By: Gregory Williams
Last month, I played a support role in an anti-zionist protest of a Friends of the IDF fundraiser in Westport, Connecticut. The action unexpectedly ended in arrest, and, somewhat more predictably, was the occasion for a fierce back-and-forth in local newspapers and blogs about the IDF, the Occupation of Palestine, and the importance/inappropriateness of trying to disrupt Zionist events. My small contribution to this debate was an editorial that was circulated on several blogs and two local newspapers. In the piece, I did what I have done in several posts on Jesus Radicals and discussed Zionism as a racist, white supremacist ideology. This message, to my surprise, was almost more controversial than the initial direct action. At the time, I saw no need to defend the claim that the conversation about Zionism is, by necessity, a conversation about race. This was clearly an error on my part, given the reaction that this claim received, not only from Zionist critics, but also from skeptical supporters.
It is, I have been reminded, far more common to talk about the Occupation in terms of war and peace, or human rights than in terms of race. I am not necessarily writing to change this, or to criticize other anti-zionists in any way. The last thing that our movement (or any movement) needs is a public spat over tactics or rhetoric. I wholeheartedly support anyone working for a future in which no mother is forced to give birth at a checkpoint, no child is labeled as a demographic threat from birth or forced to grow up at the point of a gun, and in which no family lives in fear of their home being destroyed by a bomb or a bulldozer. Our work is far more important than the words with which we justify it. Nonetheless, I am conscious, at this juncture, of the need to step back for a moment and offer an account of why I use the language of race to talk about Zionism.
By: Jarrod Cochran
Being a resident of the State of Georgia, where the School of Americas is located and Lockheed builds its warplanes, I am daily bombarded with buzzwords and catch phrases that demand my knee-jerk, unwavering support of the military industrial complex and the desires/whims of my government. The slogan that is most-often repeated phrase I find on bumper stickers and emblazoned upon business vehicles is “Support Our Troops”.
“Support our troops.” What does that mean? How are we supporting our troops? What are we doing to actually provide support? If it is merely a bumper sticker, nice words, or a yellow sticker, that is not true support.
If you’re speaking of supporting the troops by expanding medical care for soldiers suffering from physical injuries and mental wounds, then I support the troops.
If supporting the troops means getting these men and women off the streets to where they are housed, fed, and cared for then yes, I support the troops.
If supporting the troops stands for working to create a more just society where we cease our imperialist reaches and learn to work out our differences through dialogue. If it means that instead of sending out “disposable soldiers” to fight and die for causes of greed, we work to live peaceably with one another, then I support the troops.
By: Xeres Villanueva
When imperialism, alienation and subjugation crept in as a part of our everyday reality, it also became a struggle for average people to relate to each other in ways that are life-giving, just and mutual. Many modern societies and cultures are structured to reinforce the unjust relationships and community dynamics that often require one to put down others to lift oneself or someone else up. In other words, people are conditioned to take away someone else’s power to themselves be empowered. For example: in the Hayti District in Durham, NC, urban renewal, suburbanization and highway development have fragmented and disempowered the once economically self-sufficient and independent black community. This phenomenon is widespread in urban centers where predominantly middle-class individuals daily commute into urban areas for work. Issues of traffic congestion are often solved by cutting thoroughfares through communities that are predominantly of color. This empowers those middle-class individuals who commute daily into the city to get to and from their places of work with relative ease, but is highly disempowering for the communities that are divided by these developments.
Another unjust dynamic that often creeps in to our ways of relating as individuals and communities is a sense of noblesse oblige. Noblesse oblige can be defined as “the perceived responsibility of privileged people to act with generosity toward those less privileged than themselves,” and it is embodied in some aspects of short mission trip programs where mission trippers end up doing jobs and projects for the recipient communities rather than doing the projects alongside them as partners. This ultimately makes these trips about the service and good works of the participants rather than empowering the local people to make a difference in their own lives. In effect, these mission trips “carve a highway” (so to speak) across the recipient communities which brings power to mission participants (sates their consciouses/makes them feel like good Christians) while disempowering the receiving communities who often lose any sense of independence and self-determination.
Author's note: I was invited to write an article on the ethical and spiritual character to vegan practice by Timbrel: Women in Conversation with God Together, the magazine of Mennonite Women USA. The following is an edited version of what was published in the spring 2015 issue.
The wolf shall lie with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain
for all the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
-- Isaiah 11:6, 9 (New Revised Standard)
I do it for the animals.
On the surface, this appears to be a simple answer to a fairly straightforward question: why are you vegan? Yet my commitment to veganism is influenced by my understanding about God, the place of people in creation, the purpose of other animals and the nature of the “good news,” as well as how I read the Bible. It is also tied to my identity as a Black Anabaptist woman who works at undoing oppression. These lenses have led me to see other animals in ways that conflict with the dominant logic of our day, which is itself shaped by various values, beliefs and theologies.
By: Joanna Shenk
Note: This article originally appeared at Geez Magazine
I became a pastor recently, which wasn’t the easiest decision. You see, my dad and my grandpa were both pastors. I was steeped in church growing up, always the first there and the last to leave. I didn’t like the expectation of being a good pastor’s kid and rebelled against that image in various ways as a youngster. As an adult, I didn’t want to be perceived as unreflectively joining the “family business” or being religiously narrow in a world that has been oppressed by Christianity for centuries.
When I went to seminary it wasn’t to become a pastor, but rather to work through my theological questions. Definitely some privilege involved in going to graduate school for personal development reasons. And it was a deeply transformative time of reorienting my gaze to see the systemic realities in our world.
In addition to not feeling a pastoral call in seminary, I also wasn’t sure if wanted to be a Christian. And even though I was at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, I also did not identify as Mennonite when I started.
By: HH Brownsmith
In The Creative Word, Walter Brueggemann says "Conventional notions of novelty are in fact the moving of pieces around without any thought of in-breaking, of a new emergence that goes beyond what is already administered." When we look around us, we can see that what has already been administered for the American Christian is, in most cases, broken beyond reconfiguration or repair. We are in desperate need of a new emergence.
Almost every Christian denomination is seeing membership losses in the millions, with an estimated 4,000 churches closing each year. In the twenty years between 1991 and 2011, the level of debt carried by M.Div graduates, due to the cost of theological education, tripled. Non-evangelical para church organizations are experiencing huge cut backs in staff and programming.
These are the realities I faced as I began my ordination process with a denomination that welcomed me by making it clear that I should look into chaplaincy; because they probably wouldn't have a church to offer me after a protracted and poorly administered discernment process. These are the realities I yielded to as I admitted defeat and mourned the loss of my vocation in parish ministry. These are the realities I could not wish away when I cast about for other religious work only to find para church organizations not hiring, academia cost-prohibitive, Christian retreat centers closing, and Christian intentional communities unwelcoming or unsustainable.
By: Sarah Thompson
Note: originally published on Sarah's blog From the Belly
I’ve been told to wait until I leave the country to post this. I just landed in New Zealand, so, here it is.
West Papua currently consists of two provinces in the western half of the island of new Guinea adjacent to the independent Melanesian nation of Papua New Guinea. West Papuans have been struggling for independence (or at least the ability to self-determine) since the Dutch colonial era (they were originally slated to become another nation when the Dutch left the archipelago, but the US’ Cold War fears changed their fate).
This is a mineral rich, predominantly Christian, predominately black Indigenous province located on the eastern-most periphery of the archipelago. Indonesia has the highest population of Muslims in the world, it is densely populated, and has a expanding capitalist economy that is the target of increasing multinational corporations, and producing a growing consumer class and waves of refugees to Australia.
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