Unbroken Connection

DinaAn excerpt from Dina Gilio-Whitaker’s brilliant new release As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock (2019).

The very thing that distinguishes Indigenous peoples from settler societies is their unbroken connection to ancestral homelands. Their cultures and identities are linked to their original places in ways that define them: they  are reflected in language, place names and cosmology (origin stories). In Indigenous worldviews, there is no separation between people and land, between people and other life forms, or between people and their ancient ancestors whose bones are infused in the land they inhabit and whose spirits permeate place.

Confronting U.S. Warring Madness

CPT IK

Rebekah, Runak, Kamaran (foreground left to right), and I hiked to a cave and waterfall. PC: Weldon Nisly                  

An excerpt from the monthly update of Weldon Nisly, a retired Mennonite pastor and part-time member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams Iraqi Kurdistan (CPT IK) delegation. 

A few years ago, after 25 years as a human rights and women’s rights activist, Gulistan Saeed decided to seek change within the political system. Elected as a Member of Parliament of the KRG, she was granted her request to serve on the human rights committee.

Gulistan welcomed the CPT IK team to the KRG Parliament and listened as we shared the Deraluk families’ sorrow and request for assistance. She promised to take their case to her committee and to an independent Kurdish human rights committee to help the families find their missing loved ones. She also expressed eagerness to work with CPT on future human rights cases and encouraged CPT to bring these Deraluk families to Erbil to meet with other Members of Parliament. She recommended that CPT and the families have a press conference to help the people of Iraqi Kurdistan and the world hear the traumatic impact of Turkey’s cross border bombing of civilians. Continue reading

Radical Discipleship: An Invitation to be Led by the Spirit in Prayer

JoBy Rev. Joanna Lawrence Shenk

*This is part of a series of pieces from contributors all over North America each answering the question, “How would you define radical discipleship?” We will be posting responses regularly on Mondays during 2019.

A version of this article was first preached at First Mennonite Church of San Francisco on March 31, 2019

During Lent this year I experienced a stripping away, a reorientation in a vulnerable and uncomfortable way. I recognized my need for God and guidance by the Spirit anew. It has led to questions such as:

Where is the Spirit at work?
Am I attentive enough to follow the Spirit’s leading?
Am I courageous enough to follow?
Do I actually need God or do I think I’m okay with my analysis and intention to do good in the world?

 

In this time prayer has become a central practice. Continue reading

Ideological Remoulding

Bullets

Bullets Don’t Hurt. The Silence of the People Does. Khartoum, Sudan, 2019 (Source: http://www.thetricontinental.org).

An excerpt from a recent newsletter “Radical Change Must Fall Like a Gentle Mist, Not a Heavy Downpour” at The Tricontinental, an international, movement-driven institution focused on stimulating intellectual debate that serves people’s aspirations.

Change comes at different tempos. Political change – the removal of a government – can be swift. Slower yet is economic change, with systems of production far less easy to pivot than the ejection of a government. Harder to change social systems, institutions such as the family, which have deep roots not only in our consciousness but also in our infrastructure (consider how our housing is built, to facilitate an ideological view of the ‘family’). But the hardest of all to change are the rigidities of culture, the tap roots of norms and customs that go deep into the centre of human experience. Prejudices of all kinds – racism and patriarchy – lie far beneath the surface, requiring what Zhou Enlai called ‘ideological remoulding’ to alter them. ‘It cannot be done with haste’, Zhou Enlai says several times in his speech. Such cultural work takes time. It has to dig gently into the earth to investigate the tap root, digging deeper to understand its power. Radical change has to confront culture’s blockages. Two kinds of work are necessary: cultural work, to stretch the imagination, and political work, to undermine the power of nasty cultural forms.

The Intensity of the Witness

ClarenceFrom the Essential Writings of Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farm and author of the Cotton Patch paraphrase of the New Testament.

The history of the Christian movement demonstrates that the intensity of persecution is geared, not to the moral level of the non-Christians, or persecutors, but to the intensity of the witness of the Christian community. The early believers were not persecuted because the Romans were such bad people. In fact, on big occasions they would throw a thousand or two helpless people into the amphitheater to be clawed to pieces by lions, but the thought of atomizing [with a nuclear bomb] a whole city probably would have horrified them. The strong conviction of the believers might not have caused the Romans to persecute them, but there could have been no persecution without such faith. One wonders why Christians today get off so easily. Is it because unchristian Americans are that much better than unchristian Romans, or is our light so dim that the tormentor can’t see it? What are the things we do that are worth persecuting?

To Enlist

J PerkAn excerpt from Detroit-based theologian Dr. Jim Perkinson’s classic piece “Theology and the City: Learning to Cry Struggling to See.

*To live in a suburb “neutrally” is to participate in the American fiction of innocence.

…In complex, globally interdependent societies like those we now live in, theology that is not simply ideology requires a kind of militancy. It must enter a fray that is neither gentle nor innocent. But it has not ever been different for Christian “God talk.” In the first centuries of the church’s life, for instance, the early meaning of paganism was both “rural-dweller” and “noncombatant.” To become a believer in the early church meant to enlist. In the Roman imperial order, a sacramentum was an oath of loyalty taken by a soldier to Caesar. For Christians living under that imperial regime, celebrating “sacraments” like the Eucharist was a practice of political resistance in a struggle that engaged war-making as its nonviolent, but combative opposite. From the beginning, Christianity has been about spiritual warfare, when it has not forgotten its calling. And Christian theology in the mix is the articulation of where God is most likely to be encountered in the ongoing conflict.

Those Deemed Different

NephsBy Tommy Airey, last Sunday’s silent sermon 

So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step…
Acts 11:2-4

When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:18

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:34-35

In a previous life, I was the athletic director at a large public high school and an associate pastor at an Evangelical church plant at the same time. My single life and my Purpose Driven protein shakes subsidized my 80-hour workweek. It was a life of adventure. One week I was on a short-term mission trip to Nigeria. The next week I was dealing with the fallout of a teacher-and-coach who was sleeping with one of his students. Continue reading