Tradition

Maeyken Wens: One face of Early Anabaptism

There’s been a couple of posts today referencing early Anabaptists and discussing what exactly they stood for. As Jonny pointed out, they are far from homogenous. I always like pointing out the example of the Batenburgers, survivors of the Muensterites who basically turned terrorist. I always like pointing out their infidel-hating, cow-massacring ways to counterbalance any overly pious view of early Anabaptists.

But I’m not here to write more about the Batenburgers. Instead I’d like to look at a woman named Maeyken Wens who was burned at the stake in Antwerp on October 6th, 1573. If you’ve ever flipped through the Martyr’s Mirror, you may have come across the image that goes with her story (at right). Unlike most of the Martyr’s Mirror etchings, its not an image of death or persecution, but of the aftermath. Her son Adriaen is sifting through the ashes looking for the tongue screw that clamped her tongue so she couldn’t sing or testify. I first heard her story from John Sharp, Mennonite historian, storyteller and father of Michael J. If you grew up Mennonite, you’ve probably heard it too and you may have even seen the tongue screw, carefully handed down from generation to generation to remind us of our persecuted past.

But it isn’t the story of the tonge screw that I want to write about either. It’s the letters Maeyken wrote to her husband and her son that interest me most. (more…)

How do we live out our peace witness?

It seems that a few posts have dealt with our Anabaptist identity, specifically regarding peacemaking. So I want in.

I know of a Mennonite church that’s had a lot of problems in the past decade. They’ve split in ’99, fired their pastor in ’02, and now their next pastor is resigning because he feels he can’t contend with the warring factions in the church.

Now, clearly, they have some militant members who see “winning” as the ultimate goal. They seem to want the church to be modeled after them. That’s a problem that’s reared its head every time the church has split or lost its pastor.

But more concerning is the people who believe in peacemaking, yet have expressed their belief by turning a blind eye to the problems, hoping they’ll go away. That is not peace; it is denial. And it’s sad to see our peace witness lived out in such a way. Jesus taught a “third way” of overcoming hostility, not fight or flight but attacking the problem (not the person) head-on. He taught that we shouldn’t use violence, but we should work to expose evil, even when it resides inside of ourselves.

So I want to be part of a new vision for peace. Too often I’ve been one to stand by quietly, fearful of stirring the waters. So I want to change that. Our new vision needs to shun militancy and passivism. We don’t want to destroy our church to win, nor should we sweep problems under the rug. We need the “third way” of peacemaking within our Mennonite churches, so we can tell the world with confidence that peacemaking works.

YAR Madlib – Calling the church to go pee pee.

There isn’t actually a YAR Madlib in this post, because I haven’t taken the time to write one, but I think it’s a fantastic idea and someone should. I would love to see the results of our middle-school selves filling in YAR-post blanks with various middle-school crudities, and giggling our little heads off. Yes, that’s a potty joke in the title of my post. Yes, I’m immature.

I have a friend who is becoming a novice member of Reba Place. People do that. And Reba place is radical, right? Emerging church and all that? I mean, it is in Chicago, and has an intentional community attached to it. They are also still fighting over women in leadership – let alone LGBT rights or couples holding hands before marriage. And that’s not something new – that’s all fairly well rooted in Anabaptist tradition.

I can’t really pick on Reba, as I don’t know the details well at all, but sometimes the earnestly ‘Anabaptist’ church scares me as much as the fundamentalist/evangelical. And what really does define the Anabaptist tradition? Is it really a peace-making stance, or is it mainly an obsession with perfection, passive-aggression and boundary-drawing? Our defining issues in history have been buttons, mustaches, pianos, women, divorce, and queers. Keeping the church clean for Jesus. Go us.
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Bearing Gifts

Those who attended the Mennonite Youth Convention in Orlando, FL in 1997, may recall Tony Campolo commenting that ironically, “In the Catholic Church the wine turns into Jesus’ blood, but in the Mennonite Church, the wine turns into grape juice.” This past Saturday, at the wedding of two of our friends my wife and I participated in our first Catholic Mass. Not only did we partake in the ceremony of the Eucharist, but we had been asked to be the “Gift Bearers” (not to be confused with the “gift receivers” who collect presents for the bride & groom). The gift bearers carry the gifts- that is, the bread and wine – to the altar and present it to the priest. We considered it an honor to be asked to take on such an important role in the service. (more…)

The ‘Reign of God’ is among you…

The Associated Press reported, on October 8, that 75 people attended the funeral of Charles C. Roberts. About half of the “mourners” were Amish.

In a world run by retaliatory violence, a community near Lancaster PA took a chance on the Reign of God.

That’s history. It’s irrefutable. It’s staggeringly convicting. It’s Anabaptism – lived.

Confidence

“One is hardly tempted to lose confidence in the future after listening to a group of young people discussing the important problems of life. Of course the number who approach the future reflectively and with real appreciation for the issues involved in the readjustment of traditions to new situations is not large. There are not many such groups and even in these the number who really take part in the discussion is small.

“Nevertheless their wholesomeness is impressive. I can’t always withhold a sense of pity for them. With traditions crumbling and accepted standards inundated by a sea of moral relativity, they have a desperate task on their hands to construct new standards adequate for their happiness. There is always the temptation to be too rebellious or too traditional, to be scornful of the old standard even when it preserves obvious virtues, or to flee to it for fear of being lost in the confusion of new standards. Yet the best way of avoiding these dangers is to subject them to the scrutiny of a thoughtful group which knows how to discern the limitations of any position, old or new.”

— Reinhold Niebuhr, Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic (104)

Good encouragement; good caution.

against tradition: a polemic

(this started as a comment and then grew)

personally, i’m rather fond of ignoring the 1200 years of church history between constantine and menno. well, ignore isn’t quite the right word, and menno and constantine aren’t where i would stop.

honestly, constantine was obsessed with making a state church (bad idea) and menno was a strong proponent of celestial flesh theology (yes, jesus passed through mary as ‘water through a pipe’, and no, that was not supported by the science of the times). i’m not saying the last 2000 years are worthless, but they don’t get to be worthwhile guides just because they happened.

i agree that mennonites have a pretention of newness. we’ve been new for nearly 500 years now. in fact newness itself could be called a pretention if you believe that everything has already been thought of or done (give or take the advance of technology and everything that comes with it (such as globalization of nearly everything from world-views to nestlee’s quick).

but what say we reconsider some things? let’s even ignore the howevermanybillion years before christ, because we can (it’s especially easy to ignore the parts no one wrote down). if by ignore we mean ‘not to practice or agree with’ rather than ‘to pretend it never happened’, i’m happy to ignore quite a few things in and out of the bible and church history.

i think the church is in a horrible mess for being 2000 years old. i don’t mean that an organization at 2000 should be better than this one is, but that quite possibly organizations should never be aloud to get that old. too much red tape, too much baggage, too much confusion of the mission statement. i’ve seen three years water down a mission statement.
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