Tradition

Sexual harassment as disease and political tool in Egypt

crossposted from As of Yet Untitled.
Yesterday in my daily BBC feed I came across six horrifying stories from Egyptian women who experience regular sexual harassment. The psychic effect on women comes through in heart breaking clarity:

I get harassed 100 times a day. I tried everything to stop it but it doesn’t stop. I wear loose clothes, I don’t wear make up, I spend more than an hour in front of the mirror everyday thinking of ways to hide my body.

The stories also point to a wide spread acceptance of harassment among men in Egyptian society:

Another time I was walking home and this guy unzipped his trousers in a car next to me. I screamed, but he shouted back very aggressively, saying ‘Who do you think you are? Why would I even look at you?’ People in the street gathered around us and to my surprise they were not sympathetic with me. They supported him. They all defended the guy because they do the same thing.

Most of the women share their own attempts at coping or resistance strategies, few of which seem to have any affect. (more…)

Envision 08: Toward Christian Unity in the Public Square

Is Christian unity in the public square an important goal to work toward? Here at seminary there are many people thinking about denominationalism as a theological issue/concern. I went to a conference to think about some of these issues. It was called Envision 08 (www.ev08.org) I helped out with a workshop on Sexuality and Faith. There were many young evangelical Christians who are freeing themselves from the grip of right wing politics there. The conversation was familiar to an Anabaptist like me, but it was like watching people hear the Good News for the first time. Everyone was so excited that faith meant more than rigid rules, hierarchy, and supporting the U.S.A.

The Declaration below, coming from “Envision: the Gospel, Politics, and the Future” at Princeton University June 8-10, 2008, began with an online dialogue of approximately 100 participants on June 2 about religion, social change, and politics. On June 8, a diverse panel of scholars discussed the results of the dialogue.

After attending the conference and hearing reports about the conversations that occurred throughout many aspects of the conference, the panel met and created the declaration. You can sign it if you want. (more…)

Teach A Man To Fish?

Pam Wilson of Operation Mercy wrote an insightful article about the proverb,
“Catch a man a fish you feed him a meal,
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

http://pastoralblog.blogspot.com/2008/06/teach-man-to-fish.html

Besides the fact that the proverb is sexist, it holds many false assumptions of how the poor should be helped. I have always had a problem with the proverb because it assumes that one should ignore the immediate need. But Ms. Wilson has a better overall approach.

Steve K

Intergenerational Activist Conversation

An older woman activist that I admire came up to me. She was obviously weary, and looked a bit as if she had just been crying. I had just received an email from her earlier, calling all the activists, who stand and witness for peace on Wednesdays at the Civic Plaza, to an emergency meeting. She asked me and my friend to come, saying in all sincerity, “we need a word of wisdom from the younger generation. We really aren’t sure what we should do.”

Only 2 or 3 people have been showing up in the last two months to the public witness here in town. Should we go on with our Wednesday 4:30pm vigils? Recently, the entire leadership of these vigils fell to this older woman–because others wouldn’t or couldn’t do it–and she was feeling exhausted. In addition to hoping to share the load with others, the sadness of the whole situation (16 more people were killed today in Iraq, for example) and the state of the world overwhelmed her. (more…)

‚ÄúCovenantal Christians”: Beyond Evangelical and Liberal

For years, I’ve had discussions about the term “Evangelical” with other Christians who see peace and justice as a core part of the gospel. I always argue that the term is too far gone and they argue that we should reclaim it. That it is theologically accurate and the best word to describe who we are.

At the same time, I’ve never been very comfortable with the label “Liberal” either. Coming of age with Clinton bombing countries right and left (7 or 8 depending on how you count) in the name of liberalism probably had something to do with it.

This week over on Revolution in Jesusland, Zack Exley used the term Covenantal Christians to describe a category that I instinctively identify with. (more…)

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…)

Clothes, Fashion and Practicality: Where do YARs draw their lines?

Out of all the issues we discuss on YAR, what we wear is probably one of the least important. But we all make choices daily about clothing, so it’s not something to just ignore, either.

How does what you wear communicate something about you to other people? Do you use your clothing as a medium consciously?

Are you more interested in the production of said clothing than what the style, cut, and extras have to say about you? (Sweat shop labor concerns and the like)

How do you keep clothing from being more important an issue than it ought to be? I know a woman who wears plain, roomy dresses she makes herself not because she’s trying to look Amish (not that there are any Amish people in her town in England, anyway), but because it helps her focus on important things and not her body shape and size. Those of you who have worked in medical settings where scrub uniforms are required may know the feeling of liberation by not having to think about what you’re going to wear to work that day.

Is there clothing you just won’t wear? Why or why not?

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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Caution: Mennonite Church USA Institutional Politics Ahead

One of the items discussed by delegates at the Mennonite Church USA churchwide assembly this month in San Jose was an resolution proposed by a group called Menno Neighbors. It is an informal group that meets once a year and they have a pretty active listserve. The resolution was changed to a statement for discussion by the resolutions committee of the executive board so there would not be a vote, just discussion. I was one of delegates that signed in support of this statement (didn’t get on the printed copy because I signed to too late).

The resolution is a call for conferences to stop disciplining congregations for differences in interpretation of the Confession of Faith from a Mennonite Perspective and was written largely in reference to a number of congregations that have been disciplined or expelled from their conferences for being publicly welcoming and affirming of LGBT members (most recently Hyattsville Mennonite in Maryland).

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Practical question for a radical: Yea or nay on pentagrams?

I recently received a pentagram necklace as a well-intended gift from someone who thought it was a Star of David. We both had a good laugh when I told her my first association with it was a pagan/Wiccan/Satanist symbol.

Now, I’m not one of those reactionist people who gets wild-eyed at the mere mention of such belief systems, and I’m not freaked out to see such symbols. I did a little bit of reading online and discovered some Christians in the Middle Ages used the pentagram to symbolize the five wounds of Christ, the five senses, and five aspects of good health. That’s certainly not how I think of pentagrams, nor probably most who would see it if I wore it.

If I choose not to wear this necklace, I want it to be for an actual, thought-out reason, not just “it’s evil.” It’s a nice necklace. I have no lack of jewelry, though, so I could give it away and never notice its absence. But I tend not to wear religious symbols of any kind unless there’s a specific reason I’m doing it. (Crucifixes are part of my RenFaire costume, for example.)

Thoughts? I realize this is a periferal issue to what we usually talk about on YAR. But, it could bring up how we view pagans, Wiccans and Satanists. That might be a good reason to wear it: it may prompt thoughtful discussion with people I meet. Or then again, it could just prompt eyerolls and disdainful comments.

Meeting the Church

I haven’t taken much time on this blog to talk about myself. I should say that I am an outsider in this church – my last name isn’t Yoder, Miller, Freisen, or Moshier.

I have only been a Christian for 9 months; the Mennonite congregation I attend (a beautiful place that I hope my new-found YAR friends can come see some day) was evangelical merely by their presence – they were spiritually formative by aligning speech and action and desire and vision. I would not want to be any place else.

I am writing from the convention in San Jose; I have been here since yesterday and will be leaving tomorrow (short time, I know, but I’m a busy guy).

I am coming to learn why it is frustrating to penetrate the Mennonite world: there are a lot of people who make money off of being Mennonite. (more…)

Sex outside of marriage

With some trepidation, I’m bringing up the topic of having sex with people to whom one is not married. This isn’t about lgbtq people’s inability to be married in the legal sense in most states in the U.S., and it’s not really about affairs either. It’s about people who are not married in any sense having sex with anyone at all. Or people who are engaged having sex before the wedding.

A couple of times I’ve seen people on YAR say they don’t hold to the same ethic on this as the Christian Church has taught during at least our lifetimes. I have always heard from the Christians in my life that it is a sin to have sex in any form (or get close to it) with anyone other than the person to whom one is married. Having sex at any point before the wedding ceremony (in whatever form it takes) is a sin, they tell me. (more…)

The “Evil Pharisees” and Other Stereotypes and Caricatures

brother Volknotions.
Those brethren who are from the Dunkard line well know of what you are speaking: the back-hand of fellowship, shunning of venial sins, public confession of sin, all those old standard and standby hymns and everything else done in lower saxon dialect. Well might descriptions such as “hollow-out legalism”, “legalism of ‘humility'”, “oppressive legalism”, “paying lip-service” suit the Old Faith of our Anabaptist forefathers.

But I wonder if all those “evils” are causing a distorted view of first cent. Pharisees. Are you looking at the Pharisees through the “lens” of your ossified and institutionalized anabaptist experience. Be careful of following centuries of Christians projecting on the Pharisees and first cent. Judaism something that was never there. Let us be careful and not fall into the same mistakes the Church Fathers, the Roman Church and the Reformers did. That is, stereotyping and caricaturizing first cent. Judaism led on by those casuistrical Pharisees (blast them!) Let me attempt a “clarification of thought”.

I will deal with the ‘social justice’ prophets later. But at least for now, you are absolutely right, they were not in the least anti-Jewish or anti-semitic — they were, at times (and when they would get all hot and flustered), racist and anti-goeim: “Damn the Gentiles! God’s wrath will strike them down!” Ah yes, “social justice”. It all depends where your social justicing is standing. (Let us all remember that when we get all lathered up against the “bad guys”.

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Sexism has never been so much fun.

Ba-ack step, tri-ple step, tri-ple step, ba-ack step, spi-in left…

I had way too much fun swing dancing this weekend. When I sat down to blog about it on my personal blog today, I started realizing just how much gender roles are infused into that seemingly-innocent passtime. I thought back to my comment in response to Tom’s giving-up-music post, how it was admirable to be willing to give up something you like because something else is more important. I realized swing dancing might be that for me. Now, I know I only just got back into it, and it’s not an ingrained part of my life (yet; it very well could be soon). When near a thrift store today, I stopped in to see if they had any heel-less shoes I’d want to wear dancing.

The difference between music/secular music and dancing is the music is a personal morality issue, which the prolific YAR posters tend not to be concerned about, while the dancing definitely could contribute to social sexist pressures and all that. (more…)

A Mennonite Theology of Culture

I just returned from a 3-week trip to Europe studying Anabaptist/Mennonite history, led by Goshen College professor John D. Roth. We started in the Alsace region of Eastern France, and traveled through Switzerland, Southern Germany, Northern Germany, Friesland in the Netherlands, and then finished in and near Amsterdam. We visited current Mennonite (or historically Mennonite) congregations as well as historic sites in Anabaptist and Mennonite history.

These are thoughts which arose during that trip, but were most recently inspired by Edward Christian’s post on Radical Anabaptism and Radical Biblical Exegesis, as well as Nate Myers’ comments on FolkNotion’s post Is it really a sin?, but I thought they deserved their own post. I’ve done my best to keep up with YAR, but I’m sure these things have been said earlier by others (and probably in better ways), so I apologize for that.

As I read the Schleitheim Confession, I realized — as many modern Mennonites have realized before me — that I didn’t (and don’t) like it. At all. This admission led to a basic question that probably arises from any study of the early Anabaptists: “What am I supposed to do with this? How should I respond to (bad) Anabaptist theology?” And as I say it, I realize that I’ve been taught to think of the latter question as a form of heresy. (more…)