Writing

How do we get the straight white men to shut up?

Before anyone gets offended, that’s hyperbole. Bet it got your attention, though. What I’m really asking is how do we achieve diversity on YAR? I have noticed something these past few weeks on YAR. The regulars who tend to dominate the discussions on race, gender and inclusion are… men. (Or I presume so based on their screen names.) I recall several saying they are straight and white. In no way am I saying I don’t enjoy reading what they have to say. I’ve certainly been challenged by them in many ways. It just seems to me there’s something anachronistic about a core group of males who are probably also straight and white being the primary discussors of these matters in this venue.

I remember a recent race and church discussion here in which someone said straight white males should step down from church leadership to give women and minorities* back some of the power. How much does YAR function as a pulpit? We know more people are reading than simply those who post and comment. We’re even going to give periodic summaries of our discussions to an Anabaptist publication.

My fear is that with several straight white males being so adept at sharing their (thoughtful and insightful) views on the subject, the women and minorities* who would like to speak up will see YAR as ultimately no different than any other straight-white-male-dominated venue. I’m not one to just shut my trap on here, heh, but not everyone is like me. Hopefully those who know far more than I ever could will find this a safe place, too.

Maybe I made some of you mad. Good! If I’m wrong, tell me so. Come up with a better solution. Tell me which are the right questions to ask.

*I’m including GLBTQ in “minorities.” Hopefully that’s not a problem.

Breaking my writer’s block!

Have you ever experienced something so overwhelming that it takes a while to sink into a place where it can be digested? (I’m hoping the American people are going through a “writer’s block,” so to speak, and will very soon rise up with their voices, pens, and withdrawn tax dollars to stop the worship of war in our country! But I digress…)
I spent last July in Monrovia, Liberia with my parents (they were there on a two-yr. humanitarian term with MMN, years that tested their marriage and their faith–but that’s a whole other entry!). A collapsed infrastructure is astounding and brutal to see face to face; so is the result of centuries of violence, corruption, and struggle…It’s taken me 8 months to put my experiences in Liberia onto paper…and even so, they are so hard to capture or revisit. Anyway, here are some new poems. I’d love to read others’ travel writing!
_____
TO THE GIRL ON SOMALIA DRIVE

I am not prepared to see her on Somalia Drive.
We have the car windows closed, partly
so that no arm can reach in, see what white skin
has to offer, partly to block out the loudest fumes.

Diesel trucks and busloads in front of us mimic
slowly rolling waves (children have been lost
in the mahogany puddles of rainy season potholes.)
Roads pulse with people, dogs with teats dragging, lines
of goats. We crawl past a slaughterhouse, a Coca Cola factory,
a trailer packed with workers singing
of the Promised Land.

We are some sort of horrible royalty.

After all, we are from America,
that real Promised Land that sent freed slaves here
to start Liberia, also the home of “freedom.” We are tied
to these people outside our car windows
by blood and sweat and quiet
greed. Men suck their teeth
at my mother and me, their way of getting
our unnerved attention. Looks of longing,
money signs, and awe. Babies often cry—
to them, we are ghosts.

I have learned to be overly interested in my shoes.

When I do glance up this day, I see a flash of white,
and there she is: a blue-black body
all treble clef curves, a bucket of bananas
cocked on her head. We look
at one another, five seconds
at the most.

I am becoming numb to seeing more and more
young men with missing limbs or hands,
the sickening artwork of civil war.
But meeting eyes with a faceless girl—where cheeks
and nose should be, only white, only white—

who can ever get used to that? (more…)

Just who are the ‘Racial/Ethnic’ Mennonites?

Thanks to TimN for cajoling me to write my first post. I’ve been reading this for about a month, quite interesting stuff inside here, so here goes, my first post. As a multicultural Christian with my foot in a multicultural Mennonite church, I wanted to respond to just who are these ‘Racial/Ethnic’ Mennonites that Conrad Kanagy makes reference to in his recently published survey of diversity in the Mennonite church. You can read more of the survey results in one of February’s Mennonite Weekly Reviews.

Who are the Ethnic Mennonites? by Trini
So to get the conversation started around this, I wanted to ask, just who are the ethnic Mennonites? (more…)

Story includes YAR

I’ll keep this short, since no one commented publicly on my post requesting help for my story about online blogs. Thank you to the YARs who responded to me via personal e-mails. My story is posted on the Urban Connections site.

Or jump directly to the story.

Again, thanks for the conversations. One person, whom I did not quote in the story, as the comment came out of context, said she was dumbfounded that the church is still writing stories like this after more than a decade of overwhelming Web involvement across the world. She has a point, but I think such stories move portions of the church toward understanding of a medium that still feels unfamiliar to many. (I heard a radio talk show host yesterday marveling at the sheer volume of instant messages he received after signing up earlier this week.) There’s still a long way to go in learning how electronic media both shapes and can be used by the church.

Prayer Requests at a Mennonite Church

This is the poem from today’s Writer’s Almanac. I don’t know if [I’m] allowed to post this poem, but Garrison Keillor apparently got permission to post it on the Writer’s Almanac Archive.

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: “Prayer Requests at a Mennonite Church” by Todd Davis from Some Heaven (buy it here). © Michigan State University Press.

Pray for the Smucker family. Their son Nathaniel’s coat and shirt were
caught in the gears while grinding grain. Nothing would give, so now
he is gone. We made his clothes too well. Perhaps this is our sin. (more…)

Introduction, confession and questions

Do I qualify as a YAR? I’m not quite sure. I have the A – I feel strongly about the Anabaptist vision and have committed myself to working for three Mennonite institutions during my thus-far career. But young? Who knows, anymore. At the last church-wide convention, where I went as part of my job, I was turned away by the big biceps at the front desk for having already (if barely) eclipsed the 30 threshold.

I’m Ryan Miller. I write. I take photos. I think about ways to communicate within the church and outside of church structures. I’ve worked for Mennonite Mission Network for the last two-and-one-half years, which puts me in the midst of a church structure – a job that can offer ascending stories of inspiration . Does that leave any room for radical? And do I define radical in terms of conceptual theology or as an action-based, lived-out, grit-under-toenails type of Christianity that not only identifies with the poor and oppressed, but goes out of its way to address their needs.

So I’m not sure if I fit here. And that’s not the confession. (more…)

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…)