Varieties of Cultural Engagement in North America
Table Of Contents
- Advance Praise
- About the editors
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- List of Abbreviations
- Part I The Frame
- Three Angels (Keith Ratzlaff)
- Introduction (Dennis R. Koehn)
- Part II Anabaptism and the Shifting Terrain
- New Perspectives on Human Nature and Images of the Divine (Dennis R. Koehn)
- Secular Mennonite Social Critique: Pluralism, Interdisciplinarity, and Mennonite Studies (Maxwell Kennel)
- Part III Ethics of Peace and Justice
- The Convergence of Pacifism and Just War (Duane Friesen)
- Interfaith Paths to Peace (Doug Hostetter)
- The Ground and Educational Ministry of Ethics: A (Darkly Hued) Anabaptist Perspective (James Samuel Logan)
- “Be Just, and Fear Not”: Theater as Restorative Justice (Lauren Friesen)
- Part IV Race and Identity
- The Beggars Are Rising, Where Are the Saints? (Vincent Harding)
- Connections Past, Present, and Future (Lawrence Hart)
- Hexadecaroon (Bryan Rafael Falcón)
- Liberating Anabaptist Music (Katie Graber)
- Part V Pilgrimage, Trauma, and Renewal
- Voice of the Residue: The Reckoning of Intergenerational Female Wounding (Cameron Altaras)
- Healing the Wounds of a Violated World (Ruth E. Krall)
- I Will Kill Him First! (Lorin Peters)
- Musings from a Blind Mennonite Misfit: When Disability Theory and Anabaptist Identity Intersect (Darla Schumm)
- Anabaptism and Its Agrarian Heritage (S. Roy Kaufman)
- Part VI Pushing the Boundaries
- Beauty Happens (Charlene Gingerich)
- Mennonite Literature’s Queer Decolonial Anabaptist Vision (Daniel Shank Cruz)
- Us and Them (Al Schnupp)
- Part VII Poetic and Artistic Expression
- Emblems of the Times (Jeff Gundy)
- The Centaur’s Recipe (Sofia Samatar)
- Learning from our Ancestors: Listening to the Patterns in our Hands (Rachel Epp Buller)
- Neighbor : Who (Douglas Witmer)
- Slowly Like Snow (Diana Zimmerman)
- Part VIII Ethics of Institutional Engagement
- Applying a Mennonite Theology of Peacebuilding to Mennonite Institutions (Lisa Schirch)
- Negotiating the Blade: A Dramatic Reverie on Faith, Institutions, and Theater (Julia Reimer)
- Walking a Tightrope Across the University: Following My Ethical Compass and Hacking Higher Education (Clayton Funk)
- Ethics, Faith, and Health Care (Rudi Kauffman)
- Among the Pains: Christianity, Disability, Healing (J. Alexander Sider)
- The Church on the Edge of Forever (David E. Ortman)
- List of Contributors
|AMBS||(Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary)|
|TAV||(The Anabaptist Vision)|
|CGR||(Conrad Grebel Review)|
|CMBC||(Canadian Mennonite Bible College)|
|CPT||(Christian Peacemaker Teams)|
|ETF||(Mennonite Environmental Task Force)|
|IMS||(Institute of Mennonite Studies)|
|JMS||(Journal of Mennonite Studies)|
|JMW||(Journal of Mennonite Writing)|
|MCC||(Mennonite Central Committee)|
|MCUSA||(Mennonite Church United States of America)|
|MQR||(Mennonite Quarterly Review)|
|MWC||(Mennonite World Conference)|
|TRAV||(The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision)|
The broad scope of this volume is illustrated by this section which begins with a poem and ends with chapter summaries. New directions for theology, ethics, the arts, reflections on racial and gender identities, personal pilgrimages, institutional decision-making, and cultural engagement are introduced in this section. The approach to these topics, as cultural engagement, is a departure from a more traditional, community focused approach to Mennonite studies. This framework is an invitation for the reader to traverse a wide landscape when, as Ratzlaff’s poem signifies, we envision God’s creation as a shoe.←1 | 2→
no matter what the song says—
which means feet will be
because God says so.
what happened next,
It was the curse of Jeremiah
and regret it even as he spoke, knowing
then Marathon, Kabul, Jerusalem. Oh God
who among us could have declined heaven
are blessed, the sorrowful—
the poor and pocketless
the hang dog, the hungry,
the angry, the upper
the strapped, the welted.
for they shall see God’s
handiwork. Blessed be God
the word for world is shoe.
The practical roots for this book can be traced to many coffee mugs devoured by the editors at the Hyde Park caffeine purveyors known as Bonjour Bakery and Piccolo Mundo. The theoretical roots are deeper and more complex. We were both educated during the era when “The Anabaptist Vision” by Harold S. Bender had considerable influence among Mennonites. He advanced the thesis that the Swiss/South German Anabaptist Martyrs were the spiritual geniuses of our tradition and that adherence to their primary principles (biblical faith, discipleship, nonresistance, and community) could rescue Mennonite thought from the seductiveness of Fundamentalism and the encroachment of modernism.1 That was then, this is now. The limits of his study became evident as scholars turned their attention to the wider Anabaptist movement. Bender essentially limited his analysis to a five-year period (1525–1530) and within that narrow timeframe, apparently further limited his examples to those who were imprisoned or martyred. Early Anabaptism was far more pluralistic than Bender’s thesis implied.2
These essays are an improvisation on familiar themes in North American Mennonite/Anabaptist studies: ethics, community, faith, and culture. Each contributor explores new, even nontraditional, avenues for action and expressiveness. As editors, we have selected topics in many theoretical and practical areas in order to illustrate the rootedness and expansive attributes of this tradition. We stand amidst these questions: from where have we come, what is our identity, and how will we navigate the future? Can we improvise our ←5 | 6→way with these new chords and harmonies: remix the familiar with the innovative? That is the challenge before us.
The contemporary context is distant from the two-fold challenges that Bender addressed. Mennonites have moved into the professions without adapting fundamentalist hermeneutics or a nihilistic worldview. The essays and creative works in this volume attest to the pliability of Anabaptist/Mennonite thought by individuals who have or are excelling, professionally, and able to reflect on their faith traditions. The very idea of traditions, plural, is in contrast with Bender’s thesis because Anabaptism was never a singular orthodoxy; it was pluralistic then and is especially so today. This new understanding of pluralism in theory and praxis is, therefore, a sign of the vitality of this tradition and not a mark of its weakness.
The authors have incorporated enduring Anabaptist motifs and blended them with contemporary issues and perspectives. That remix of tradition and innovation thrives within these pages. The challenge that continues, for those who seek a meaningful faith, is the quest for liberation from prior, inadequate paradigms while balancing that investigation with authenticity and renewal.
The organization of this volume follows an architectural model. We begin with new directions in theology as the framework for continued reflection. That is followed by the ethics as the stairway to various rooms that need examination. The first of those is the fluid identity of the terms Mennonite and Anabaptist. That is followed examining the landscape upon which we resume the pilgrimage that pushes boundaries toward poetic and artistic expression. Within the community of faith, the arts are the mediators between experience, authenticity, and transcendence. The tension between liberation and responsible renewal creates a liminal space where ambiguity often resides. The essays in this volume often explore those spaces where ambiguity opens the doors to engage culture and society.
The editors offer a hearty thank you for the multitude of institutions that have nourished our growth through the years. These include our communities and churches of origin: Bethel College Mennonite Church (Dennis) and Bethesda Mennonite (Lauren). The schools where we received our training: Bethel College and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (for both of us), Harvard Divinity School and Chicago Theological Seminary (Dennis), Pacific School of Religion and Graduate Theological Union (Lauren). Our years of employment included church and non-church institutions: Lauren—San Francisco Opera Company, Seattle Mennonite Church, Goshen College, and the University of Michigan. Dennis completed successful careers at Oaklawn Psychiatric Center, Goshen College, Mennonite Mutual Aid, and as a self-employed management consultant. Many faculty and instructors gave us the research and analytical skills for our academic achievements. ←6 | 7→For the sake of brevity, I, Lauren, am grateful for the work of these professors: William Gering and Keith Sprunger (Bethel College), Leland Harder, Clarence Bauman (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary), Doug Adams and Wayne Rood (Pacific School of Religion), Marvin Rosenburg, and Margaret Wilkerson (University of California-Berkeley), and Mia Mochizuki and James Emperor (Jesuit School of Theology). In addition, the opportunity to lecture on theater and religion at German conferences hosted by Horst Schwebel (Marburg), Klaus Hoffmann, (Hannover), and Ingrid Hentschel (Bielefeld and Hamburg) served as a guide for my thought on the connections between the arts and religion. And I, Dennis, thank my mentors who include Howard Snider, Duane Friesen and William Keeney (Bethel College), Gordon Kaufman and Krister Stendahl (Harvard Divinity School) and Robert Moore (Chicago Theological Seminary). Dennis gained insights into church institutions and leadership through management consulting engagements with the Mennonite Church—General Conference Mennonite Church merger, Mennonite Central Committee, the Church of the Brethren General Board, and numerous other church agencies and institutions.
Numerous libraries and librarians have also aided this venture. John Thiesen (Mennonite Historical Library, Bethel College) and Joseph Sprunger (Mennonite Historical Library, Goshen College) have always been prompt and responsive to our queries. The Regenstein Graduate (University of Chicago), the Chicago Theological Seminary, Graduate Theological Union and the Harold Washington Public Libraries have been an invaluable resource for our research efforts. Mennonite Life, a magazine founded by historian Cornelius Krahn, continues to provide new insights on life among various Mennonite groups. That publication, in one sense, is the foundation for this work which now focuses on the ethical dimensions of this heritage.
We have four reprints in this volume, and we are grateful to the authors or the copyright holders for their permission to include their essays. We are including reprints because these essays address timeless issues or those that linger across time and space. Mennonite publications such as Mennonite Life, Journal of Mennonite Writing and its conferences, Conrad Grebel Review, Journal of Mennonite Studies, and Mennonite Quarterly Review have been invaluable guides as we selected topics and identified potential authors. In addition, the Harvard Divinity School and Graduate Theological Union libraries have been a valued resource for this venture.
The name of each contributor and their affiliation can be found in the final pages of this volume.
The creative clash of tradition and innovation causes most aspects of culture to be in continuous remix. Crucibles of adaptation are present in religion, law, education, science, technology, publishing, arts, media, etc. The present volume on Anabaptist ReMix: Varieties of Cultural Engagement in North America is a case study of one religious tradition—Anabaptists and Mennonites—and a few fragments of transformation in the modern and post-modern era. Theology is re-imagined as a conversation about human nature and emergent images of the divine. The arts are re-framed as a prophetic examination of conflict, catharsis, and justice. Christian pacifism is given new partners and new projects with those in the just-war tradition. Women find a new voice to tell stories of abuse, oppression, and healing. Native American, Black, and Latinx voices call attention to buried stories calling for resurrection. The power of institutional structures is interrogated and challenged to prophetic missions of equality, healing, and justice.
The contributors to this volume answer the question: “What have the ‘inheritors’ of Anabaptism done since the publication of The Recovery of the Anabaptist Vision over 60 years ago?”1 Our thesis is that they have made significant contributions to North American society, directly, and the global community, more indirectly. Currently, Anabaptist/Mennonite voices are diverse, inclusive, and pluralistic in their views. Diverse in that they represent a large variety of disciplines and methods. Inclusive because they often break down the barriers from inherited views on race, gender, identity, and doctrine. Contributors describe how aspects of the Anabaptist legacy have had an impact on how they engage with the contemporary world. Contributors were selected on the basis of the importance, creativity, and diversity of their work ←9 | 10→and life experience. We bring this creative mix of tradition and innovation to curious and adventuresome readers. The original Dutch/Swiss Anabaptists were among the major sectarian movements of that era, rejecting the dominant narratives of the Protestant and Catholic state churches. This book continues that pioneering work of creating new narratives of understanding, identity, and action in the world. Each generation adapts to newly emerging social, economic, political, and artistic realities.
An examination of Anabaptist identity and practice is needed at this time because the inheritors of this tradition are fragmenting and dissipating. The creative vitality of this unique tradition is in question. Old modes of identity, expression, community, and action are irrelevant to many in the millennial generation in the early 21st century. This volume represents a small sample of Anabaptist vitality over the last 60 years. This legacy is now handed on to new generations that will shape the next 60 years of Anabaptist identity and mission. We are no longer farming communities with Dutch and Swiss cultural traits, led by patriarchs. We are rapidly becoming diversified, feminized, urbanized, and professionalized. These are not small changes. They require creative new formulations of identity and mission in the world. For example, we Mennonites have 500 years of experience with male identity without warrior violence (although violence in our families and congregations has continued and those stories have been suppressed). We have 70 years of experience delivering community-based mental health services (even though some of our practices diminish our mental health). Could we make a unique and creative contribution to reducing male mental health related gun violence in America?
Many North American Mennonites have seen their identity over the last seventy years through the prism of the H.S. Bender address on “The Anabaptist Vision,” delivered to the American Society of Church History in 1943. Bender wrote that the Anabaptist conception of the church involved “the insistence on the separation of the church from the world, that is non-conformity of the Christian to the worldly way of life.… Conflict with the world was inevitable.”2 The Bender vision did not include a mission to the world, but a vision of church separation from the world.
But earlier in the 20th century an alternative vision of Mennonite presence in the North American context was articulated. This alternative vision was “shunned” and refused publication by the Goshen College Mennonite Historical Society and the Mennonite Herald Press in Scottdale, Pennsylvania.3 The author of this alternative Mennonite vision was young ←10 | 11→Edmond G. Kaufman, writing a 1927 PhD dissertation at the University of Chicago: “The Development of the Missionary and Philanthropic Interest Among the Mennonites of North America.”4 At the end of this dissertation, Kaufman summarized that North American Mennonites were engaged with the larger culture through: “eight publishing houses, eight Mennonite higher educational institutions, twenty-five Mennonite hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the aged, and over seventy-five Mennonite city and rural missions.”5 Kaufman also noted hundreds of Mennonites engaged with American Indians and the peoples of India, China, Africa, and South America. This book on Anabaptist ReMix: The Varieties of Cultural Engagement in North America is a continuing celebration of the Kaufman vision of active Mennonite mission and social engagement.
One of the most contentious aspects of the Kaufman dissertation was his use of sociological sect-cycle theory to explain the experience of Anabaptist and Mennonites in their European and North American contexts. A sect initially grows out of a social context in which most people are in a state of fusion with the culture at hand. Then comes a period of crisis, conflict, schism, and isolation, a period of indefinite duration. The initial motivation is likely to be reform rather than separation. Isolation becomes a group ideal and strong internal community norms are developed. “The peculiarities are gradually given divine sanction, are bolstered up by Scriptures, and become cardinal principles, the neglect of which is punished as heresy.”6 Dominant forms of leadership and followership often develop: the people are called to “subordination to a few outstanding leaders, who, not only themselves live in the consciousness of a higher power, but demand allegiance, loyalty, and the sinking of the individual’s wishes in the welfare of the group.”7 Some contributors to this volume are in active rebellion to this “sinking of the individual’s wishes” for the sake of group solidarity under centralized patriarchal leadership.
The transition of sects out of isolation often involves generational conflict. The older members of a sect continue to assert the superiority of sectarian styles and norms, while younger members of the sect make:
attempts at revision so as more nearly to conform to the standards of the outer community. This often brings on divisions and schisms which generally are a ←11 | 12→sign that the period of disintegration has set in.… Sooner or later the world becomes more tolerant and refuses to take the sect seriously.… Gradually the customs, practices, ideals, and doctrines of the two groups [sect and larger culture] more or less conform and the sect is again slowly fused with the larger community by ceasing to exist, or becoming a denomination gradually federating with similar bodies.8
There is a period of declining conflict and the sectarian group tends to return to assimilation within its larger cultural context.
This book on Anabaptist ReMix leaves unanswered the question of whether or not some sectarian solidarity will be maintained as current-day Anabaptists engage freely in nearly all aspects of North American culture. As editors of this volume, we hope that a renewed assertion of Mennonite distinctiveness will emerge. As we survey the contributions of authors in this volume, we see a distinctive integration of nonviolent reverence for life, a zest for authentic personal and community vitality, and struggles for justice and sustainability in the larger human community. These are the unifying themes that hold together this wide-ranging collection of essays.
We also see a weakness in our identity and solidarity in the 21st century North American ethos. Assertive and confident faith communities are needed to balance against the power of big corporations and big government. In the midst of cultural domination by big corporations and big government, we do not see a counter-force response for building coalition and institutional responses to transform or resist this domination. As we survey the church scene across North America, we see declining congregations in traditional rural Mennonite strongholds and small and barely viable Mennonite fellowship in many urban settings. Acculturation and denominational schisms leave vitality in publishing, education, and outreach in limbo.
Jesus used metaphors of salt, light, and leaven to signify divine presence in the world: “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world”; the Kingdom of God is like the leaven that the woman took…. This book represents the lives of creative and courageous Anabaptists who have been carrying out the Jesus vision of salt, light, and leaven in the world. Some have acted in official church-sanctioned roles; others have acted as autonomous—sometimes renegade—individuals. While the Anabaptist heritage is often idealized, the Mennonite lived experience of our contributors is both bondage ←12 | 13→and liberation, both abandonment and responsibility for our larger culture. Common themes of authenticity, honesty, and relevance run through the essays in this volume. I will now examine each chapter.
Anabaptism and the Shifting Terrain
In his essay on “New Perspectives on Human Nature and Images of the Divine,” Dennis Koehn offers an analytical template for interpreting Anabaptist liberation, responsibility, and engagement over the last seventy years. He lays out the case for theological anthropology—explaining human nature—as the most impactful undertaking in theology. Ancient and modern developmental theorists describe up to eight varieties of human nature, each with its distinctive understanding of reality, the good, what is possible, and the nature of the divine.
The prolific Canadian Mennonite writer Maxwell Kennel provides an essay on a “Secular Mennonite Social Critique: Pluralism, Interdisciplinarity, and Mennonite Studies.” He writes: “I study secular, philosophical, political, and literary Mennonite thinkers and topics with the express expectation that values will conflict, and with the further assumption that this conflict of values is preferable to the fantasy that ‘we’ ultimately agree on the important things in our diverse societies.”
Ethics of Peace and Justice
Bethel College professor emeritus Duane Friesen writes on “The Convergence of Pacifism and Just War,” and builds a case for Mennonite pacifists to join with just war theorists in minimizing the use of war in international affairs. This 1989 essay includes a 2020 epilogue, which charts the “Doomsday Clock” of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and the work of diverse ethicists in recent decades on just peacemaking: ten “practical normative practices of peacemaking that are supported by empirical evidence.”
Doug Hostetter writes on “Interfaith Paths to Peace,” first presented to the First International Conference on Peace and Conflict Resolution at the University of Tehran in Iran in 2019. Drawing on experiences from Vietnam and Bosnia during times of war, Hostetter concludes: “The first step in interfaith peace work is the recognition that one’s own faith tradition is not the only way to God, and that other faith traditions and their practitioners must be accepted, respected, and cooperated with, in peacebuilding efforts.”
James Samuel Logan provides an essay on “The Ground and Educational Ministry of Ethics: A (Darkly Hued) Anabaptist Perspective,” and describes ←13 | 14→his philosophy and practice of teaching ethics at Earlham College. Logan sees that “teaching is a political activity … teaching is an activity related to the pursuit of power/influence, status, recognition, belonging, and control.” He addresses distressing realities which call for ethical action, such as incarceration and educational patterns described by James Lanier: “for every black male who graduates from college, one hundred others are in prison or jail.”
“‘Be Just, and Fear Not’: Theater as Restorative Justice” by Lauren Friesen, identifies justice as the central theme in many enduring theater productions: “Theater lays bare for the world to see how justice and injustice are measured.” Friesen draws on a broad range of western thinkers for an understanding of justice: Aristotle, Kant, and John Rawls—to name a few. He calls forth Aristotle for a corrective to a typical Mennonite reflex to withdraw from social engagement: “Responsible citizens, Aristotle advises, need to act and not withdraw from society; they cannot excuse themselves from the uncertainties of pursuing justice.” Friesen sees that, “The arts, theater in particular, are that bridge between the individual and society, church and world.”
Race and Identity
Next, is a Mennonite World Conference address by Black Mennonite Pastor and American historian Vincent Harding: “The Beggars Are Rising, Where Are the Saints?” which challenges White Mennonites to become engaged in the global struggles for liberation by people of color. Harding presents a demanding reality: “The lame and bruised prey of western exploitation are rising and marching and demanding the right to live as humans. They are rising and are outraged that we have eaten and drunk their sweat.”
Cheyenne Peace Chief and Mennonite pastor, Lawrence Hart presented an address “Connections Past, Present, and Future,” in which he described parallel migration patterns of the Cheyenne people and the Mennonite people who both ended up on Great Plains of the North American continent. The Cheyenne have their ancestral roots in Siberia, having migrated to Alaska over ice that once covered the Bering Strait. Centuries later another group left another part of Russia to settle on the plains of Oklahoma and Kansas—the Mennonites. Each group carried a tradition of peacemaking and nonviolence and they met on the Great Plains in the late 19th century.
In “Hexadecaroon,” Bryan Rafael Falcón describes his attempt to navigate identities inherited from his Puerto Rican father and his Swiss German Mennonite mother. Falcón runs a theater company in Tucson, Arizona. He describes one of his major interests in theater: “Identity is one of the most powerful tools that humanity, a cooperative species by necessity, has ever ←14 | 15→developed. Without story there is no sense of community or people, and without identity there be no sense of self.”
- XIV, 478
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2022 (May)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. XIV, 478 pp., 3 b/w ill., 1 table.