Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Scripture, women in ministry, and correcting problems

From Toledo, IA, USA
New Testament scholar, Ben Witherington III, has two short videos that very quickly address some scriptural interpretation issues around women in ministry, and how those "problem texts" in the New Testament have been appropriated by subsequent Christian traditions to, for instance, rule out women from ministry. Check 'em out...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Postscript to media catastrophism: Nationalism

Playing in my thinking about the media but not making it into my last post is this thesis: The U.S. media is inherently nationalistic. As such, the bounds of "we" and "they" split along the borders of this nation-state. When tragedies within these social-imaginary borders occur, it is "us" that are collectively shocked, angered, and grieved. But what of tragedies outside these borders?

Amongst American journalists, I find Glenn Greenwald to be the most fearlessly critical of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the drone warfare program that has been greatly expanded by the Obama administration. His latest piece in The Guardian is powerful...

Newtown kids v Yemenis and Pakistanis: what explains the disparate reactions?

It is powerful in not only its critique, but also its sensitivity. He rightly names the real differences between the tragedies of Newtown and the drone war. These are qualitatively different phenomenon, but our national responses (or non-responses) to them are illustrative. He particularly calls out the dehumanization of predominantly Muslim people throughout the global war on terror of the past decade, and how the dehumanization that war necessarily calls for has sedimented into the public psyche. We can now call children killed in foreign countries by U.S. ordinance "bug splat" and no one bats an eye.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Newtown and Draco: Catastrophism in the media

For the media, it's called "profit."
(Image by Dooitasheimashte via deviantART)
Last Friday when I discovered the news via Facebook status updates from friends that 20 children had been murdered in Connecticut, my blood turned to ice. I made the atypical trip to Yahoo! News and read a few AP stories about the tragedy, and checked back a few times throughout the day. That was it, and I haven't watched, listened, or read the news since.

Why? Because I knew what the news media was going to do with it: Make it into a week-long fiasco. And that's exactly what happened and indeed is still happening.

Let me reiterate: I was devastated by the news. It's truly horrible and incomprehensibly sad. All around. Full stop. But I want to suggest that "catastrophism" in the media - that is, making horrible events into massive media events - is not good for us. Like, personally and societally not good for us.

At Trojan Inn this morning in Toledo, I listened to the nice lady who gets me coffee whenever I come in (and even heats up the cold coffee mug that I carry in with me) - talk to her co-workers about  listening to the radio yesterday while preparing dinner. Whatever station she was listening to had prepared audio snippets of media interviews with the children at Sandy Hook while "Silent Night" played in the background. She confessed to breaking down in tears. I confess here that I'm sickened by such behavior in the media.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: "Migrations of the Holy" by William Cavanaugh

From Toledo, IA, USA
[Note: The following review appears in the The Conrad Grebel Review 30, No. 3 (Fall 2012): 319-21. Reprinted here w/ permission.]

William T. Cavanaugh. Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011.

The animating thesis of Cavanaugh’s book is succinctly encapsulated in its title, “Migrations of the Holy.” The argument goes that the categories of “religious” and “secular” are recent constructs which hide the fact that “the holy” – far from having been removed from the public, political sphere and interiorized in the hearts of individual believers of various religions – is rather still fully public, having migrated from ecclesiastical orders to the halls of the modern nation-state. Cavanaugh makes use of Michael Novak’s helpful analogy of the “empty shrine,” the nation-state’s claim that disestablishment of religion has swept the shrine clean, allowing any religious tradition to provide the content for what constitutes “holy.” It has been one of the hallmarks of Cavanaugh’s work to show this is a lie, and, at least for the United States, at the heart of the nation-state’s holiest of holies lies its shekinah: consumer capitalism.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reading and politics in the new nearby

From Toledo, IA, USA
At last!
I've been waiting a long time to have enough bookshelf space to stick all my books from grad school. For the past four years, they had to live scattered across a number of bookshelves at home, some in my study carrel, and some even had to get packed into boxes. I longed to see them all together and in a place where I could easily get to them when needed.

And this week, that's finally happened. Thanks to a generous donation from my brother and his wife and transportation services from my parents, big beautiful bookshelves showed up at our new house. One went into the office and appears to the right. Aaaaah...

But something strange is going on. Despite having a number of those books on my "to-read" list, including one I'm reading for an academic journal review gig, I'm having trouble finding time and motivation to get after it. Gone are the rhythms of the academic calendar that drove me ever into more and more and MORE books, and absent now are the syllabi telling me to write papers from all those important books.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Settling in, finding a new voice

From Toledo, IA, USA
Christ United Methodist in Toledo; east out my home-office window
It's been quiet for a few weeks here at this little blog. This has mostly to do with being exceedingly busy with moving back to Iowa, moving into an old house in Toledo that needs some tender loving care, and trying to figure out what it's like working remotely for EMU. Things have been busy, we've been tired, but we're settling in and with each passing day it feels like more and more like home.

Another factor contributing to the quiet blog has to do with me trying to find a new voice. No longer am I part of a university community; I'm a small town boy once more. So I'm trying to figure out what the heck I'm going to write about here now that my daily rhythms aren't being shaped by an academic community, which is where this blog was born and raised over the past three years. It's the "organic intellectual" and "missional minister" gig that I've been thinking and writing about but now have to figure out in concrete terms.

NuDunkers, NuMedia

From Toledo, IA 52342, USA
A few days ago, the first NuDunkers public video discussion came together on G+ Hangouts. Here's the hour-long video of the conversation, which basically covers how NuDunkers came together and what our hopes and prayers are for this project...

Andy, Dana, and Josh have all posted their reflections of the first meeting, so make sure to go check those out. The only bit I'll add to what they've already said has to do with our use of G+ Hangouts, our blogs, and the Twitter hashtag: #NuDunker.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Who is my neighbor?"

From Sonnenberg Mennonite Church, 14367 Hackett Rd, Apple Creek, OH 44606, USA
Sonnenberg Mennonite Church
As my last post indicated, I have said goodbye to my Virginia home of the past four years and returned to my home state of Iowa. Today is the first day in my new home of Toledo, Iowa, which is where my wife grew up. Yesterday, on my way from Virginia to Iowa, I had the privilege of preaching at Sonnenberg Mennonite Church in Kidron, Ohio. It was the first opportunity I'd had to preach in some time, and it was a wonderful experience from start to finish. Many thanks to all who were connected with my stop here.

Sermon text: Luke 10:25-37
Title: "Who is my neighbor?"
Slightly edited text follows...

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Last Sunset"

At the top of the hill
Under my favorite tree
Looking west, it caught me
The sun setting into Mole Hill
Reigniting the ancient volcano
Goodbye, Shenandoah

Sunday, November 4, 2012

After Election Day Communion...

From Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
From first I laid eyes on it, the Election Day Communion movement has had my support. And when I saw that my pastor had committed to conducting a service at our congregation, I was in. Despite a few cautions I gave in a post from early September, I've watched with bemusement and pleasure as the largely social media-driven movement has, at last count, enlisted the support of over 700 congregations in all 50 states in the U.S. to celebrate the Eucharist on the night of the presidential election. A few days ago, as I was marveling at the 50/700 mark, it struck me...

"What happens after election day?"

Depending on who wins, for instance, will there be Inauguration Day Communion or State of the Union Communion? With all the momentum this movement has built, I'll offer three suggestions for the organizers of EDC...

  • Gather reflections from participants - Get pastors and church leaders and other participants to write reflections on social media and see how this thing worked itself out in some of the 700+ congregations. Start a hashtag on Twitter, ask people to post on the Facebook page.
  • Turn participants to the sacred-liturgical calendar - "State of the Union Communion" is a bad idea. On the (Western) church calendar, Advent is starting in a few weeks. What would it look like for EDC to shift its focus back into the church calendar? What does Advent - the period of waiting for the remembered birth of the humble king of all creation - do to the national-liturgical calendar? (My answer: subverts let's talk about that.)
  • Poll the global body of Christ - EDC is a U.S. thing. How can they help remind U.S. Christians that their participation in the Lord's body crosses borders and time? Have any non-US connections been made through the formation of this movement? Can a sister or brother in Christ from another country "look in" to this movement and offer a word?
What other questions should the EDC organizers be pondering, or what kinds of things can they shift to, when their raison d'ĂȘtre passes in two night's time?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Voting: Ritual or Responsibility? - A response

[Note: The following text was presented at an on-campus event at EMU today, "Voting: Ritual or Responsibility?" I was one of three main presenters, along with EMU professors, Ted Grimsrud and Jayne Seminare Docherty. Ted and I have had significant conversations over the past weeks, online and at the pub, and Jayne is one of my former professors at the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding/CJP. The discussion was facilitated by Jonathan Swartz and Matthew Bucher, both dual-degree students like I was, in the Seminary and CJP. Thanks to everyone involved at the event, and I welcome more conversation below in the comments! - Also, check out Ted's three posts on this topic, where I also have some comments posted.]

In a 1977 article in Sojourner’s, John Howard Yoder had this to say about the then-current context: “American political culture, a comparatively solid crust of common language and rules of thumb, floats on a moving magma of unresolved debate between two contradictory views of what the state is about.” In this article, entitled “The National Ritual: Biblical realism and the elections,” Yoder goes on to argue that we shouldn’t get ourselves too worked up about this system, or take it too seriously. But nonetheless this weak system is one that we can and perhaps should participate in.  I quote:
[Voting] is one way, one of the weaker and vaguer ways, to speak truth to power. We may do well to support this channel with our low-key participation, since a regime where it functions is a lesser evil…than one where it does not, but our discharge of this civil duty will be more morally serious if we take it less seriously.
This position of Yoder’s I take to be the basic position taken by Ted in his arguments, both here and on his blog. And I’m sympathetic to both, and don’t necessarily disagree. But I want to sound a few cautions.

I’ll start with a quote by Yoder’s one-time colleague at Notre Dame, Alasdair MacIntyre, who made these comments in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election. I quote:
When offered a choice between two politically intolerable alternatives, it is important to choose neither. And when that choice is presented in rival arguments and debates that exclude from public consideration any other set of possibilities, it becomes a duty to withdraw from those arguments and debates, so as to resist the imposition of this false choice by those who have arrogated to themselves the power of framing the alternatives.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Theological sketchings for NuDunkers

From Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
The joys of the arbitrary Google Image search...
The first order of business in this post is to answer the question...

What the heck is "NuDunkers?" - We don't know yet, but the more appropriate question is who are NuDunkers...

Okay, wise guy, who are NuDunkers? And who's this "we?" - "Dunker," for the uninitiated, is a throwback term to the Schwarzenaru Brethren practice of full-immersion baptism, and the word used to be somewhat of a group epithet used by outsiders looking in (like the word "Anabaptist" and even "Christian" in their original contexts).

So NuDunkers are, We self-described NuDunkers are very few at this point and are in our early stages of gathering. There are currently four of us - Andrew Hamilton, Dana Cassell, Joshua Brockway, and yours truly - all inhabitants of the Schwarzenau Brethren tradition in two of its current denominational forms: Church of the Brethren and Brethren Church.

For me, connection to these three fellow Dunkers began in the Brethren blogosphere. I first made connections with Josh nearly two years ago, and he's slowly worked me into conversations with Dana and Andrew over the past year. In recent months, in addition to our blog and Facebook conversations, we have had a few e-mail conversations and hangout sessions on Google+.

So it's safe to say at this early stage that NuDunkers is also a conversation.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mumford & Sons among the virtues

From Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Last night I noticed in my blog traffic reports a spike of visits from this NPR story on Mumford & Sons new album, Babel. The author, Ann Powers, linked to my fall 2010 post, The Avett Brothers' narrative doctrine of Love (and Hate). This post has surprised me because it's now two years old (to the day!) but is consistently in the top ten list on any given month, and people often find it by searching for an answer to the question: "Are the Avett Brothers Christian?" (<--See for yourself.)

But anyway, on to Mumford. First watch this...

Then read on for some reflections on the three things related to Christian virtues which I see emanating from this beautiful song: Humility, embodiment, and purpose.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Eastern Mennonite University: Welcome to my home

Exhibit 1 of what I'll miss: Sunrise over Massanutten & Park View/EMU
There are two senses in which I intend the title of this post to be taken. 1) In an autobiographical sense, as in Eastern Mennonite University has become my home in a significant way; and 2) as if the institution itself were uttering the phrase. I'll use the first to get to the second over the course of this post...

For the past four years I have called this Mennonite village my home. I have come to understand that EMU is but one part of what I've just called a "village," because it's embedded in the Park View neighborhood, in the city of Harrisonburg, in the region of the Shenandoah River Valley/South Fork watershed. This is an area that generations of Mennonites have called home for over two centuries. On this stretch of beautiful earth, these Mennonites have attempted to embody the Anabaptist tradition of Christian discipleship in their families, congregations, and institutions.

As an Iowan Brethren with no prior substantive experience with Mennonites, I only knew there to be an historical connection between the two traditions, that connection having something to do with "Anabaptism," a word I only knew in name and not content. So it was upon coming here that I discovered the Anabaptist tradition not only articulated but embodied in substantive ways. The "thickness" of this embodiment is something I immediately felt, and it was only after more than a year of living, studying, and working here that I began to understand and be able to myself articulate what was going on and why. More on that later...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The iPhone as cultural pornography

One fruit to rule them all?
The iPhone 5 release event in NYC; photo by thomasebunton/Flickr
Sometimes it couldn't be more blatant. My favorite nerd site, Ars Technica, ran two stories yesterday separated by a mere 17 minutes. Here they are in the order I saw them in my Twitter feed:
  1. iPhone 5 sales top 5 million during launch weekend (9/24, 9:17am)
  2. Foxconn worker riot closes factory (9/24, 9:00 am)
Line from the first story:
"Demand for iPhone 5 has been incredible and we are working hard to get an iPhone 5 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.
Awesome, how are they going to do that? Well...the second story has some clues:
TUAW speculates that the riots (at Foxconn) were in no small part caused by the recent long iPhone 5 production ramp-up; Engadget links to a (non-English) report discussing "practically compulsory" overtime related to iPhone 5 production.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Seeing the game: Constraints on virtuous online discourse

Image from Rob Annable/Flickr
My techno-linguistic-virtue brain has been working overtime today as I've encountered a few pieces online. First I came across this great little piece from author/church-planter, J.R. Briggs, offering 10 self-reflective questions for making status updates on Facebook. They are:
  1. What is my motive?
  2. Will this matter in a month?
  3. Is this wise?
  4. Is it worth it?
  5. Does everyone need to read this?
  6. Am I encouraging conversation or shutting it down?
  7. How’s my tone of voice?
  8. Is this honoring?
  9. Is this truthful?
  10. Could I be investing my time more wisely by doing something else?
While the list is a bit longer than you'd want to write down and tape next to your computer monitor for every single time you post something to Facebook, it nonetheless offers great reminders, especially the first question on motive. "What is this status update for? From what desires does it spring, and are those legitimate?"

Virtuous discourse is something I think and write about from time to time - so it's nice to see other leaders in the church encouraging the same. And then I saw this tweet from Adam Graber:
We must learn to see technology the way we see language, "as transparent conduits of meaning."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reforming Reformation: Non-coercive witness

Church ruins at Heptonstall;
photo by David Sykes via Flickr
In a review for what looks to be a fascinating book, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society by Brad Gregory, reviewer Kathleen Crowther summarizes a segment of Gregory's argument:
[In the wake of "sola scriptura"], the only way Protestant groups (and Catholics) were able to command assent to their particular readings of scripture was to back them up with political force; the "magisterial" reformers and Catholics managed to do this while the "radical" reformers did not. This led to "the coercive, prosecutory, and violent actions of early modern confessional regimes" (p. 160). Where caritas had once reigned as the central virtue in European Christianity, it was replaced in the early modern period by "obedience" to both divine and secular authorities. (Inner quote is from Gregory's book.)
Looking at the index, I know that Gregory makes use of Alasdair MacIntyre's work on the loss of the virtue tradition in Western societies after the Enlightenment, so his reference to the loss of caritas caught my eye, but so did the reference to confessional coercion, even violence, by Protestants and Catholics. Radical reformers, especially the early Anabaptists, were often the target of such coercion.

Now check out this working definition of "evangelical" by John Howard Yoder from The Priestly Kingdom:
I take the term in its root meaning. One is functionally evangelical if one confesses oneself to have been commissioned by the grace of God with a message which others who have not heard it should hear. It is angellion ("news") because they will not know it unless they are told it by a message-bearer. It is good news because hearing it will be for them not alienation or compulsion, oppression or brainwashing, but liberation. Because this news is only such when received as good, it can never be communicated coercively; nor can the message-bearer ever positively be assured that it will be received. (p. 55, emphasis added in bold)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Political Theology: Elected to be consumed

Challa bread photo by the.pinoyboy via Flick/CC license.
I have a new post up at Political Theology's "There is Power in the Blog"

Elected to be consumed

As I say in the intro:
I hope to show why...tactical abstinence from American politics and news media is not necessarily irresponsible, but can be seen as righteously “therapeutic” (in a Wittgenstinian sense) or as residing in what Mennonite writer, Tim Huber, has recently called a “holy silence.” I will do so by meditating on the word “election” in light of two different traditions. First, in the context of American politics, and then in the biblical/covenantal sense.
I also do a bit of eucharistic theology at the end and make reference to the Election Day Communion movement, started by a few Mennonite pastors. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pietist theology for civil discourse

From Harrisonburg, VA
Philipp Jakob Spener
Forefather of Pietism & neck braces
There's a great piece over at Chris Gehrz's blog, The Pietist Schoolman, a guest post from Christian Collins Winn. Gehrz and Winn are both professors at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the post is Winn's address to the school's opening chapel service yesterday:

Pietism and Civil Discourse

In the piece, Winn identifies four characteristics from the Pietist tradition, specifically from its forefather, Philipp Jakob Spener, characteristics that comprise a Pietist theology for civil discourse. (Civil discourse being something that is sorely needed these days, and something I tried to model yesterday in my response to a piece by Michael Shank on Mennonites and politics.)

But here are the four characteristics with some commentary:

  1. A spirit of good faith - In virtue terms, I'd call this "charity" in the more classical sense of caritas, which connotes "costliness, esteem, affection." A related virtue would be kindness.
  2. A genuine openness to being taught - Winn rightly notes this requires the virtue of humility. We cannot assume beforehand that we are in the right, and we must always be open for the pleasant surprise of being wrong, learning something new, or understanding someone at a deeper level.
  3. A love for one's neighbor - I'll note here the brilliant quote I came across from Jamie Smith the other day: "The neighbor could be a friend or an enemy, a foreigner or a brother. The call to love the neighbor is a call to love all of them - that is why all of Jesus' injunctions to love are taken up in the call to love the neighbor."
  4. The hopeful commitment to God's peace - Hope and peace both being virtues/gifts/fruits of the Holy Spirit that, along with joy, ensure that we not become dour and spiritlessly duty-bound, where life becomes "just one damned thing after another."

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Mennonite vote?: A response to Michael Shank

From Harrisonburg, VA
Photo by Ken Wilson via Flickr
I'm not typically into the whole "a response to [so and so]..." style of positing, but a friend of mine asked me to write a quick response to a piece by Mennonite-raised Michael Shank, who works in Washington D.C. and also happens to be a fellow alumni of EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. Here's the piece...

Republicans and the Mennonite Vote (The Hill)

One thing I've appreciated about Shank's writing is that he talks openly on DC-affiliated media about his Amish-Mennonite heritage and tries to appropriate this faith heritage into his public policy work and his public commentary. Someone talking so openly about how and why religious faith matters to public life is admirable in such a work environment. In this piece he reflects on the experience of talking politics at a family gathering, feeling a bit like a fish out of water because of his party affiliation (Democrat) amongst his largely conservative Republican relatives.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The providence of proximity

[Life context note: Last weekend my wife and daughter moved back to our home state of Iowa, after four years of living in lovely Harrisonburg, Virginia. I'm hanging around H'burg for a few more months to finish my work at EMU before I join them. So this weekend, I had a lot of time on my hands, and...]

With said free time I read most of the essays in Jamie Smith's The Devil Reads Derrida. Man, what a great book! It is a collection periodic essays from 2002-'07, and it is exactly the kind of intellectual writing I try to here at Restorative Theology. (Albeit with much more modest intellectual capacities than Smith's...) Here is a Christian scholar who is committed to his intellectual craft for the sake of the church and the fidelity of the body of Christ and its place in God's mission in this creation. There's all kinds of underlines in this book I made yesterday, but this little passage is too good not to post. The opening paragraph of the chapter, "The Architecture of Altruism: On Loving Our Neighbor(hood)s":
When Jesus summarizes the "greatest commandment," it is a two-fold obligation that hinges on love: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart" and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27 echoing Lev. 19:18). It is intriguing to me that when Jesus points to the centrality of love, he also invokes a metaphor which is not familial (e.g. "brother" or "friend") or ethnic (e.g. "your people"), but almost geographical: we are to love the neighbor - the one next to us, who happens (by providence) to be in proximity. The neighbor could be a friend or an enemy, a foreigner or a brother. The call to love the neighbor is a call to love all of them - that is why all of Jesus' injunctions to love are taken up in the call to love the neighbor. (Emphasis added.)
This text also happened to be in the lectionary this weekend, so I heard it in the two church services I attended this weekend. (Hey...I was lonely and needed to be with my "first family.")

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Happiness in the eye of the porcelain god?

From Harrisonburg, VA, USA
Here's lookin at you, kid.
(Photo by Auntie P via Flickr)
While perusing my work-related social media feeds the other day, this title brought me up short...

Binge Drinking Makes Students Happy

The story on Inside Higher Ed references a recent sociological study in which college-aged students who engage in binge drinking report themselves to be "happier" than people who do not engage in such practices. Interestingly, class/status is brought into the study, reporting that wealthy white males in the Greek fraternity system are especially happy in their binge drinking practices. (While comments are usually the - ahem - toilet bowl of the internet, the comments on this story are actually worth the time.)

But I put emphases and scare quotes above to draw out what constitutes happiness these days: Subjective emotional states reported by the sovereign individual. Happiness in a Christian moral sense cannot be thought of, much less experienced, on such individualistic grounds.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Economics and anarchy

From Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
(Photo by Nils Geylen via Flickr)
As of yesterday I am able to say for the first time in my life that I have read the entire Old Testament of the Bible. For some reason this continues to strike me as odd given that I spent four years in seminary, but that's not the focus of this post.


My reason for mentioning this is that, at least the way the Christian canon is arranged, the last 17 books of the OT are prophetic literature. Which means that's where my biblical head's been buried for a while, and it's affected my imagination (as it should).

The prophetic books cover the last few hundred years of two-kingdom monarchy in biblical Israel, a project that was - by many prophets' own accounts - a calamitous failure. The divine negative judgment was often focused on the kings and economic and religious elites of the nations, and their collective idolatry and unfaithfulness. Such idolatry was often constituted by gross injustice exercised on the marginalized in society - the widow, the orphan, and the alien. Such injustices were violations of God's covenant laws.

Nearly two years ago I griped about about a NY Times piece by Paul Krugman, who was asserting that economics is somehow amoral. This struck me as deeply wrong, and my response then was "Economics is ALWAYS a morality play." After two more years of reading lots of political theology and philosophy, that sense has only deepened. It's only the dichotomous, fragmented kind of Enlightenment thinking that makes it possible to imagine that economics doesn't somehow assume, exude, and "educate" a certain kind of morality.

Friday, August 10, 2012

...I just blog a lot

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Since starting this blog for personal and academic reasons in the fall of 2009, I've managed to justify blogging as part of my professional work at EMU. My previous role at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding had me acting as blog editor for Peacebuilder Online. In my new role as Distance Learning Technology Analyst in the Information Systems department, my work has included a high degree of research and development work around educational technologies and ed-tech trends in higher ed.

I take a social media-driven approach to R&D, which includes tweeting (@DistanceEd_EMU) and, as of last week, blogging: Ed-Tech at EMU.

It's the best of many worlds for me: Doing my tech nerdery for a Christian university ("like no other"), using media with which I feel comfortable and competent, and within which I can take a narrative approach to communicating for my work.

If this all sounds rather self-serving, let me situate it in the context of gratitude. These circumstances wouldn't be possible without the amazing leadership I've worked under/with at EMU these past few years. I've had leaders who 1) trust my skills and insights, and 2) have empowered me to be creative in carrying out my work. It's a gift to have such work.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kaleidoscopic visions of the kingdom

From Park View Mennonite Church, 1600 College Ave, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing,
‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honour
and power and might
be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’
During my four years in seminary I was fortunate to have overlapped with the first seminary cohort as part of the local Mennonite Hispanic Initiative, which is committed to providing church planting resources, leadership development, and theological education to the Hispanic and Latino community here in Harrisonburg. One of the MDiv students is Byron Pellecer, pastor of the Iglesia Discipular Anabaptista (IDA), which currently meets Saturday evenings in the building of Harrisonburg Mennonite Church. Byron and I had a number of classes together and became good friends and brothers in Christ.

This past Sunday at my congregation, Park View Mennonite Church, Byron preached with his good friend, Marvin Lorenzana, who is an EMS MDiv alum and Director of Multicultural Services at EMU. I had been under the impression that Byron was going to be preaching in Spanish with Marvin translating to English. But then something amazing happened: While preaching, Byron would switch back and forth between the two languages, and Marvin would follow along. Here's the sermon...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Political Theology: Chick-fil-A, Capitalism, and Free Speech

From Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
"There is Power in the Blog" - the amazing name of the blog for the Political Theology journal, has just put up my first contribution there...

There’s no such thing as a free chicken sandwich.
(And it’s a good thing, too.)

Here's the summary:
In this post I want to focus on two interrelated things: 1) The capitalist logic to expressions of morality in the digital age, and 2) its effect on our understanding of the principle of free speech. What I’ll argue is that contemporary moral discourse is marked by a sense of victimhood which fuels the vitriolic and polarized nature of its expressions. In a society saturated by competing values disconnected from substantive moral traditions, this vacuum is filled surreptitiously by the moral logic of the “free” market. Moral discourse and outrage, then, has a deeply economic quality with a thin ideological sheen. The second part of my argument rests upon the first in that appeals to the principle of Free Speech – e.g. the Chick-fil-A flap – act simply as a screen for the phenomenon described in point one. Finally, my brief constructive remarks belie a vision for radical ecclesia which resists such destructive practices by enacting a politics and economics which emanates from the story-shaped practices of the body of Christ.
Check it out...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hauerwas on psychology via mental illness

From Harrisonburg, VA, USA
My wife and daughter are on a little vacation at the beach this week, and since we also did a whole lot of running around in June, I'm staying home to work, which in addition to my gainful employment includes taking care of both our cat and our neighbor's cat while they're also away. evenings are kind of quiet this week. Last night I caught some episodes of Battlestar Galactica, since it had been since early June since I last saw one and I only watch that show when my wife's not around. (Nerd stuff.)

Tonight I thought I'd feed my brain a bit more so I watched a three-lecture series that Stanley Hauerwas delivered at Fuller Theological Seminary's 2011 "Symposium on the Integration of Faith and Psychology." I wanted to hear what the old man had to say about psychology, knowing it would be pretty harshly critical, but I was somewhat puzzled (at first) to see him spend the first two lectures reading from his stunning memoir, Hannah's Child, drawing specifically on the parts related to his 24-year marriage to a wife who struggled with mental illness.

It's not until his final lecture where he finally gets around to doing the theological explication of all that had come before, even then reflecting on the writing of his memoir. How this "integrated" with psychology can only be glimpsed explicitly in a few of his offhand remarks, so he's doing what he does best (and may have learned from Yoder): He changes the subject.

Watching all these is a three-hour time commitment, but if you haven't read his memoir this is a great way to get significant bits. It's also great to see him do his work. As I recently indicated, Hauerwas is like a fine wine. He not only gets better with age, he gets better the longer you hang with him.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Discipleship and evangelism for the Web

From Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Graphing the RT blog homepage.
(Courtesy of
Yesterday I focused on creationist debates over the Internet. My argument there was, in brief: It's impossible to avoid the constraining reality of the nation-state and its interlocking projects in the creation and maintenance of the Internet, and Christian pacifists should not miss this fact.

Continuing this line of thought, I was drawn to another thought-provoking article: Web Literacies: What is the 'Web' Anyway? by Doug Belshaw.

As Belshaw points out, the World Wide Web is a system which makes use of the Internet for its "plumbing." And it is precisely this relationship of the Web to the Internet that makes some of the his claims quite intriguing (and problematic).

I admire Belshaw for being deeply committed to his work, as a read through his profile will illustrate. He obviously wants to make a difference in the world. He is a man of conviction. (He even characterizes some of his work as "evangelising!")

Monday, July 23, 2012

Creationist debates over the Internet

From Harrisonburg, VA, USA
And on the sixth day, Al Gore gave us...
(Photo by Lawrence OP via Flickr.)
It should be obvious to anyone who knows me: I owe a great deal to the existence of the Internet. My entire professional life would not have been possible without it, including my new job at Eastern Mennonite University, which entails convincing graduate programs to invest more energy and imagination in recent innovations in web-based tools for advancing online education at EMU. And here I am saying this on a blog.

Yet there is an aspect of the Internet that has taken on new significance after my theological education at EMU, steeped as it is in the pacifist Anabaptist tradition: The Internet's inextricable link to the nation-state.

It's impossible to avoid the military (and therefore the nation-state) in any account of modern, post-WWII digital technology, including the Internet. The military has been, and continues to be, a huge source of funding for technological innovations. (Entrepreneurs take note: I hear drones are a big growth sector!)

Then there are the debates about who or what is primarily responsible for the creation of the Internet, signaled in this piece from Ars Technica, my go-to nerd website: WSJ mangles history to argue government didn't launch the Internet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hauerwas is like a fine wine

From Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
His dad's name was Coffee for crying out loud!
He gets better with age. The Australian Broadcasting Company's always-excellent Religion and Ethics website has posted what I think may be Hauerwas' most succinctly argued essay which covers the broadest range of topics he's tackled over the years. It's long but oh dear is it worth the time...

The politics of the church and the humanity of God

One big point that's been a hallmark of his work is highlighting the story of modernity, including the accommodated church's complicity in modernity and its dire consequences. There's this nugget:
(David Bentley) Hart observes when Christianity passes from a culture the resulting remainder may be worse than if Christianity had never existed. Christians took the gods away and no one will ever believe them again. Christians demystified the world robbing good pagans of their reverence and hard won wisdom derived from the study of human and non-human nature. So once again Nietzsche was right that the Christians shaped a world that meant that those who would come after Christianity could not avoid nihilism.
This is paired with the critique of constantinianism, which he picked up from John Howard Yoder (and which people consistently miss when they accuse him of wanting a "theocracy"). He also spends a good bit of time talking about Barth, which helps keep his political and ethical comments theologically rooted (which sometimes gets missed in his episodic writings, and which he also gets accused of downplaying). His pacifistic, non-coercive theological understanding also finds voice in respect to topics he's tackled before:
The humanity of that God Christians believe has made it possible for a people to exist who do in fact, as Nietzsche suggested, exemplify a slave morality. It is a morality Hart describes as a "strange, impractical, altogether unworldly tenderness" expressed in the ability to see as our sisters and brothers the autistic or Down syndrome or disabled child, a child who is a perpetual perplexity for the world, a child who can cause pain and only fleetingly charm or delight; or in the derelict or broken man or woman who has wasted their life; or the homeless, the diseased, the mentally ill, criminals and reprobates... Such a morality is the matter that is the church. It is the matter that made even a church in Christendom uneasy.
Virtue, language, and narrative also get small treatment. To cut off my temptation to elaborate further, I'll simply let the snippets here speak and hope that a few people take the time to think of the huge implications for the Christian faith if Hauerwas is correct (and I continue to think he is, in large measure, correct on a good number of things).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Putting the belief cart before the virtue horse

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library,
Leslie Jones Collection, via Flickr.
After having just read Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue and Brad Kallenberg's Ethics as Grammar, it seems that everywhere I turn now in my nerdly reading, virtue and "the good" is on the tip of many tongues. This seems especially true to many reflections on matters of contemporary American life, including the role of "religion" in said life.

While I'm not categorically opposed to efforts at reclaiming some sense of virtue in this American life, I don't hold out particularly high hopes for such a project. The vice of greed in its many manifestations, I fear, has permeated too deeply into the halls of power in this country (Ex. A) for such a reformation to take hold substantively, not to mention the necessity of having to provide a substantive account of "the good" at a societal level, which is impossible in our pluralistic society. As one sociologist suggests, we must hold to a set of ideals as "the good." But the problem with ideals is they don't exist (to turn a phrase from Stanley Fish), and to hold out abstractions as that which a liberal-democratic society should strive for doesn't get us past the pickle of plurality. Who adjudicates the inevitable conflicts when substantive accounts and implementations of the purported societal good? (Resisting the temptation to drop the MacIntyrian line, "Whose...? Which...?" I've played it too much recently.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Headline: "Alum collapses after four years of grad school"

The relieved family; photo by Lindsey Kolb/EMU
It's a little hard to know how to characterize this post, since it's simply a link to a nice article written up by Laura Amstutz about my four years of grad school at Eastern Mennonite University. So I'll just tag it as "memoir" for posterity, and re-post the picture of my lovely ladies celebrating with me on seminary graduation day. (My wife and I both were at it again the next day, for my other masters and her MA in counseling...)

Friday, June 29, 2012

After Virtue...I'm exhausted

If anyone has spent any time paying attention to Stanley Hauerwas, you're accustomed to frequently seeing two names referenced: John Howard Yoder and Alasdair MacIntyre. Having just graduated from a Mennonite seminary whose theology professor - Mark Thiessen Nation - is steeped in the work of all three men, I felt it was my duty as a budding intellectual  to at some point read MacIntyre's landmark work of moral philosophy, After Virtue. So in my final semester this past spring, in a seminary practicum, I assigned myself the book.

It only took me five months, but I finally completed it the other day, mere minutes before our plane from the UK landed in D.C. Despite its age (first published in the early 80s) this book is terribly important for today's world and has all kinds of far-reaching implications, including for contemporary Christian discipleship. So in what follows I will attempt the impossible task of briefly summarizing this tome, and then offer some implications to Christian discipleship in the church.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The furniture in Mr. Roger's neighborhood

From Harrisonburg, VA, USA
Before I say anything critical about this, let me just say: This video is AWESOME, and it's been stuck in my head for two days now...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cap or Katniss? Violence in The Avengers and Hunger Games

It's strange business, being an Anabaptist-Christian pacifist who grew up loving comic books and videogames, both practices that are largely predicated on the myth of redemptive violence. Recently this has been brought to mind by two movies: "The Hunger Games" and "The Avengers." In this post I'll be focusing solely on the movies and not the prior art from which they're being adapted, and this is largely a "viewer response" commentary. Caveat: I'm currently near the end of the entire Hunger Games book trilogy and have a few thoughts that seem relevant from a theopolitical view, so some of what I say toward the end borrows from my having read the fuller story.

[Spoiler notice: I'm not going to give any major plot spoilers here, but I will discuss particulars of scenes and snippets of plot. So if even that counts as a "spoiler" and you have yet to see these movies and plan to, perhaps you shouldn't read on...]

First off, these two movies certainly share the view that violence is a necessary means. Neither espouse any pacifist ethic in any substantive way. What struck me, rather, is how violence functions in each movie and the response it elicited from the theater audiences that I was a part of in each instance.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What hath Kerouac to do with Mack?

From 80 Court Square, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Jack Kerouac
About ten years ago, in my early 20s, I read Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and it made a pretty big impression on me. The gestalt of the book really resonated, and it was a mostly gut-response. In the intervening decade, I haven't thought much about its impression on me, informally or academically.

But I think someone may have just done the hard work for me, expressing why I think Kerouac's work hit me like it did, and why it may have a continuing influence on my thinking. Over at the Englewood Review of Books, R. Dean Hudgens has an excellent review of the book, The Philosophy of the Beats, wherein he states that:
in [the Beats'] restlessness with the American Dream, their cynicism about mainstream society, their hunger for spontaneous expression, and the desire to be at home in their own bodies and with the bodies of others, there is a recurring call that many still find difficult to ignore. I don’t look to the Beats for all the answers, but I sure do find them giving voice to some of the most fascinating questions about embodiment, desire, imagination, poetics, vulnerability, and emotional intensity. These are not topics alien to Christian life but they are topics often foreign to Christian thought and reflection. (emphasis mine)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why "FYI evangelism" is an epic fail

From 80 Court Square, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Photo by litherland via Flickr
Story 1: When I was in my early 20s, working for a software company in Lawrence, Kansas, my boss used to call me on his daily commute from Topeka to Lawrence. He was clearly bored driving through the rural eastern Kansas landscape. (I made the same commute in reverse, as I lived in Lawrence and went to college in Topeka...I actually liked that drive.)

One morning he came into the office chuckling, saying he'd just seen something amazing on the way in. First, he passed a car with the "Jesus fish" affixed to the back of the car. Next, he saw a car sporting the "Darwin fish" (with legs, evolved; get it?!). Finally he saw a third car with the Jesus fish eating the Darwin fish! I can't quite recall but there may have even been a fourth car with some further episode in the saga, but the point remains: The "science vs. religion" battle was playing itself out before my boss's eyes, on the backs of cars. His response? Laughter. This is the only good and right response, because this form of communication sucks.

Story 2: When my 11 year-old daughter sees someone smoking, she says "Doesn't that person know they're killing themselves?" She's right; given enough time and practice, smokers are indeed killing themselves. So in the face of decades of research and anti-smoking PSA campaigns, why do people still smoke if they know it's killing them?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ecclesia and Occupy: Through a glass darkly

From 80 Court Square, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Paulette Moore speaks about Occupy Harrisonburg,
at the #Occupy Empire conference last month.
Arun Gupta has a great analysis of the Occupy movement's history (albeit brief) and current state of affairs, posted at the Al Jazeera English site: What happened to the Occupy Movement?

Especially powerful in my reading is his section, "Colonised by consumption," where he argues that the public commons has been eroded or "colonised over decades by full-spectrum consumption - shopping, eating, drinking, entertainment and paid spectacle." Occupy embodied a recreation of a public commons, enacting something different in the creation "mini-societies" within places like Zuccotti Park in Manhattan's financial district. Gupta states that:
The scene of hundreds of people exchanging food, art, music, knowledge, politics, healthcare, shelter, anger, ideas, skills and love was unlike anything else in our consumer societies - because not one exchange was lubricated by money (of course the goods were paid for at some point).
This "alternative society" aspect of Occupy is what keeps my theological interest engaged in the movement. It is in some ways a vision, as through a glass darkly, akin to what the church should look like in public: a distinct assembly (ecclesia, what we translate from Greek into "church") that lives its collective public life amidst other bodies politic.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Theological technologist?

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Koru photo adapted from
Jonathon Colman via Flickr.
More transitions are afoot these days, in addition to what the last two posts have indicated. While my blogging here has frequently made reference to my academic work at EMU, I rarely talked about my professional work at the same institution. For almost as long as I was a graduate student, I was also the Web and Information Systems Coordinator for the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. This was a part-time job as CJP's "nerd in residence," primarily responsible for web and social media for the program. But as my past-tense speech indicates, I've moved on to something new.

As of Thursday of last week, I am now the Distance Learning Technology Analyst for EMU (@DistanceEd_EMU), which is housed in the Information Systems department. This is a short-term, full-time assignment that is designed to guide interested graduate programs at the school into cutting-edge educational technologies and a distinct pedagogical approach that, when combined, provide for a deeper level of relationality and connection in virtual learning spaces. This job is a new one at EMU, and was created as a result of my work with Howard Zehr and others at CJP in the design and implementation of the program's first ever online class, which I wrote about here: Elicitive Pedagogy in the Digital Age.

Another way to put the mission of this new position is: How can we do Anabaptist-influenced graduate education online? If EMU is, as its tagline states, "a Christian university like no other," then how can those distinctives be embodied in disembodied media? Those questions and their practical implications will be what I'm focusing heavily upon over this summer and into the fall.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who is this blog for?

My wife and I had an interesting conversation the other night about the nature of my public writing on this blog, and how it has been received in various social circles in which I find myself. At this transitional point in our life together as a family, I've been in a reflective mood in general, but as it relates to this blog and our conversation, it seems the right time to ask: Who is this blog for?

First, a theological preface: My goal in life is to faithfully answer the call to discipleship issued by Jesus Christ. So anything I do in my life, including writing this blog, should be first and foremost an offering to God, who is the "first who" in answer to the question.

But in line with the "double love command" of Jesus (love God, love neighbor; Mark 12), this "first who" puts me in relationship with the "second who": my neighbor. Who is my neighbor? Perhaps a better question in the digital age, on a public blog no less, is who isn't my neighbor?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lead me not into temptation: Restorative Theology after grad school

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
"not many of you were wise by human standards... God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise"
(1 Cor. 1:26-27)
The sands are shifting. This blog was born in the first half of four grueling years of graduate school, which came to a close this past weekend. My writing on this blog thus far often served as a testing ground for applying in-class reading to pressing issues and concerns. It's where I applied William T. Cavanaugh's "myth of religious violence" thesis to U.S. military adventurism and James K.A. Smith's "sacred/secular liturgies" thesis to the military-consumerist complex in American society and its cultural practices, as I began describing myself as a "Christological, theopolitical pacifist" and "neo-Anabaptist." Writing here landed me my first writing assignment for a scholarly journal.

But before grad school I was a minister in the church. Now after grad school, I continue to be a minister in the church. This is a lifelong vocation. There has been a ministerial intent underlying my theological writing here, but now the framework of graduate studies is falling away, and whatever framework is coming next is still somewhat opaque, and unshaped.

So what will I do with this blog now that I can place "MDiv, MA" after my signature, in my CV, and in my online profiles?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P.S. to "A justice system at its best"

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Photo by my mommy!
(Click for the whole gallery.)
In my part-time role as Web & Information Systems Coordinator for EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, hands-down one of my favorite parts of the job is being co-editor of the Peacebuilder Online blog. Over the past few days I've been working with a part-time CJP student in my home state of Iowa, who wrote up an excellent restorative justice story/case study about a vandalism incident in the mid-90s at a synagogue in Des Moines. Here's that:

A justice system at its best by Fred Van Liew

My p.s. has to do with the photographer credited on the piece: my mother, Diane Gumm! On any blog which I post or edit, I always try to use photography or images that I know are honoring copyright. So even though there were a few small images of the synagogue dug up by Google Images, I couldn't determine their copyright, and all the ones I found on Flickr didn't have open copyrights (I always search for Creative Commons-licensed photos).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Anatomy of a mini-conference

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Peter Dula and Chris Haw field questions from participants. (Click for more photos.)
This past weekend, seven months of shared work between my friend, Aaron Kauffman, and I came to fruition. #Occupy Empire: Anabaptism in God's Misison was by most anecdotal accounts a great success. Around 60 people converged on the Discipleship Center, perched atop the campus of Eastern Mennonite University, for 24 hours of worship, academic presentations and responses, discussion, food, and fellowship. Aaron and I started working at 8:30am on Friday and didn't stop until 7:45pm on Saturday. Having never organized a conference before, I was simply floored (almost literally) by the amount of details entailed in conducting even a small conference like this.

So despite being exhausted from end-of-semester demands for my wife and I both, which resulted in me being unable to fully engage my intellectual faculties during the conference, I still sensed that things were going quite well throughout. Logistically, things flowed smoothly, and all the intentional ways in which Aaron and I structured the conference seemed to bear the kind of fruit we had hoped and prayed for. So this post is intended to be a post mortem of sorts, assessing how well our design held up.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

#Occupy Empire in tweets

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Three Brethren Desiring the Kingdom

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
A few months ago, Josh Brockway, my friend and fellow Brethren brother (and presenter at this week's #Occupy Empire conference!), fired up a new blog for the Brethren Life and Thought journal. Described as having "an Anabaptist and Radical Pietist voice," the blog is intended to bring scholarly discourse amongst folks in the Schwarzenau Brethren tradition into the digital age, something attempted in a few other places (including here) but with no institutional support.

Ever the tech nerd, I managed to wiggle my way into helping Josh administer the blog, but also contribute  to it. And just a few hours ago, Josh posted the final piece in a three-part/three-author series engaging James K.A. Smith's awesome book, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation.

  1. Ascetic Christianity: Brethren Dress and Smith’s Cultural Liturgies by Joshua Brockway
  2. In place of (non-)sacraments: Re-enchanting the Brethren by me, Brian R. Gumm
  3. The Anabaptist’s Will, The Pietist’s Heart & The Lover’s Gaze by Scott Holland
It's been a lot of fun taking the work in this excellent book into conversation with two friends/brothers/colleagues with an eye on what its import may be to the Church of the Brethren today, and indeed I think there is plenty of import. My thanks to these guys!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter at Arlington

From Arlington National Cemetery, McNair Rd, Arlington, VA 22211, USA
"He has risen." Easter sunrise at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
First, a confession: Holy Week did not feel very holy last week, at least in terms of how I engaged it. The demands of the final three weeks of grad school are starting to compress, and my participation in local worshiping bodies - seminary and our congregation - has been strained. No Wednesday evening lenten worship with folks at Park View Mennonite, no Love Feast with a Brethren congregation on Maundy Thursday, and no Tenebrae service. As someone fairly convinced by the formative influence of communal worship upon our body, personal and collective, this absenteeism from Holy Week worship practices really ate at me. Then my wife told me what we were going to do for Easter, when we happened to be in Washington, D.C., with her sister's family.

"We're going to the Easter sunrise service at Arlington National Cemetery."

For a Christian pacifist in the Anabaptist tradition, this is no trivial thing. But despite my initial shock at the idea, I quickly said "Ok," thinking to myself, "this will be interesting." For one thing, we were with my sister-in-law's family, and her husband is career military. Indeed, there is a strong military tradition in my wife's family, which is completely absent from my own. So in spite of my deepening Christoligcal pacifist convictions, I have a deep commitment to brothers and sisters in Christ who don't share these, especially Americans and those in my own family.

Much like I can't go a movie theater just to see a movie, I can't do something like go to a cemetery for fallen U.S. soldiers just to worship on Easter. There's no "just." There's too much other stuff going on all around, all of which has just as storied a nature as what's being celebrated on Easter. My wife will be the first to tell you that I think too much, and this is a prime example. So take a deep breath for this looong and somewhat rambling reflection on an Easter morning spent at Arlington...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Micro-saga: On becoming a peacebuilder

From Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, VA
In March 2008, Howard Zehr entered my comfortable life as an IT professional climbing the corporate ladder in central Iowa...and he promptly pulled me off. This encounter with Howard led me and my family to EMU, the CJP and seminary, and the dual degree program between the two. To say that I’ve been challenged and changed is a vast understatement, and CJP has had a big say in that process. The notion of “lenses,” for example, has become deeply embedded in my approach to the world. So thanks, Howard et al, for ruining my life in all the right ways!

[The preceding 100 words were written for my "blurb" in the forthcoming (25 more days!) graduation program for the Center Justice and Peacebuilding here at EMU. Sometimes narrating a significant experience in a ridiculously small amount of space is a very good discipline. I provide it here for posterity.]

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Mennonite: "First Mennonite conference on Occupy..."

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Tim Nafziger
Tim Nafziger has this great piece up at The Mennonite about our upcoming #Occupy Empire conference...

First Mennonite conference on Occupy plus The American Spring

I'm grateful to Tim for getting interviews with most of the keynote speakers, to get some of their thoughts on the Occupy movement and how this conference is related (or not). It also announces the fact that we just added as a presenter, Paulette Moore, a friend and teacher of mine here at EMU who also happens to be one of the lead organizers of the local Occupy Harrisonburg (@OccupyHburg) group.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Keeping Yoder Christian

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
"Love is a battlefield"
As John Howard Yoder's legacy continues to make an impact on the theological academy, his work has become somewhat of a battleground for how to read and interpret his work. One recent book, Paul Martens' The Heterodox Yoder, attempts to make the argument that Yoder's theological ethics became quite non-theological over the course of his career, or that his "politics" came at the expense of Christian particularity and theological commitments.

While I am by no means an expert on Yoder, I have relied on the guidance of one of the world's leading Yoder scholars, my theology professor at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Mark Thiessen Nation. When Mark's not working on his forthcoming "Bonhoeffer was not in on the plot to assassinate Hitler" book, part of his time is spent offering constructive and defensive writings on Yoder's theological project and its legacy. And Mark's take on Yoder runs completely counter to where Martens goes.

Yoder never loses theology at the expense of politics because, as Branson Parler notes, "Yoder, like Augustine, sees politics as always already doxology and ethics as always already theology." Politics is theological and theology is political. This is one of the more fundamental points to Yoder's approach, which many readers of Yoder can't seem to wrap their heads around, and such a mis-reading is indicative of Enlightenment thinking of which, ironically, Martens accuses Yoder.