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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

BL&T: In place of (non-sacraments): Re-enchanting the Brethren

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Over at the Brethren Life and Thought blog, I just posted my contribution to a three-part series of posts on James K.A. Smith's Desiring the Kingdom. Here's the link and the first bit of the post...

In place of (non-)sacraments: Re-enchanting the Brethren
While the Schwarzenau Brethren have long practiced the beautiful biblical-mimetic ritual we call “Love Feast,” there’s been the insistence that such practices – like baptism – are “ordinances” from Jesus. So we do them primarily because Jesus told us to, not because they have some “mystical” or “magical” power. Combined with a free church “priesthood of all believers” ecclesiology and liturgical practices, Vernard Eller could look at high church sacramental traditions in his book, In Place of Sacraments, and pejoratively describe them as “commissaries,” dispensing with mystical goods and services. Better than all that, Eller described the (surprise!) free church model which he called the “caravan” approach to practices like the Lord’s Supper and baptism. 
While honoring the good historical reasons that Anabaptists opted out of sacramental traditions (to their own peril, initially), appreciating much of Eller’s positive work in In Place of Sacraments, and being happy in our contemporary circumstances as a believers church tradition, still I wonder: Should we reconsider our bad attitude about the sacraments? In our desire to avoid magic-thinking, is there a way in which we’ve swung too far the other direction and depleted our social imagination as Anabaptists worshipping and serving a crucified and resurrected, therefore living, God? Have we thrown the genius of narrative-shaped ritual out with the sacramental bathwater? Read the rest...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tales from the Enlightenment: "religious freedom"

From Harrisonburg, VA
Gather 'round, kids; grandpappy Kant has a story to tell!
For a few weeks now I've been avoiding any news media outlets - which for me are entirely online. As election season has ramped up, I noticed how even my go-to-guys - Stewart and Colbert - have become almost exclusively fixated on the ugly vetting process for the Republican presidential candidate. It's become a sort of interpretive black hole, whereby all issues are sucked into its inescapable pull and "read" in light of that incredibly nasty public spectacle. So I've switched off...kind of.

I'm still regularly on Facebook, so I continue to hear about this stuff through the various news pages that I "like" and from my friends who are following the news. A decent number of my friends are leftish peaceniks, so last week I heard a collective liberal wail of moral outrage against Rush Limbaugh for some reason or another (I happily don't know why). And the week before that it was Catholics, insurance companies, and birth control, with pictures posted of a bunch of men on a congressional panel talking about women's reproductive rights (the ironical outrage!). This issue was connected to a particular contemporary Catholic candidate for the Republican ticket and references back to a speech from an earlier Catholic candidate seeking the Democratic ticket in the early 1960s, each having various things to say about "religious freedom."

So it's that notion - religious freedom - that I want to talk about, particularly how it gets used in modern political discourse and processes. I'm riffing off a fantastic post from Saba Mahmood at the Immanent Frame blog - Religious freedom, minority rights, and geopolitics (part of a whole series of posts they have running about religious freedom) - but mostly my current reading project, Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue and past reading of William Cavanaugh's The Myth of Religious Violence. With these folks, I'll argue that "religious freedom" is a particular story told this side of the Enlightenment, with particular definitions given to the constituent terms "religion"and "freedom." Much like I argued last fall about the creation myth of human rights, things such as "religious freedom" and "human rights" are far from self-evident, timeless truths available to all people in all places for all times. They are, rather, contingent constructs that purport to provide something that current, dominant forms of geopolitical ordering and organizing (nation-states) are ultimately unable to deliver.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Update on the Willie Nelson/Coldplay/Chipotle thing

Apparently Farmer Joe here is Joel Salatin
Last fall when I was bellyaching about the Willie Nelson/Coldplay/Chipotle video that sucked me in hook, line, and had been some time since I'd actually eaten at a Chipotle. And that continued...until last night. After my family went to a movie we swung by the Chipote here in Harrisonburg, Virginia. As I approached the counter to order, there was a sign posted that the pork being served was sourced from nearby Polyface Farms, run by Joel Salatin, somewhat of a local celebrity and hero of the local food movement.

So I said "mmmm..."and ordered a burrito w/ the local pork. Holy cow (sic)! The pork tasted fantastic, and I was trying to be objective and not think it was great just because it was local. It actually did taste great.

I've been a fan of Polyface since I discovered them in the film, Food, Inc., and I've noticed that the farm has inspired some folks here at EMU. One EMU alum from Iowa did a college internship at Polyface and then moved back to Iowa to put the farming practices to use, which is thrilling, considering my home state is practically ground zero for corporate and industrial-scale ag in this country.

So I guess Willie Nelson and Coldplay were on to something by doing this track for Chipotle's Cultivate Foundation...

Friday, March 2, 2012

EMU News: Young Anabaptists Consider Mission in an "Occupied" World

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Occupy robots! (Photo by Howard Zehr)
EMU News has a nice press release up about our upcoming conference, #Occupy Empire: Anabaptism in God's Mission. Here it is...

Young Anabaptists Consider Mission in an “Occupied” World
by Laura Amstutz
Kauffman and Gumm wanted to play on and challenge the “occupy” language made popular in the last year by protesters around the country. “We wanted to reinterpret that word,” said Gumm. “We were thinking about it theologically as part of the incarnation. How can we faithfully inhabit the empire as Christians?” “We also wanted to turn it [occupy] on its head,” Kauffman added. “We are asking how God’s kingdom occupies us.”
Thanks, Laura, for a nice write-up!