Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Church You

Finally, some people who understand what it means to have God's blessing :)

More hilarious shorts available at:

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Amish Example

Apparently, there is no event in America so tragic that it can’t be quickly exploited by those who want to trumpet their own cause, regardless of how unrelated that cause may be. Witness the recent Amish school shootings:

  • The Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas was going to protest the funeral because America is so homosexual-friendly. They are normally content to protest at military funerals (because America is so homosexual-friendly). If this doesn’t make any sense to you on several levels, then just be happy that you are still apparently sane.
  • A woman in Georgia is using the tragedy as fodder to ban Harry Potter books at her local school. She thinks school shootings are the result of JK Rowlings’ desire to indoctrinate children into witchcraft. As the comments on the link mention, it is fascinating how Harry Potter is famous all over the world, but school shootings by crazed citizens mostly happen in the US.

This is annoying to me because now I would look silly in trying to tie this to my own pet cause, which is the confluence of liturgical constantinianism and epistemological foundationalism as a corrupting influence on eschatological ecclesiology (and why it is ruining America). Like homosexuality and Harry Potter, the Amish have nothing to do with this. But I figure they had it coming, since we all know that God punishes random people when America doesn’t conform to the dictates of those Christians who are most in need of medication.

Instead, I guess we should grudgingly look to the Amish themselves for wisdom on the matter. They are heartbroken and grieving. And yet, shockingly, they remain faithful to their religious convictions. They invited the mother of the shooter to the funeral, as a way to extend forgiveness. They are quoted as saying “Forgiveness is a choice, but it is not an option if we want to be saved." Many even showed up to the funeral of the shooter. They extend grace far beyond what makes sense to the wider world.

I don’t want to sentimentalize the Amish, who certainly have human failings like everyone else. But geez. What a stunning example of how to be Christian. Imagine if we American Christians had all decided to be this grace-filled in response to 9/11. Imagine if we decided not to give in to fear and revenge, but to trust in God rather than Guns. We might not be fit to run the country, but I can’t help but think it would have tempered our national response in ways that would have made us stronger five years later. Instead, we are facing a world justifiably angry at our response to evil, since its main accomplishment so far has been the creation of new terrorists.

Given how interwoven the Christian message is these days with state power and domination over others, the Amish provide a healthy counter-example to aspire to. In this instance, they have provided a powerful example of Paul’s message to “overcome evil with good”. Too often we attempt to eliminate evil through violence and revenge.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hauerwas on Worship and Murder

Stanley Hauerwas (Methodist theologian at Duke, admirer of John Howard Yoder, Defender of Church, Comedian) :

One reason why we Christians argue so much about which hymn to sing, which liturgy to follow, which way to worship is that the commandments teach us to believe that bad liturgy eventually leads to bad ethics. You begin by singing some sappy, sentimental hymn, then you pray some pointless prayer, and the next thing you know you have murdered your best friend.

He might be overstating it a bit, but I knew there was justification for hating those sappy love-songs-to-Jesus.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Greenwald on Foley

Another great post by Glenn Greenwald on the Mark Foley mess. Since he mentions God in it, I am justifying linking to it :)

Unclaimed Territory - by Glenn Greenwald: Does the Foley scandal prove the existence of a God?

My favorite line:
as Billmon wrote in comments here the other day, the relentless efficiency of this scandal is proof positive that Democrats had nothing to do with it...

Also, note that the question he is posing IS A JOKE.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Foley Scandal

Lately I’ve wanted to post fewer pure political stories and more issues related to religion, or at least a mixture of the two. But then some new scandal hits the news, and I get sucked back into the vortex. So, instead of “America Debases Itself On Torture”, this week we get “Republican Preys On Children While Leadership Sleeps”. Yet another example of how power corrupts, and why we desperately need checks and balances, even if those checks are just compliant Democrats.

What’s interesting to me about the Mark Foley scandal isn’t just that politicians can be sexual predators. It is the extent to which political calculation trumps basic decency among those minimizing what Foley did. Foley’s sins are inexcusable (that is, his predatory-ness, not his gayness), and when exposed to the light of day, he recognized that he needed to immediately resign. But it amazes me that many Republicans and conservative commentators are continuing to downplay the seriousness of what happened, or playing politics with the story because an election is five weeks away. Whatever happened to the Republicans being the “party of personal responsibility?”

Just so we are on the same page here: Rep Foley was caught seducing 16 year old pages who worked on Capitol Hill. The Republican leadership (Hastert, Boehner, Reynolds) knew about this since at least last spring, and possibly for years, and never opened an investigation into it. While many fair-minded conservatives are rightly calling for the resignation of those who knew about this and did nothing, there are also many for whom it appears no transgression is grave enough to risk losing power, or smear others in an attempt to get the focus away from you. Here is a sampling of what I have been seeing:

Tony Snow: “there have been other scandals, as you know, that have been more than simply naughty e-mails"

Hannity: Clinton was a sexual predator with a teenager [Ah, yes, change the subject to Clinton, and also lie about him as well]. Also, Democrats are just making this a political issue: [How is a congressman’s being a sexual predator and the leadership ignoring warnings about it NOT a political issue?]

Fox News: Put up a picture of Mark Foley saying he was a Democrat.

Tony Perkins
of the Family Research Council blames it on tolerance and diversity: [Yes, Foley’s sins are the result of liberal ideals. If only there were more intolerance of gays in this country]

Newt Gingrich: Republicans didn’t want to be seen as “anti-gay” for exposing this. [Yes, Republicans are very concerned about appearing to be anti-gay].

Hastert: “this is a political issue “ and “if they get to me” our country will be less safe. [So, we should sacrifice our pages in the interest of national security? Even though the NIE says we are less safe due to Republican policy?]

Limbaugh: Suggests the whole thing could have been setup and coordinated by Democrats. [It is probably unfair to include the crazy ravings of Rush, except that he continues to have a huge following]

Bush: : "Now, I know Denny Hastert, I meet with him a lot. He's a father, teacher, coach who cares about the children of this country”. [I guess the reasoning here is that because Bush knows Hastert cares about children, he could not have done anything wrong]

And, finally, according to Republican strategists, whether Hastert stays or goes depends on whether he can quiet the storm, not on whether he is guilty of protecting a sexual predator, precisely because it is bad politically to lose the speaker of the house so close to an election.

The simple facts are that a Republican was caught trying to pickup minors and was protected by House leadership. The honorable way to end this is for all those involved in both the scandal and the cover up to immediately resign. If House leadership is not going to follow up on these kinds of allegations, then how do we know whether other Republicans are doing the same thing?

Finally, it is amazing that a scandal that is entirely about Republicans can get some of them so worked up about…..Democrats. Normally, one would think that blaming Democrats and making excuses would be a ridiculous way of responding. But given the success of the swift-boat nonsense, it remains to be seen whether grass roots Republicans will fall for this kind of depravity again.

Monday, October 02, 2006

"Modern" Gives Way To "Minor"

When I started this blog, there were a number of identities and/or topics I could have chosen. White, middle-class, raving liberal, parent, transracial adopter, movie-holic, software manager, amateur history buff, argumentative Christian – all would have provided ample material for a once-a-week-or-so posting.

But I wanted to write about topics that could use more of a voice in our post-9/11 (or post-3/19) world. Given the power the religious right has exercised in its vision of a war-loving, unbridled-free-market Jesus, there needs to be more advocates for an alternative (or, as I like to call it, “more accurate”) vision of Jesus’ social teaching.

So, I chose my Mennonite identity for the blog, not because I am a representative Mennonite (who are all over the map politically), but because the seemingly monolithic “Christian = Conservative Republican” equation needs to be challenged. Christians who support peace and progressive social policies are actually more in line with Jesus' social ethic than those who, for example, support aggressive, unilateral war, torture, indefinite imprisonment without trial, or even large tax cuts for the wealthy. I don't claim to have a monopoly on the truth, but I do feel the need to be at least a tiny voice in this vast wilderness of the web to advocate for social policy that reflects what God might want for us lowly humans.

Since then, I have been spending a lot of time in the Elkhart/Goshen, Indiana area, taking classes at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. This is the Mennonite Mecca of Midwest, where you don’t have to worry about people mistaking your religion for a cult. Spending time among so many well-spoken and serious Mennonites, who represent the faith far better than I do, is a very humbling experience. My Urbana-Champaign congregation is also filled with well-spoken and serious Mennonites, but it is so much easier to feel like a representative Mennonite there than in Elkhart, where there is so much more heritage and diversity.

One of the things that I didn’t anticipate with a blog name of “Musings of a Modern Mennonite” is that the majority of people who reach it (who do not personally know me) do so via an internet search of the word“Mennonite”. Here is a list of recent searches for people who have found their way here:

  • mennonites torture
  • hate mennonite
  • mennonite bloggers
  • mennonite blog
  • mennonite blogs
  • illegal mennonite immigrant or immigration
  • mennonite standards
It is discomfiting to know that anyone interested in hating or torturing Mennonites (or maybe having Mennonites torture or hate them) is naturally led here. More importantly, I fear that without an additional qualifier, people will mistake my rantings as some kind of Mennonite standard, which is unfair to Mennonites as a whole.

So, I’ve decided to replace “Modern” with “Minor”. Minor, not in the sense that I can’t buy beer legally, but in the sense that I am far removed from any hierarchical Mennonite authority, and you could find heresy here just as easily as dogma. “Modern” was never really quite accurate anyway, as a friend pointed out that I am more Post-Modern in my outlook, even though I wasn’t really using the term in that way. And, “Minor” still fits, alliteratively, which is more important than it should be.

My wife claims this change makes me *more* Mennonite, not less, since it is a very Mennonite thing to claim unimportance. It binds us all together in one big, quiet mass of respectfulness. How perfect, then, to confirm my Mennonite identity in a way that makes it seem like I am being respectful and humble.

I proclaim to thee, My Blog, by the power vested in me of knowing the password to my blogspot account, that henceforth, thou shall be known as: “Musings of a Minor Mennonite.”