Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Peace Blogger Interview #2: Brandy C

Brandy CWelcome to the 2nd Christian Peace Blogger interview. See the first interview in this series here.  Brandy C is a 25 year old mother of a 3 year old, currently living in Vermont.  She has a personal blog, Brandy’s Variety Garden, and was one of the first persons to join the Christian Peace Bloggers web-ring.  Welcome to the interview,Brandy.  How would you describe yourself?

Brandy:  I’m a pretty easy-going gal. I find joy in the small things (like having an actual pantry in a kitchen at an old place we lived at …. or moving bars on a stereo), which baffles some people … but I like to try to remember to be just as blessed by the small things in life as by the big things in life. Some people don’t even have the small things we all take for granted.

MLW-W: That ability to take joy in the blessings of the everyday seems fairly rare–and yet nearly all the great saints and teachers have claimed it was an essential practice to cultivate. On your blog, this ability seems very connected to your deep sense of family. Could you tell us something  about your immediate family? 

Brandy: Well, there’s my husband[Jason, another Christian Peace Blogger and the subject of a future interview–MLW-W]  … he’s awesome …. he’s my best friend. There’s our daughter, who’s 3 … she’s smart as a whip, cute as a button, and sweet as candy. We live with Jason’s parents, his uncle, and 2 of his sisters (well, 3 when the other one is home from college) …. we won’t get into all that — it’s HARD living with in-laws and we’re looking forward to moving out.

MLW-W: Yes, I sometimes wonder if those who are completely sold on intentional communities would say the same after living for a year or more under the same roof as in-laws! 🙂

Brandy: As for my side of the family? My mom and dad are divorced — it was finalized on our daughter’s 3rd birthday. Dad lives in Michigan, Mom in Indiana. And I’ve got a younger sister in Tennessee. She’ll be getting married probably next year. She and her boyfriend have a baby boy who’s almost one. 

MLW-W:  What do you do for a living?  When not working or blogging, what do you like to do? 

Brandy: I am a homemaker. I’ve been home since I was 3 months pregnant and we have no plans of me returning to working outside the home. I homeschool our daughter (she’s starting to read already!!) too. When I’m not doing those things or blogging, I’m reading, listening to music, watching movies, writing, or playing PlayStation 2. We don’t have a car right now, so we’re kinda limited on what we can do at the moment.

MLW-W: O.K. Full disclosure: Although I defend the rights of parents to homeschool their children, I have argued in print  that in most cases this is not a good idea. But this is an interview, not a place for me to impose my views, so, could you tell us why you and Jason decided to homeschool? 

Brandy: Jason and I have talked about this topic extensively, even before we got pregnant, and putting our child — and future children, Lord willing — into public schooling has never been an option to us. Sure, Jason and I both went to public schools and turned out ok — but, in my case in particular, I would never have been ready for college, if that’s something I chose to pursue. The high school I attended was teaching me things, in 9th and 10th grades, that I had learned when I was in 7th and 8th grades. There were certain areas that I excelled, but I was only allowed to move as far ahead as their system would allow (example: I could have entered into AP English a lot sooner, but the public school system only allowed seniors into that class).

We want to give our child the opportunity to excel at her pace. She’s extremely bright — at 3yrs old, she could enter kindergarten now and do pretty fine — and we want to nurture that. If she does 8th grade work when she’d technically be in 4th grade, I want to be able to give her that opportunity. On the flip side, if she needs extra attention in an area, I’d like her to get that as well. We also want to incorporate the Bible into her teachings, which isn’t something public schools do. Besides, I am a firm believer in the parents being responsible all-around for their children … raising them, nurturing them, educating them … not sending them elsewhere to be educated. That’s just our personal thing though. We, of course, don’t condemn those who choose to public school … it’s just not something we choose to do.

 MLW-W: Hmm, interesting. Well, an interview is not a debate. 🙂  Moving on, could you tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian? 

Brandy: I’ve been a Christian for almost 5 years now. I asked the Lord into my heart on a Greyhound bus, on the way to South Carolina (from Michigan) to meet Jason for the very first time. We met online in a chatroom. He was the one the Lord used to lead me to Him.

MLW-W: That’s quite a story of becoming a Christian on a bus to meet Jason. I guess not EVERYONE in chatrooms is a would-be murderer or child molester, huh? My daughters are not even old enough to date, yet I think I would lock them up rather than let them get on a Greyhound to go see someone they met in a chatroom! But it seems to have worked out in your case: You found God and a loving husband! 

Brandy: No, (laughs), not everyone in chatrooms is a would-be murderer or child molester. My parents would have never allowed me to do that, if they had known. I was on my own then though … and I didn’t tell anyone I was going because I didn’t want them to try to talk me out of it. It caused a lot of grief on their parts, as it was a couple of weeks before they heard from me … and I do regret that part, but I don’t regret getting on that bus to meet Jason at all.

MLW-W:  Of what local congregation/parish are you a member? If your local church is part of a denomination, what is it?   If your local congregation is non-denomination, how do you identify your church tradition (i.e., Evangelical, Pentecostal,Emergent
Church, Liberal, etc.)?

 Brandy: No particular congregation/parish. We home-church. Jason has a real interest in the Emergent Church … it’s a subject that’s on my to-study list, among many other things.
MLW-W:  Since you say you are just now reading up on it, I’ll save for Jason questions about the what and why of the Emergent
Church. But you have a home-church and you home school. Is this a pattern? Do you have a basic distrust in established institutions?

Brandy: Well thank you for saving those sorts of questions for Jason …. it’d be a rather dull portion of the interview if I were to answer those questions! A distrust in established institutions? No, not really. In the people apart of those institutions maybe. Maybe. As I said before, homeschooling was a go from day one. Homechurching, on the other hand, came about about a year and a half to two years ago. We attended a Pentecostal Church of God for awhile — long enough that 90% of the people knew us by name (1 1/2yrs for me, a little longer for Jason) — and we depended on others to give us a ride to church. One person after another stopped giving us rides, even though we offered gas money to help (all denied our money), and we soon ran out of people to give us a ride. Plus, when we had our daughter, that was one extra person to try to fit in their vehicles … and often times, Jason and I had to switch off and on. One week he’d stay home with our daughter, the next I would. That’s no way for a family to attend church. So, when we ran out of ride-options, we prayed and asked for His guidance. We were 10 miles from town with no car (we’re about to get our very first vehicle when we get our tax refund back!) and only 1 other church within walking distance … and that church wasn’t teaching the full truth of the Bible, so it wasn’t an option. That is how our homechurch was founded. I’ve grown more homechurching than I ever had attending church in a established church building … and I guess you could say I’m not in any real hurry to change that.  

MLW-W: Were you raised Pentecostal? Have you ever been part of a different Christian denomination or tradition?

 No, I wasn’t raised this way. My parents both claim atheism. My dad’s mom is Catholic, but also practices witchcraft last I heard/saw. I went to an Episcopalian church for a couple years … was baptised there, though I hadn’t asked Jesus into my heart yet at that time. As I said, when Jason and I married, we were going to a Pentecostal (Church of God) church …. went to that church for a few years. We attended a Baptist church for a couple months too.

MLW-W:  Switching gears for a moment, how did you get into blogging?   What do you like about it?  Are there problems you see with blogging? 

Brandy: Jason wanted to start an online journal of some sort, so he did some Googling and found a free site (I don’t remember the name of it now) and we both started up an account there. We stayed there for a few months, then found a free Christian blog-host — LifewithChrist — and we joined there. I didn’t really like the first host we were with. I liked LwC at first because it was a real community. I don’t particularly like how it is now — that’s why Jason and I have our own domain — but I still pop in there every now and again to read a few blogs that I’ve always liked. I like where we’re at now cuz it’s ours *grins*.Brandy: Do I see problems with blogging? I guess the only real problem I see is that it’s written word …. there’s always a problem when that’s the only way to communicate. The writer may have a problem expressing themselves clearly, the reader may take what they say in a different manner than the writer meant …. and because of that lack of understanding and clear communication, it can get heated and nasty awful quick.

MLW-W: Alright, since this is a Christian Peace Blogger interview, how do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found?  Brandy: Well, I’m very new to the nonviolence lifestyle. But the more I read from others more knowledgable than I … and the more I read in the Bible … I know this is the right thing … and that in itself is a source of strength. 

MLW-W: Do you have  military experience? 

 Brandy: Only through family. Not personally. My dad was dishonorably discharged from the Navy for drugs. My mom was in the Navy for 8yrs. She almost had to go to Desert Storm. She’s been medically discharged (hurt her back on the job) for almost 12 years now.

MLW-W: What about  experience in nonviolent struggle or  in conflict resolution/transformation practices? 

 Brandy: Not really. Well …. does a test-of-wills with a 3yr old girl count?! Well, I’m married … does that count?! *laughs*

MLW-W: All of us who are married with kids will attest that conflict resolution skills are a must!  🙂  And nonviolent parenting is a difficult road, but one I admire you for following. You’ve grown up in a Navy family–a family of unbelievers. Now you are a Christian and embracing nonviolence. Have these changes caused strains with your family of origin? 

Brandy: I don’t see my family very often. It’s been 2 years since I’ve seen my dad, almost a year-and-a-half since I’ve seen my sister (she’s got a son who’s almost a year old that we’ll see for the first time in June!) … and only a few months since I’ve seen my mom. When we do talk … or see each other … we don’t really talk about my beliefs. They’ve made it clear that they’re not interested in hearing it, so I witness silently. Them seeing how well-behaved our daughter is, with no spankings at all, is an example of that. If we were to talk about it, I’m not sure they’d agree with our decision at all. My dad was abusive to us girls … and he and my mother were believers inpanking. There’s a lot of areas I’ve discussed with them that they don’t agree with us on, such as homeschooling (seeing how smart she is and how much she knows already is another silent witness), but they support us anyway because we’re family.

MLW-W:Do you consider yourself a pacifist? If so, say something about how you see nonviolence (or nonresistance) and its connections to the gospel. 

 Brandy: I didn’t even know what a pacifist was until very recently. I used to have very mixed feelings about war in general … but I’m leaning towards thinking they are wrong, especially as I read and think upon the New Testament teachings … Christian pacifism is a subject I’m currently studying for a future post (that I hope to finally get up this week sometime). 

MLW-W: What led you to join Christian Peace Bloggers?  Since joining have you blogged any posts on peacemaking?  Have they gotten any feedback from readers? 

Brandy: Well, I read about it on Graham’s blog[Graham Old whose blog is Leaving Münster] … checked it out … and decided to join, since Jason and I had just decided that nonviolence is the lifestyle we’re going to live. Since joining, I’ve only made a post or two about nonviolence, but I’ve got another post or two lined up … between my sis-in-law being home from college, my daughter being sick, and me not feeling too hot …. well, I just haven’t had much time to blog period. The posts I have done have gotten feedback from readers …. and I noticed that one of the posts spurred others to make posts on their blogs — one very encouraging and supportive, the other not. I do have readers thinking I’m unbiblical for leaning towards thinking the war in Iraq is wrong … and for deciding not to spank our child … but, for the most part, they’re nice about it. I’ve had one person stop reading my blog and take her link down for my blog, afraid I’d contaminate her readers with my “unbiblical theology” — but, whatever. 

MLW-W: Considering how busy 3 year-olds can keep you, as I remember very well, this next question may seem silly.  Do you read any of the other blogs in the blog-ring? Which ones do you like and why?  Have you alerted any readers to your blog about these blogs (or specific posts on them) which you like?

  Brandy: Lately I haven’t even had the time to keep up with the blogs I link to on my blogroll. I have checked out a couple blogs in the blog-ring once, but I haven’t been able to get back to them yet. I really want to check them all out though, as there are some very intelligent people on the ring! 

MLW-W:  Outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations?  

Brandy: No, I don’t. Not at the moment.

MLW-W: Well, I list some good ones on the peace links of my blog. Some are Christian and some are either interfaith or not-religious and could use a good Christian presence as witness. So, maybe after you all settle in your own home and find a routine–who knows? Perhaps a support group for nonviolent parenting, like Parenting for Peace and Justice–which is Christian, but has a very Catholic orientation?  There’s also the companion group, Families Against Violence Advocacy Network.

MLW-W: Have you travelled outside the U.S.? How well do you stay informed with global events? 

Brandy:I lived in Bermuda for 3 1/2yrs … it was half British at the time, but we lived on the American base. Other than that, I haven’t been outside the U.S. And I’ll admit, I’m not always on top of global events … … but I’ve been reading up on them a little more lately than I used to …. so I’m at least semi-knowledgable.

MLW-W: Did your experience of living in Bermuda, even on a U.S. Naval base, give you any appreciation of a different culture than your own? I have this theory that the isolation of U.S. Americans from other countries is one factor in making us–even in most churches–so warlike, so willing to kill others. I wonder if having a network of friends around the world would make this less likely? Does anything in your experience in Bermuda lead you to have any thoughts on this one way or the other?
Brandy: I’ve always been fascinated with other cultures (I’m super excited about exploring them further when our daughter hits that point in homeschooling too!!) … I just haven’t studied much of them. Bermuda was a very unique experience, that’s for sure. In grade school, they had a class dedicated specifically to the native culture (the class was called Host Nation). I loved that class! There’s much to learn from the way of life of others! So many other cultures truly appreciate the smallest things that you and I, in America, take for granted. I guess that’s why Jason and I like to lead a simple life … and like to remind ourselves, that when things are going wrong there’s always someone in this world who has it waaaaay worse than us. I think we, in America, are so spoiled … and if we can’t go get that second car, life sucks … we live a life of gluttonous luxury in general. We think certain things are NEEDS, when most times that item is just a WANT.

I agree with your theory. I think if more Americans were truly aware of other people’s cultures, they could relate to them more. And would be more willing to find nonviolent solutions to problems … instead of being so war-happy. One of the first things they told us in
Bermuda was to stay out of a particular area afterdark … because we were white Americans. I guess that meant we were in some danger of Rastafarians or something. But we walked everywhere on that island, even at night, and never had a problem. We had an appreciation and respect for their different culture … and in return, they had respect for us. Everyone we came across was extremely friendly … and helpful when we crazy Americans needed directions on their island (laughs).

MLW-W:  Brandy, thanks for agreeing to be part of the Peace Blogger Interviews.  Blessings on you, your young family, and your future. 

Brandy: Oh you’re most welcome. It was a pleasure! Blessings to you and yours!

March 6, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, nonviolence, Obituaries, pacifism, peace, peacemaking, sexism | 4 Comments