Titus – means that these can be treated as less serious, less authoritative, than the apostle’s undoubted words in Romans or the Corinthian correspondence. To claim that “Paul didn’t really write this” consigns the Pastorals to a semi-apocryphal status. At one synod of the Church of England, a clerical presenter made the remarkable argument that since no scriptural texts prohibited the ordination of women, modern conservatives should not “set up artificial and inept lines that no one can defend”. Apparently, in such a view, the explicit prohibition on women’s leadership or teaching authority found in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 no longer ecen counts as part of the New Testament. Opinions can differ about the authority that such a passage should command, but for many believers, it literally has been read out of scripture. (Jenkins, 40)

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Bad News for Arms Dealers

Campaigning against the arms trade has always been a David and Goliath battle with a few small underfunded non-profit organizations against a massive, wealthy industry in which multi-billion dollar deals are routine. Good news usually comes after years of quiet, mostly thankless work.

All that is to say that I was extremely happy to read about the closure of the Defence Export Services Organisation this week. DESO is (or was) a uniquely British government department whose sole purpose is to promote the sale of British weapons abroad using whatever “legal” means available to them.

During my time in the UK I spent a good deal of my time working with SPEAK, a Christian student campaigning network who was working to close DESO. In 2004 we spent a few hours on the coldest day of the year praying in a trench outside DESO headquarters and bringing them baskets filled with daffodils. As with many public witnesses, it was a whole lot of work and shivering that felt like a drop in a vast, empty bucket. (more…)

An interview with an Emerging Church leader drawn to Anabaptism

This interview is a repost from my blog on the Mennonite of an interview with Jarrod McKenna, a leader in the Emerging Church movement in Australia and founder of Empowering Peacemakers in Your Community, an organization that runs trainings on nonviolence and ecology in Australian schools, churches and prisons. I’ve previously referenced an article Jarrod has written on Emerging Peace Church Movement & the “Open Anabaptist Impulse”. Jarrod won the Donald Groom Peace Fellowship, a national Australian peace award. The Original intention was to do an interview with him for this blog and so, though I published it on the Mennonite site first, I think YAR is its true home. Enjoy! If you have your own questions for Jarrod, feel free to leave them in a comment and perhaps he’ll come by and answer them himself.

Tim: Where did you first come across the Anabaptist story?

Jarrod McKenna: The timing of my intro to Anabaptism was nothing short of God’s grace. It was a hugely significant time in my life though I was only 13 years old. Just before school started for my first year of high school, I made the very serious decision to follow Jesus. Up to that point I had gone through school not having the easiest time because of my dyslexia and ADD. I dealt with it by being the funny kid and when that didn’t work, beating kids up. I got good at both and was popular because of it. Yet the emptiness I felt would keep me up at night, looking up at the stars from my bedroom window and saying “God, if you’re there, I need you”. While some people have dramatic conversion experiences mine didn’t happen in a flash. But slowly my eyes opened to the Holy Spirit’s gentle work in my life. Night after night as the stars ministered to me I began to be sensitive to God’s love for me, and that love meant I could change, and follow Jesus. (more…)

What’s happening in Gaza?

This is another proxy-post by Rich, written for CPTnet and copied here with permission:

North American media have again found one of their favorite stories in the fighting between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza – Palestinians bent on killing, incapable of arranging their political lives without massacres. Without claiming to have the complete story, I can at least interject some additional perspectives that call for deeper interpretation. For example, I saw Fatah and Hamas legislators in Hebron walk arm-in-arm down Ain Sara Street, on a day when five of their colleagues died in a gun-battle in Gaza. OK, at least that says that Hebron is not Gaza. But what is behind the fighting in Gaza?

Last week in Gaza, Hamas fighters finally drove Fatah fighters out of the Office of Preventive Security – that’s a police headquarter building, basically. Maybe North American reporters have forgotten that there was an election in Gaza and the West Bank early in 2006 – by all accounts a free, fair, multiparty democratic election. The voters chose new government, Hamas, by an overwhelming majority. Now, another way to describe this result would be to say that the electorate “sent the Fatah incumbents packing.” At least, in most places, it would mean that. But in this case the United States government objected to the choice of the Palestinian voting public, and acted in a variety of ways to stop the incumbent party from handing over the institutions of government to the winning party. So the Fatah legislators, bureaucrats and officials did not pack up – they stayed. That’s why they were still there in control of this police station more than a year later.
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Opportunity for real action on behalf of Colombia

Tomorrow a bill goes in front of the House Appropriations Committee that would divert U.S. aid from supporting the Colombian military to organizations working for community and social development. For the first time it looks like there’s a real opportunity to end the failed policies of the 9 year old Plan Colombia which has underwritten the Colombian military and paramilitary groups as they targeted the poor and marginal in Colombia in the name of the War on Drugs and later the War on Terror.

Take a look at this list of Appropriations Committee members and see if your representative is on it. CPTnet has a release with more details on taking action. I’d also highly recommend the article, Colombia’s Third Way which takes a look at some of the hope in Colombia these days and explains why this bill is so important to open the space for change.

Are blogging and cynicism starving the peace movement?

Ever since Cindy Sheehan’s resignation last week, I’ve been waiting to find a thoughtful response to this small but potent paragraph in her resignation letter:

I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Lots of lefties are happy to join her in criticizing the Democrats or taking another shot at Republican hate mongering. But when will someone take a serious look at her criticisms of the peace movement. Conversations with activists both in the US and the United Kingdom over the last four years have made me very aware of the divisions and infighting she talks about.

Today a friend forwarded me the first article that begins to look at what’s wrong with the peace movement. It focuses on apathy and cynicism more than in-fighting, but its a start. In The Incredible Shrinking Antiwar Movement, Rex Huppke makes some convincing arguments as to why activism among our generation seems to be shrinking. Two in particular are worth noting. (more…)

CPT gets some publicity…

cptrich.jpg

Some BBCers followed around a recent CPT delegation, and posted photos with captions. Even some photos and quotes from our very own YAR member Rich. Looking good, Rich.

I’d be interested in hearing some thoughts on CPT’s work, or ways to work for peace and/or justice. Should the church be actively supporting this sort of work? I’d argue that CPT is doing great work, but recently I’ve heard some critiques accusing CPT of working for “justice” instead of “peace”. What is the role of forgiveness is situations of oppression?

Just trying to stimulate some discussion…

Days of Prayer & Action for Peace in Colombia

I got a flier in my church mailbox a few months ago from MCC about the Days of Prayer & Action for Peace in Colombia taking place today and tomorrow. Part of my meager response was to give a short presentation and slide show at Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church this morning to raise awareness about what is going on in Colombia, how the U.S. is involved and what Colombian Mennonites are asking for. I’d be interested to hear if other YAR readers participated and how.

I read some parts of the stories from Colombia in one of CPT‘s books, but one of the things that stood out to me most in preparing my presentation was a Colombian “table grace” taken from MCC’s photo gallery:

“Thank you God for this bread. And give bread to those who hunger – and hunger for justice to those of us who have bread.”

Vegetarianism: A freak hippie fad or a way to be a radical Christian?

What’s the matter? Now that we know our conversations are to be summarized in another venue, we stop talking? I hope everyone’s just busy being radical in their offline lives.

The real reason for my post is to talk about vegetarianism and animal rights/welfare. This is another topic on which many Christians (perhaps especially Mennonites in rural areas) have only vague notions of why anyone would decide not to eat meat. It seems silly, pagan or perhaps even anti-Anabaptist when you’re talking about “meat canned in the name of Jesus for the missionaries to eat.”

It’s with some trepidation that I write this. I don’t want to come off as a zealot who believes everyone has to do as I do. There’s just so much misinformation out there it’s hard to know where or how to begin. It would certainly be encouraging to discover YARs aren’t scared to talk about something that is at once philosophical and immensely practical for those of us who eat three meals a day. (more…)

EXCERPT from “Chosen: biblical texts, group identity and peacemaking.”

Convo talk for Bethel College (Kansas) November 13, 2006 by Rich Meyer

[Rich sent this to me, and not having time to post it himself, I am posting it for him. Here’s a few quotes to whet your appetite:]

Part of my concern here is with how we process the diversity of voices within the canon – this collection of books that we today call “The Bible,” (singular) as if it were one book. In Greek, Ta Biblia is plural, it means “the books.” What we call “the Old Testament” (singular, again) Jews call “the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.” Names are important, how we name things carries a lot of freight. We all know that the Bible is a collection, a library, and includes a number of voices, voices often engaged in debate. I think it would help our understanding if our vocabulary gave us that picture. Instead we’ve got it all wrapped up in a leather cover.

I think we have wanted to stop short of talking openly and honestly within the church about the implications of this diversity of voices, and what it means if we want to study with intent to get direction. Because that requires us to commit, to weigh in on the Bible’s internal debates. Failing this, we are stuck defending some really damaging racism and sexism, just because it is between leather covers. Rabbi Michael Lerner names it thus: he says that we have, in the Torah, the voice of God, and the voice of accumulated pain and hurt.

[The full lecture, after the jump.] (more…)

When in War, Go to Poetry (and then what??)

Hi, folks. If you are a fellow Menno who would love to hear more sermons on how we can show our peace church roots on a local and national level during times of war, read this article. It warmed my ever-reaching heart.

It’s easy to fall into “Acedia” (being so overwhelmed that we do nothing). But there are oodles of things one person can do for peace and justice. Here are just a few of those oodles:
-support the Peace Tax Foundation in various ways
-walk/bike/carpool
-buy a consistent fair trade item (like coffee, wedding gifts, etc. etc.)
-dialogue and connect face-to-face (I’ve gotten to know a classmate whose husband is a soldier in Afghanistan…it’s been challenging and humbling)
-read poetry! :) OK, I’m a poet. I’m biased. But words do powerful, lifechanging things to people!