Monday, July 24, 2006

Mennonite Tour de France Winner Participant

Since, this is a self-identified Mennonite blog, I would be negligent not to mention the new Tour de France winner, Floyd Landis, is a Mennonite from Lancaster County, PA. This is kind of like finding out that the singer of a catchy new pop song that just hit number one and won a grammy is sung by a Muslim woman originally from Mecca itself. Not that there is anything wrong with it, mind you. But frankly, it is a bit annoying when people emerge from the clearly defined, labeled boxes I like to put them in for my own convenience.

It has been noted in a few places that Floyd did not put his hand over his heart and sing the national anthem during the award ceremony. This should not be unusual for Mennonites who are true to their heritage of not pledging fealty to the state, as such a thing is reserved only for God. It is refreshing to me to see someone not bow to the cultural pressure that is so strong these days to do the exact opposite. I'll leave the propriety of raising a champaigne glass in victory as an exercise to the reader. :)

I found a great blog posting from an Anabaptist named Hugo Schwyzer, who is, naturally, a progressive, since he makes so much sense. He does a great job of explaining the difference between waving a flag and swearing allegiance to it:

An exerpt:

Actually, carrying the flag on a bicycle and refusing to place the hand over the heart during the national anthem are both quite consistent with Mennonite principles. To be a Mennonite, classically, is to believe that citizenship in the Kingdom trumps national allegiances. In practice, that means refusing to swear oaths of obedience to any temporal authority; it means refusing to salute flags or to genuflect before earthly kings. But there's an important difference between saluting or pledging allegiance to the flag on the one hand, and waving it on the other!

One can be a radical Christian (a phrase many Mennonites apply to themselves) and love America! It is one thing to love America, another to pledge solemn allegiance to it. To wave the flag can be an expression of affection for one's native land, akin to waving the banner of one's university or favorite football team. (I once had a very large Cal banner that I waved with great enthusiasm.) Floyd Landis may be a Mennonite, but America is the nation of his birth -- there is nothing in Anabaptist theology that suggests he can't be fond of, even proud of, his country.

Update: 7/27/06:

Say it ain't so Floyd. He appears now to have failed a drug test after stage 17.

For the record, bike riding, beer drinking, champagne celebrating, national anthem not singing: all pretty much OK by Mennonite standards. Drug taking: Not so much.

Monday, July 10, 2006

America the Invulnerable

I am finally getting around to reading God’s Politics by Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners magazine. I started it a year or so ago, but only managed to read the first few chapters. It’s a great read. Here’s a paragraph from Chapter 7 “Be Not Afraid”

September 11 shattered the American sense of invulnerability. But instead of accepting the vulnerability that most of the rest of the world already lives with, and even learning from it, we seem to want something nobody can give us – to erase our invulnerability. We want it to just go away. If the government says more wars can do that, many people will say fine. If they say suspending civil liberties can do that, many will say fine. If they claim spending more and more of our tax dollars on the military and homeland security will do it – at the expense of everything else – many will say fine. But we simply can't erase our vulnerability, not in this world and not with the human condition being as it is. To be prudent and vigilant in the face of danger is good. But when a government offers to take away our vulnerability, it borders on idolatry.
Amen. We are continuing to allow immoral deeds (torture, locking up prisoners without trial, etc) to be done on our behalf so that we can feel safe. Ironically, if we didn't engage in these tactics, we might feel less safe, but our long term prospects for safety would be better, since we wouldn’t be fomenting hatred against us at quite the rate we are now accomplishing.