Levellers

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

Peace Blogger Interviews

Remember the Peace Blogger interviews? I got to 9 of them before I had to take a break. Well, I have placed those 9 in a new page at the top of this blog.  The Christian Peace Bloggers blog-ring has grown so large since I founded it that I haven’t been able to keep up or visit a fraction of the blogs now available. However, I do have several interviews that I never published in this series and I’ll try to see about publishing them in the not too distant future future.

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July 19, 2008 Posted by | blog-ring, peacemaking | 2 Comments

Peace Blogger Interview #9: Daniel Schweissing, pt.II

danheadshot.jpgMLW-W: Switching gears, do you have (a) military experience? (b) experience in nonviolent struggle? (c) experience in conflict resolution/transformation practices?  Describe your experiences with any or all of these. 

Daniel: No military experience, much to the chagrin of the recruiters who used to come to my high school.  🙂  My friends from the cross-country and track team and I used to run every day after school, rain or shine, whether practice was officially scheduled or not.  The recruiters would often be loading their materials into their car at the end of the school day when they’d see us come running through the parking lot as we began our daily workout.  We never talked to them, but you could just see the looks of envy as they watched us go by.  It was as if there was an invisible sign over their heads that said, “We want YOU to join the army.”  But we never did!

     As a college student, I was involved in some of the anti-war efforts on our campus during the First Gulf War in 1991.  Earlier in my studies, my history professor Tom Eckenrode had recruited me to represent our school as a delegate to the Model League of Arab States (MLAS), which is sponsored by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations in Washington, D.C.  During the three years that I participated in this program, my classmates and I became thoroughly acquainted with the history and politics of the Middle East, dialogued with numerous leaders from Arab countries, and acquired hands on practice with the diplomatic tools of conflict-resolution.  So when the Gulf War began, several of us who had been involved in the MLAS were well-positioned to take leadership in the campus anti-war effort.

    Shortly after graduating from college, I went overseas as a volunteer missionary and that was pretty much the end of my active involvement in peacemaking until very recently.  During our recent home assignment in the States, I was able to participate in some anti-war demonstrations in Denver, the first time that I had done anything of that nature in nearly fifteen years. 

     About a year ago, my wife and I recently completed instructor training for Christian PREP, which is a conflict resolution program for married couples.  Recently, we have begun offering some workshops based on this material at Emmaus Baptist Church and, so far, have had a good response.  In the future, we hope to share this material with other congregations affiliated with our national partner here in the Bahamas.  After reading Dan Buttry’s book Peace Ministry a few years ago, I realized that peacemaking needs to be practiced at home and in our churches as well as in society-at-large and this seems to be a good starting point for peacemaking in our current ministry context.

 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.  Were you raised a Christian pacifist or did you convert to this view and, if the latter, tell us something of how that came about? 

Daniel: Assuming that there is a continuum of viewpoints between Just War Theory and pacifism, then I definitely lean more towards pacifism.  Though, I rarely use that term to describe myself. 

        My grandfather immigrated from Germany to the U.S. with his family when he was ten years-old.  During World War II, he joined the U.S. Army and went back to Germany as a military chaplain, though no family member since him has followed in his footsteps.  When I was growing up, we were all very proud of him and his military service.  Yet at the same time, as I grew older and became better acquainted with U.S. history—both through formal study and hearing stories from teachers and relatives—I became fascinated by two major aspects of the 1960s counter-culture:  (1) the organized resistance to the Vietnam War and (2) the Civil Rights Movement spearheaded by Martin Luther King, Jr.  This eventually led me to do some in-depth research on Thoreau, Ghandi, and MLK for an essay on civil disobedience in one of my high school English classes.  By the time I graduated from high school, I was probably an adherent to JWT  (though, I had no idea that’s what it was called until I went to seminary) but, at the same time, was very sympathetic to nonviolent struggle as a viable means to bring about change in the world.  Since then, my views have basically continued to develop along those lines through college and well into adulthood.

      Following 9/11 and the subsequent military escalation in the U.S., I began to revisit these issues.  Eventually, I came to the realization that JWT, while it sounds great on paper, is actually nearly impossible to adhere to in practice.  During my lifetime, there had been no just wars (at least none fought by the U.S.) and it didn’t seem as if any wars in the foreseeable future would fit that criteria either.  About the same time, I became acquainted with Glen H. Stassen’s work in just peacemaking theory.  For me, that was a crucial turning point as it allowed me to set aside the debate on JWT versus pacifism and focus my attention, instead, on the practical aspects of moving forward on peacemaking.  So am I a pacifist?  Probably so, though I am normally more inclined to refer to myself as simply “a peacemaker.”

 MLW-W:  As you know, fellow Baptist, in our tradition, missionaries have often been involved in oppressive, imperialist projects.  But other missionaries (or sometimes even the same ones) have often become the most radical workers for peace and justice out of their encounter with God in new contexts among people very different from themselves.  Has the ambiguity, the blessing and curse, of this missionary tradition impacted your faith and work? 

   Daniel: Well let’s just say that when some twenty-second century historian evaluates the legacy of my ministry, I hope that something positive will be said regarding my efforts for peace and justice.  That being said, I think that regardless of how culturally-sensitive we try to be and how peace and justice oriented we become, the reality is that we all have blind spots and—in spite of our best efforts—American missionaries continue to do and say stupid things that reflect the fact that we are citizens of the Empire.  In that regard, I have no doubt that an honest historian will be compelled to point out numerous ways in which my ministry might reflect such negative influence. In regards to how the legacy of imperialism impacts my work, I should point out that late twentieth and early twenty-first century missiology is significantly different than its nineteenth century counterpart.  (Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that there still aren’t a lot of mission agencies out there operating under a nineteenth century paradigm; but that’s another story.)  However, this type of strategy generally works better in the textbooks than it does in real life.  One of the biggest problems that I believe many missionaries face today is that we are trying to operate under a culturally-sensitive, non-imperialistic missiological strategy yet we typically find ourselves working with national churches and leaders that have been influenced by the legacy of one or two-hundred years of imperialistic, colonial-style missions.  This creates a situation that often puts us at odds with national leaders who are expecting handouts and services while we seek to empower national churches to utilize local resources, train their own members, and carry out their own ministries. 

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? 

Daniel: As a missionary who has spent most of my adult life living outside of the United States, I have noticed that that the peace and justice movement in the U.S. often tends to be a largely white, middle-class, and sometimes paternalistic and ethnocentric movement.  I don’t mean that in a judgmental way as I recognize that we all have our blind spots when it comes to ignorance and prejudice and, even after years of living overseas, I still struggle with my own.  But with that in mind, one of my objectives in blogging is to serve as a “cultural broker” between my own culture and the cultures where I live and work, helping to shed a little bit of light on what goes on in other countries and cultures outside of the U.S.  If I succeed in doing that, then hopefully those efforts will help all of us to be a bit more sensitive to the cultural realities of other countries as we go about the task of peacemaking. 

    Much of my blogging, so far, has focused on justice issues that are unique to the Caribbean.  Following the release of the movie Amazing Grace for example, I did a post on the legacy of the Atlantic slave trade in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, noting that this has been largely overlooked by those who are using the Wilberforce legacy to raise awareness about things such as human trafficking, child labor, and prostitution in mostly non-British Caribbean countries.  While those efforts are certainly commendable (and I hope that the movie was successful in generating support for them), I think something is wrong when we totally ignore the plight of the descendents of those whom the abolition of the slave trade was originally intended to benefit.  In any case, I think these types of issues are crucial to understand if we wish to pursue peacemaking in the Caribbean.

          The Mexican-American theologian Virgilio Elizondo says that, “Actions speak louder than words, and prophetic actions speak louder than prophetic words.”  With that in mind, I am using my blog to chronicle the efforts of the Bahamas Human Rights Network as we seek to address local Haitian rights issues.  I’m currently in the process of blogging on incarnational ministry which I believe is a prerequisite to successful ministry in a variety of areas, including peacemaking.  And of course, as my wife and I continue to offer Christian PREP training, I hope to document those efforts as well.

 MLW-W:  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? 

Daniel: Apart from Levellers and Earth as it is in Heaven, both of which I read regularly, I haven’t had a lot of time to check out the other blogs.  I’m discovering that one of the disadvantages to owning and maintaining a blog is that it takes away from the time I might otherwise have to read what others are saying.  Right now, I’m making it a point to read each interview that appears in this space and then check out the blog after I’ve had a chance to become acquainted with the blogger.  Hopefully, by the time the series is over I’ll have identified a handful of blogs that I feel inspired to read on a regular basis.  While all of the blogger profiles and blogs to date have been quite interesting, I’d have to say that I found Parables and God in a Shrinking Universe to be the most compelling.

 MLW-W:  Outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them. 

Daniel: I try to regularly attend the Summer Conference of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, which was first recommended to me by my colleague Dan Buttry.  I have found this to be an invaluable venue for networking and support.  My first year, for example, Mike Broadway encouraged me to check out John Perkins’ writings on Christian Community Development, which is now a central focus of my teaching and ministry strategy here in Nassau.  More recently, my wife and I were invited by a local Bahamian pastor to get involved in the newly-founded Bahamas Human Rights Network, which beginning to do some cutting edge work on Haitian rights issues.

 MLW-W:  I have followed closely your involvement in the newly-founded Bahamas Human Rights Network (BHRN).  Has there been much church participation? I ask because I have heard you complain that much “pie-in-the-sky” type theology has been exported to the Caribbean from North America, especially via TV evangelists, and I wondered if that led churches to shy away from something like strong human rights work.

Daniel: A local pastor who helped to found BHRN has basically said that most churches in the Bahamas are silent when it comes to human rights issues or, if they have something to say, they’re usually on the wrong side.  With few exceptions, the majority of our members seem to be non-religious.  This is unfortunate because the Baptist churches in this country have a very rich legacy of black radicalism that paralleled and interacted with the U.S. Civil Rights Movement back in the 1960s and helped to usher in Black Majority Rule (1967) and Bahamian Independence (1973).  Recovery of this tradition would go a long way, I think, towards countering the negative impact of U.S.-style prosperity theology.

 MLW-W:  Does your local congregation take peace issues seriously? Give us some example, if “yes.” If “no,” what could you do to raise awareness about this in your local congregation? 

Daniel: We are currently involved in Emmaus Baptist Church, a Haitian immigrant congregation here in Nassau.  Our pastor and fellow church members do not really have the leisure to think about peacemaking and what that entails.  They are just struggling to feed their families, find jobs, avoid getting picked up by immigration, and send something back to Haiti—all in the midst of a severe racial discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiments.  One way that my wife and I hope to address peace and justice issues in this context is (1) by offering Christian PREP workshops—which I just explained earlier, (2) by encouraging involvement in the Bahamas Human Rights Network, and (3) via my wife’s current efforts to provide educational and economic development opportunities to Haitian women and youth.

 MLW-W:  What about your denomination or your church’s wider connections to the Church Universal?  Are peace issues a part of those non-local/denominational connections? 

Daniel: The American Baptist Churches and International Ministries cooperate in a variety of ecumenical and interdenominational efforts, both at home and abroad, in addition to maintaining longstanding partnerships with Baptist churches around the world.  As a missionary, I am especially proud of our Go Global Strategic Plan, a holistic approach to ministry that integrates the best traditions of our Evangelical and Baptist heritage with cutting edge missiology.  Within the framework of that strategy, IM and its missionaries are carrying out a number of strategic peace and justice initiatives around the world.

 MLW-W: You have already answered this somewhat, but to what extent have you travelled outside your home nation? How well do you stay informed with global events? 

Daniel: I have traveled and/or lived in New Zealand, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and Quebec.  I don’t really keep up with global events as well as I would like.  Obviously, I keep up with the major headline news, internationally and in the Bahamas, but I don’t always have time to dig deeper or go out of my way to follow the many important things that don’t often make the front pages.  Another source of news is what I hear—informally or through missionary newsletters and IM press releases—regarding news and developments that impact our national partners around the world, which are often things that rarely get much, if any, attention in the mainstream media.

 MLW-W: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 

Daniel: Yes, for those readers who are interested in being more intentional about looking at the world from a non-U.S. perspective, I would encourage them to check out Global Perspectives, which was started by me and Mayra Giovanetti—a missionary colleague serving in Chile.  Basically, it is a blog that will be co-authored by us and four other American Baptist missionaries that seeks to share our unique cross-cultural perspective on theology, mission, and world events with a broader audience than those who would normally read our monthly newsletters.

 MLW-W: Daniel, thanks for an informative and challenging interview.

July 4, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, peacemaking | Comments Off on Peace Blogger Interview #9: Daniel Schweissing, pt.II

Peace Blogger Interview #9: Daniel Schweissing, pt.I

danheadshot.jpgWelcome to a special American Independence Day edition of the Christian Peace Blogger interviews. [Previous installments can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8.]While 04 July 1776 should be remembered as the day that many of the British colonies in North America declared their Independence and formed these United States, a noble experiment in self-government, maybe it’s long past time that Americans, in the words of one of our greatest presidents, John F. Kennedy, declared their interdependence with the rest of the world.  With that in mind, this latest peace blogger interview is with Daniel Schweissing, an American with much cross-cultural experience and who splits his time, these days, between his native Colorado and his home in Nassau, the Bahamas.  Full disclosure: Unlike with most of these interviews, I know Daniel from our common membership in the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. We “met” on the BPFNA email discussion list before meeting in person–at a time when neither of us had yet heard of “blogging.” He runs the blog, Doing Theology from the Caribbean, which should be much more well-known.  Welcome, Dan!

 MLW-W: How would you describe yourself? 

Daniel: Coloradoan, Baptist, missionary, teacher, theologian, not necessarily in that order.

 MLW-W:  Those self-descriptions are always very interesting.  Tell us about your immediate family. 

Daniel: I am married to the former Estela Luisima Yeven.  Estela was born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian immigrant parents.  We met during the two years that I spent as a volunteer missionary at her church during the mid-1990s and married shortly after my term of service ended.  We have no children, but Estela comes from a big family.  So we have fifteen nieces and nephews, fourteen on her side of the family and one on my side of the family.

 MLW-W: I always wondered how you and Estela met. I still don’t know what spell you cast on her to make her fall for a lug like you, but, then, if women weren’t extraordinarily kind and gracious, I’d still be single!  What do you do for a living?   

Daniel: Estela and I are American Baptist missionaries, presently assigned to Nassau.  I teach theology at Atlantic College and Theological Seminary and Estela works in general ministry with the local Haitian Baptist churches.  We are in an urban ministry context where we are attempting to teach and minister according to the principles of Christian community development.

       MLW-W: Briefly, could you describe or maybe just list these principles of Christian  Community Development?  

 Daniel: The basic principles as conceptualized by John Perkins are known as the 3Rs: relocation, reconciliation, and redistribution.  But other practitioners have added additional principles that have gained wide acceptance as well. 

MLW-W: That’s helpful, thanks.  In addition to your other work as a missionary, you teach theology at Atlantic College and Theological Seminary in the Bahamas.  Not to promote the “cult of the Ph.D.” or anything, but do you see yourself pursuing further theological education with this cross-cultural educational work in mind? 

Daniel: I’m certainly interested and opened to that possibility.  Unfortunately, my options in that area are largely limited to taking a three or four year leave of absence from my ministry in order to take up residence near a PhD granting institution.  That’s not really feasible right now and it doesn’t appear that it will be any time in the near future.  There are a handful of European institutions such as the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and the Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague (both of which supervise doctoral dissertations under the auspices of the University of Wales) that could work with me on a part-time basis, but the expense involved in commuting back and forth to Europe to meet with advisors is simply beyond my reach.  Perhaps the best option at this point is Fuller Seminary in Pasadena which has recently revamped their DMiss program to accommodate field missionaries who wish to pursue studies on a part-time basis.  They are currently enrolling student cohorts on a quarterly basis that focus on specific missiological themes.  So assuming that a cohort is ever offered in Afro-Caribbean studies, contextualized theology, missions history, or a related area, then I would likely give very serious consideration to enrolling.  

MLW-W: Well, I hope something along those lines works out.  When not working or blogging, what do you like to do? 

Daniel: I am a native Coloradoan but have spent most of my adult life in the Caribbean so—not surprisingly—I find the two most amazing aspects of God’s creation to be the mountains and the ocean.  When we’re at home in Colorado, I enjoy camping in the mountains and, when we’re at home in Nassau, I enjoy relaxing at the beach.

 MLW-W:  Tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian? 

Daniel: I was raised in a Christian home and have attended church for as long as I can remember.  So like many of the other church kids that I grew up with, I received Jesus Christ as my personal savior when I was eight years old and was baptized, shortly thereafter, on Easter Sunday.  In hindsight, that early commitment was probably a greater reflection on what I believed was expected of me and what I saw other kids doing than a genuine commitment on my part.  The decisive turning point in my spiritual life came years later as a teenager when my youth pastor did a four-week series on hunger and poverty in our Sunday night youth meetings.  Not coincidentally, he did this when the publicity of the Ethiopian famine (1985) was at its height and the result was that I began to seriously consider what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.  Within two years of that study, I had been on a short-term missions trip to Mexico with a Christian relief and development organization and had committed to pursuing a career as an overseas missionary.

     Other important influences during my teenage years were the music of Steve Camp and the preaching of Tony Campolo.  God sort of blended all of these things together to gently push me forward in the direction that he wanted me to go.  The interesting thing is that my calling and commitment emerged in a context where holistic ministry was assumed to be a given.  So I never struggled with theological questions of whether or not to emphasize evangelism or social action.  By the time I realized that such a debate existed, it was already clear in my mind that it was an issue of both/and not either/or.

 MLW-W: Campolo, I know, having  first met him in college. But,  I confess to being rather “tone deaf” about “contemporary Christian music.” My rock music days were pretty secular. What about Steve Camp’s music influenced you? 

Daniel: I hear where you’re coming from.  I haven’t listened to contemporary Christian music on a regular basis since shortly after I graduated from college in 1992 so I’m a bit “tone deaf” in that regard myself, especially since Christian music from pre-1992 is probably no longer considered “contemporary.” 🙂 That being said, Steve Camp influenced me during my high school years mainly because of his call to radical discipleship.  His songs made it clear that being a Christian was more than just going to church on Sunday morning and attending youth group on Sunday night.  He challenged his listeners “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk.”  During my freshman year in college, his album Justice was released and strongly reflected progressive Evangelical sentiments on a variety of pressing social issues, which served to further reinforce my commitments in that area.  That was actually the last full album by Steve Camp that I ever heard before graduating from college and going off to the Dominican Republic as a volunteer missionary.  I remember reading a review of one of his subsequent albums in an Evangelical publication that was very critical of the fact that he had watered down his prophetic voice.  I don’t know if that’s true but, if so, then his music may have very well taken a different direction from the mid-90s onward. 

MLW-W:  You have somewhat answered this, but of what local congregation are you a member? If your local church is part of a denomination, what is it?    

Daniel: I grew up at Crossroads American Baptist Church, a conservative evangelical congregation in the north Denver suburbs.  I was baptized there, ordained there, and continue to be a member there to this day.  I’ve obviously been heavily involved in a number of other churches—mostly Baptist—during my college and graduate studies as well as through my overseas missions work.  Currently, my wife and I attend Emmaus Baptist Church in Nassau, which is the oldest Haitian congregation in the Bahamas.

 MLW-W: You were raised in the evangelical wing of the American Baptists.  Have you ever been part of a different Christian denomination or tradition? 

Daniel: My grandfather was an American Baptist pastor, so my family has been heavily influenced by those roots.  I guess I could say that I’ve been an American Baptist since about nine-months before I was born. 🙂  During my years at Fort Lewis College, I attended a Conservative Baptist congregation and was heavily involved in Campus Ambassadors—the campus ministry of the Conservative Baptist Home Mission Society (currently known as Mission to the Americas).  It was through my involvement in both of those groups that my understanding of ministry and social justice issues was greatly deepened and expanded.  In some ways—ironically—the progressive wing of the Conservative Baptists was quite a bit to the left (socially, not theologically) of the conservative ABC congregation that I grew up in.

 

         Having lived and traveled in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas, I have been involved in a variety of Baptist churches that are really very culturally different than the largely white suburban middle-class congregation in which I grew up.  In Puerto Rico, we attended the Presbyterian Church for our first year and then a charismatic congregation for our second year.  Then we found a new ABC church start that—while theologically challenging in some respects—was a much better fit for us.

 MLW-W: How did you get into blogging?   What do you like about it?  Are there problems you see with blogging? 

Daniel: At some point last summer(’06), I heard you promoting the virtues of blogging and encouraging others to get involved. [N.B.: Noticing that more rightwing Baptists had blogs than centrists or progressives, I suggested to members of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America that some of us work to change that dynamic.] Upon further reflection, I realized that most of the theology blogs that I read tended to be very Eurocentric in their orientation and that I could contribute a distinctive voice to the blogosphere by drawing on my own cross-cultural context and experience.

 

      So far, I’ve enjoyed blogging as it has enabled me to share my ideas and interact with a much broader audience than what I am normally able to do on a typical listserve or message board.

 

         The biggest problem that I see with blogging (as opposed to, say, private listserves or message boards) is that they are public in every sense of the word.  It’s like having a private conversation amongst friends but anybody can google your name and find out exactly what you said, who you said it to, and then go quote it out of context and cause a lot of damage.  This fishbowl effect makes it difficult to honestly and openly explore sensitive or controversial topics without creating an anonymous identity for oneself.  Yet anonymity—by nature—diminishes one’s credibility when speaking to such issues.  So it’s like walking a tightrope—a real-balancing act—to be able to avoid superficiality yet still communicate clearly to non-specialists on a given subject.

 MLW-W: Those are important insights. I allow anonymous commenters on my blog (although encouraging people to give their name) because sometimes people want to comment on very sensitive topics, but fear for jobs, family, etc.  And the “fishbowl effect” has made me more cautious, I think, than I otherwise would be. 

MLW-W:  How do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found? 

Daniel: My faith has been important in helping me to get a grasp on social justice issues and, in the last few years, has begun to lead me towards a better understanding of peacemaking as well.  As I already mentioned, my call to discipleship and missions service developed in the midst of a context in which holistic ministry was assumed to be normative.  This commitment was reinforced by my years of volunteer missions service, graduate study, and church involvement in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. 

      While I developed a good understanding of many of the major biblical teachings on social justice during that time, my subsequent studies at Denver Seminary really deepened my understanding and enabled me to articulate my beliefs with much greater precision.  In particular, I was challenged by my Old Testament professor Daniel Carroll, my theology professor David Buschart, and my academic advisor and world missions professor Ray Prigodich.  Each of them, in their own way, has helped me to conceptualize the whole notion of contextualizing theology which has given me a greater appreciation of the contributions of the various third-world liberation theologians as well as given me the tools to analyze culture and help me to think theologically within the context of the distinctive social location in which I minister.  So in regards to justice issues, I have been especially challenged by the theological writings of Justo González, James Cone, Cheryl Sanders, Miguel De La Torre, Kelly Brown Douglas and similar authors.

 MLW-W:  One of your profs. you don’t mention is NT Prof. Craig Blomberg, who was also my New Testament professor in college before his move to Colorado.  Craig influenced me, more than I think he expected, by introducing me to liberation theology and to biblical studies on hunger and justice. (I think he never expected me to move as far to the left of him on some other issues as I have, though.) I wonder if Craig was one of your influences, too, even though you were already concerned about hunger, economic justice, poverty, etc.

  Daniel: I deeply appreciate Craig’s scholarly commitment to world missions and social justice.  His greatest impact on me, however, was in a very different area.  I attended a public liberal arts college and, during my senior year, took a couple of courses in Judeo-Christian tradition with a professor that was well versed in the nuances of biblical criticism but also took great pleasure in creating cognitive dissonance for religiously conservative students like myself.  While I had appreciated the intellectual challenge and opportunity for spiritual growth that such classes had brought earlier in my undergraduate career, this was my first exposure to biblical criticism and this particular prof really pushed me over the edge intellectually and spiritually.  Worse yet, my circle of evangelical friends and mentors were ill-equipped to help me work through those issues and, in more than a few instances, simply dismissed what I was learning in class as “trashy theories.”  In hindsight, the anti-intellectual stance of my friends probably did more to challenge my faith than anything that my non-Christian professor actually threw at me.    When I finally ended up in seminary seven years later, I still had a lot of unresolved doubts about my faith that had been raised from that one particular grueling semester in college.  In that respect, both Craig Blomberg (NT) and Richard Hess (OT) of Denver Seminary were outstanding role models for me as I observed the way that they engaged with the Bible as well as with non-conservative biblical scholars.  They helped me to see how intellectually narrow my own Christian upbringing had been and, more importantly, they taught me how to engage in healthy dialogue with a broader spectrum of Christian scholarship.  For those lessons, I will always be grateful.

End, pt. I

July 4, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, just peacemaking, peacemaking | 1 Comment

Peace Blogger Interview #8: Pam Garrud

pamgarrud.jpgWelcome to the latest Peace Blogger interview. To see previous entries in this series, click 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7.

 Up this time is Pam Garrud, born and raised in the U.S., but living for the last 18 years in the United Kingdom where she has had a successful career in the pensions industry. Now she is a probationer Methodist minister who runs two blogs, Pam BG’s Blog, and Pam BG’s Book Blog. Welcome to the Peace Blogger interview, Pam.  

MLW-W:  Tell us something about yourself? 

Pam:  I would describe myself as a trainee minister, a wife, a friend and a daughter.  Being a new minister for only several  months, I feel that the ‘trainee’ identity is stronger than the ‘minister’ identity at the moment! 

MLW-W: I can relate.  Tell us about your immediate family.  

 Pam:  My immediate family is only my husband and me;  we were married in our mid 30s and have not had children.  I have grown nieces and nephews in the UK and a mother, father, sister and brother in the Midwest of the US, my place of origin. 

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

Pam:  Since September 2006, I am a full-time Methodist minister.  I sing in a choral society and I enjoy singing very much.  I also enjoy reading, films and traveling, but I feel that I don’t get to do any of these too often at the moment! 

MLW-W:  Tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian?

 Pam:  I don’t think I can name the date and the time that I chose to follow Jesus.  I was born into the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, a strict and non-mainstream version of Lutheranism and I attended Lutheran School from age 5 to age 11.  Certainly during that time, I ‘accepted Jesus’, although ‘decision theology’ is not part of Lutheran thinking.  I DID reject Christianity for awhile in my young adulthood, but my ‘coming back’ wasn’t so much a ‘coming back to God’ as an understanding that the God who revealed himself to me in prayer was actually the God of the Christian tradition.  The image I’d got growing up of the Christian god was something like ‘God hates you but he has to send you to heaven because Jesus died for your sins.’  Gradually, I understood that this image was inaccurate in terms of Christian teaching. 

MLW-W: Was the controversy over biblical inerrancy, which later split the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (and the exiled non-inerrantists became the catalyst for the merger of several Lutheran denominations into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ), a part of your experience as a child?

 Pam: My experience as a teenager was the theological debates around fairly hard-core fundamentalism and whether or not women could become ministers.  My congregation was very conservative in this regard.  That congregation is still Missouri Synod and the senior pastor is the same person who was pastor when I was a child!

 MLW-W: So, now you are a probationer Methodist minister. Tell us about the church you serve.  

Pam: British Methodist ministers are appointed to ‘Circuits’ consisting of a number of churches.  My Circuit has three ministers and twelve churches;  I serve four churches.  British Methodism is in communion with the United Methodist Church but we are an entirely separate denomination.  (I say this because most other European Methodist churches belong to the UMC.)

 MLW-W: Okay, for those not “in the know,” tell us something about the differences between British Methodists and United Methodists? Methodism began in Britain in the 18th C., out of the revivals led by John and Charles Wesley, who were Anglican priests, right?   

Pam: This is a very historical question.  John Wesley sent Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke to America in the 1780s.  They didn’t have email back  then! 🙂  Methodism developed separately on both sides of The Pond – splitting and uniting at various points in each country.  Basically, the UMC and the British Methodist Church are in communion but separate denominations in terms of policy and governance. 

Theologically, Wesley  gave the ‘Articles of Religion’ to the American Methodists; this was an amended form of the Anglican 39 Articles. The British Methodist Church never had the Articles of Religion.  We also have a different form of church      governance.  The British Methodists have never had bishops.  

 MLW-W: Have you spent time in any other Christian denominations? 

 Pam: I have only been a Methodist for 7 years!  I was raised conservative Lutheran, as I said, and I have attended churches belonging to the United Reformed Church (URC) and the Anglican Church in the UK.

 MLW-W: In coming back to church, you attended Anglican and URC congregations. What drew you to Methodism?  How did you, in a successful career, discern a call to become a Methodist minister?

 Pam: I’m not really a ‘denominationalist’ and the churches I attended were mainly because they were in my neighbourhood.  However, I did become Methodist because, after moving house, my parish Anglican church turned out to be a very conservative evangelical church.  I tried to stick with it for a couple of years and then complained to a Methodist friend who said ‘Why don’t you try a Methodist church?  Your beliefs are very similar to what I grew up with.’  And I did.  I stayed because I felt that Methodism was what I’d been looking for.  I’m the first to recognise that no institution is perfect and, goodness knows, we have our problems.  But Arminian theology is exactly what I believe. I like the way the British Methodist church is governed because it’s largely democratic and I like the pragmatic approach toward worship and spirituality.

  I always say that the way I discerned my call to ministry was by pushing one door to see if it opens, then pushing the next, then pushing the next.  The way the British Methodist Church enabled me to do that was unique.  I’d already suspected that I was called to ministry before leaving the Anglican church.  Now, the Anglican church in the UK is pretty mainstream, but there were a lot of people in that particular congregation who believed that that bible forbids women to preach.  Furthermore, the bishop of that diocese belonged to ‘Forward in Faith’, the Anglo-Catholic stream of Anglicanism that doesn’t believe in the ordination of women on grounds of tradition.  In order to go forward for ministry in that environment, I would have had to be very determined and absolutely certain of my call.  But I wasn’t actually so certain that I was ready to go forward in an unsupportive environment.  Because all candidates for ministry in the British Methodist Church have to be trained and accredited as Local Preachers (lay preachers) before proceeding toward ministry, I was able to test my calling gradually.  Although being a minister is quite different from being a lay preacher!  I joined the Methodist Church in the month of October and began training as a Local Preacher the following March.

 MLW-W:How did you get into blogging?   What do you like about it?  Are there problems you see with blogging?

Pam:I’ve only just come up to my first year in blogging.  Since about 2000, I’ve participated in Christian discussion groups.  First on the Usenet group ‘uk.religion.christian’ and then on Beliefnet’s Methodist groups and latterly on Ship of Fools.  I’d noticed the blogging phenomenon during the last five years but it seemed uninteresting to me compared to the interactions on the discussion groups.  One day I finally decided to take the plunge into blogging;  I’m not sure I had any specific reason other than that there seemed to be a growing blogging community. 

MLW-W: You also have a book blog and the books you have explored there are theological works–so far.  What has this experience been like? 

Pam:  I think it probably will remain a blog about theology books.  What’s the experience like?  It’s helped me to make sure I know the contents of the books.  It’s easy to read a book and forget bits of it, but doing the blog means I have to know the content.  It also feels like pressure!  For instance, I’ve finished reading Stephen Sykes’ ‘The Story of Atonement’, but I’ve only blogged chapters 1 and 2. 

 MLW-W: Where did you get your theological training? A Methodist seminary, university department of religion, or, a seminary/theological college attached to a university? What was that experience like for you?  Were issues of peace and justice part of your ministerial formation? 

 Pam: I went to Wesley House, Cambridge.  I think ‘seminary/theological college attached to a university’ is the most accurate description.  We don’t get to choose where we go.  The church pays for our training and tells us what to study and which college to attend.  Peace and justice issues were not a part of the ministerial formation.  That said, you need to understand that ‘justice issues’ (if not ‘peace’ per se) are so firmly a part of our tradition that people tend to take it for granted.  We will probably all tell you that we don’t do as much as we feel we ought to do to promote justice;  but I doubt that many people would argue that justice has nothing to do with Christianity. Methodists were a significant force in the founding of the British Labour party.  

MLW-W:  How do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found?

 Pam:I don’t consider ‘peace’ as being a special issue.  For me, ‘peace’ is grounded in the great commandment and the central tenet of Christianity of self-giving (agape) love   If forgiveness is at the heart of our relationship with God, then I think that it must also necessarily be at the heart of our own discipleship.  I don’t understand how I could say ‘God forgave me, but there isn’t anything particularly important about the idea of forgiveness apart from my own personal salvation.’  But forgiveness and peacemaking can be difficult things. 

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.  Were you raised a Christian pacifist or did you convert to this view and, if the latter, tell us something of how that came about? 

 Pam:I consider myself a pacifist but I do not have academic grounding in either peacemaking or Just War theory.  Reading Chris Baker’s views on Just War, I’m actually fairly close to his view but I want to step over the line and say that when we make the understandably hard decision to defend those we love, we must accept that we are sinning.   I was not raised a pacifist.  In my upbringing in the American MidWest during the 1960s and 1970s, ‘justice’ was considered more important than forgiveness and [that view of]justice required retribution in order to be satisfied. 

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? Pam: Someone asked me to join. J [MLW-W: I asked Pam to join soon after forming the blog-ring. At that early date, we had no female voices and I had already read Pam enough to know she was committed to nonviolence and deeply influenced by the writings of Rene Girard.] I did try blogging on why I’d joined Peacebloggers, but it got no reaction.  

 MLW-W:  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?

 Pam:  I read your blog regularly and Chris Baker’s blog regularly.  I confess that I’ve not really used the blog ring to look for other peace-bloggers.  I tend to read blogs which resonate with me. 

MLW-W:  Outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them.

 Pam: As a result of having been asked to join the Peace Bloggers ring, I decided to join the Methodist Peace Fellowship.  I’m not convinced, though, that ‘peace’ is my central and primary calling. 

MLW-W: Since joining the Methodist Peace Fellowship, have you had any meetings or time to form any views of its strength/weaknesses? (Since pastoring leaves you with so much “free time.” 🙂 )  In the U.S., the MPF is defunct, sadly, although another group, Methodists United for Peace with Justice tries to unite all the Wesleyan groups in the U.S. for peacemaking–but most United Methodists seem completely unaware of it.  Peacemaking and nonviolence are, however, high on the agenda of the Methodist Federation for Social Action.  Again, I am not sure how widespread awareness is of these groups in United Methodist circles–though once they were very strong.  So, is the MPF a strong presence in British Methodism? Do you have the feeling that most of your congregation would know what you meant if you said you were an MPF member?

 Pam: I confess that I’ve not really got involved yet.  I don’t know if there are any local meetings.  The Methodist Peace fellowship is part of the larger, ecumenical group, The Fellowship of Reconciliation.  I don’t think most individuals in my congregations would know what it was.  [Nota Bene: In Britain and much of Europe, the Fellowship of Reconciliation is an ecumenical, but specifically Christian, peace organization. The International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and the U.S. branch, however, are interfaith organizations, as is the case for nations in which Christianity is a minority religion. Founded in 1914, at the outset of WWI, the branches of IFOR have been a major force for faith-based pacifism and nonviolence.] 

 MLW-W: Well, you may have already answered this, but, does your local congregation take peace issues seriously? Give us some example, if “yes.” If “no,” what could you do to raise awareness about this in your local congregation? 

Pam:  One of my congregations takes peace-issues seriously and sees them as central and primary to being a Christian – in much the same way that I do.  Another one of my congregations has more of a problem with pacifism.  In the UK, one is still up against the legacy of World War II and the feeling that being a pacifist is somehow trampling on the sacrifices that grandparents and great-grandparents made for the country;  and these were real sacrifices. 

 MLW-W:  What about your denomination or your church’s wider connections to the Church Universal?  Are peace issues a part of those non-local/denominational connections? 

 Pam: The Methodist Church of Great Britain has made a number of statements on the UK’s involvement in Iraq. However, as a denomination it does not have a pacifist agenda. 

MLW-W: What of ecumenical peace efforts?  The U.S. churches (due to the media prominence of the Religious Right) are widely perceived as warlike and bloodthirsty.  British society has become very secularized,but are Christians perceived as concerned for justice seeking and peacemaking or not? If not, what could be done to change that perception? 

Pam: I could be wrong, but I think that most mainstream churches here would be seen as being ‘for’ justice and peace.  I think we’d be viewed as largely ineffectual by secular society, but I think we’d be viewed as being ‘for’ these things.  For instance, here is a link to statements made about Iraq in 2003 by the denominations belonging to Churches Together in Britain and Ireland: http://www.ctbi.org.uk/intaff/iraq/index.htm .

MLW-W Have you travelled outside your home nation? How well do you stay informed with global events?

 Pam: Well, I was born in the US and have been living in the UK for 18 years;  I also lived in Belgium for two years in the late 1980s.  I don’t think I stay as informed about global events as I ought to, but I try to look at the websites of different newspapers as well as watching mainstream television news (BBC and ITV).

MLW-W: Thanks for joining us Pam. I’ll continue to read your blog and follow your journey.

June 23, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, Christianity, nonviolence, peacemaking | 4 Comments

Peace Blogger Interview #7: Abigail Miller

MLW-W: Welcome to the return of the Peace Blogger interviews.  Due to many obstacles, we have not had an interview with a member of the Christian Peace Bloggers blog-ring since mid-April!  To read earlier entries in this series, click the following numbers:  1, 2 (sadly, this interviewee has since quite the blog-ring), 3, 4, 5, and 6. Today’s interviewee is Abigail C. Miller  who blogs under the pseudonymn “Espiritu Paz,” Spanish for “Spirit of Peace.”  Her blog, Parables displays theological and other observations from her own Anabaptist perspective.  She sarcastically headlines the blog with a quotation from John Calvin, “Anabaptists demonstrate a total lack of intelligence.  There is nothing to be learned from their ideas.”  Well, I beg to differ with that 16th C. French lawyer turned Genevan Reformer and pastor–not only about the ideas of 16th C. Anabaptists, but those of contemporary descendants like Abigail.  Welcome to the Peace Blogger interviews, Abigail! 

MLW-W: How would you describe yourself? 

Abigail: A traveling pilgrim, a child of God, a catalyst for the kingdom, a student of life and academics (science and theology). I’m an artist, a writer, a big sister, a sometimes too adventurous daughter. I work on community building enterprises and networking, mentoring and leadership in my local community.

 

By the way I’m not saying I have perfected any of these things. I just like integrating the best spirituality and theology with the places where the rubber hits the road, in the cracks and crevices of life. I also do some speaking when I can but I don’t package myself for that endeavor—pacifism, my testimony, my Beachy Amish heritage and community are often my topics and once I presented on the rise of [contemporary] paganism. My faith and way of relating to God is both mystical and rational. Prayer, meditation and reading and thinking about dense philosophy, work together just fine for me. I go about my house, neighborhood, and global community in an attempt to practice the presence of God. I am a strong idealist and adventurer and often insist too strongly on having my ideals become a living reality.

 MLW-W:  That’s quite a description. Before we unpack any of that further, tell us about your immediate family. 

Abigail:  I am second born into a family of ten. My grandparents were both horse and buggy Amish and my parents grew up somewhere between Amish and Beachy—if you know what that means.

 MLW-W:  I understand those references slightly, but let’s help out our readers.  The Amish  are an offshoot of that branch of the Anabaptists known as Mennonites  after the Dutch Radical Reformer Menno Simons. The Amish, who reject most forms of modern technology for very simple rural lives, were a splinter movement named after Jacob Ammann  who believed too many North American Mennonites were becoming aculturated (“worldly”) and lax in enforcing church discipline, right?[N.B.: Non-U.S. readers can get a somewhat accurate picture of Amish life from the movie, Witness.] There are Amish communities in many parts of rural Canada and the U.S., especially in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, and Kentucky. The Amish do not pursue education beyond Middle School, i.e., beyond what is needed to maintain their simple lifestyle.   Could you describe further the distinctions between “old order Amish” and “Beachy Amish?” 

Abigail: I don’t know about all the technical differences but functional differences are generally: The Amish haven’t incorporated the 20th Century technology and mobility inventions into their lifestyles. The Beachys have more so. Beachys drive cars, do air travel and use electricity. Yet there are still some restrictions across the board—television and radio are absent from daily lifestyles and often internet use is as well. Historically, the Beachy’s began splitting off from the Amish in 1930s, over the issue of Sunday school, which was too in vogue for the Amish brothers,  and a movement into a more dedicated spiritual life for the Beachy dissenters. The popular faith of the Beachy’s is still structured around a largely Amish worldview, although Protestant teaching is brought in by the more progressive and evangelistic ministers. As for distinctive attire, the Beachy’s have a more relaxed dress code than the Amish. Women still wear coverings (bonnets) although they are somewhat smaller. Solid colors for men and women. Women wear the cape dress style, somewhat altered from the Amish version.

 MLW-W:  Thanks.  Okay, back to your family. 

Abigail:  We grew up on a 30 cow dairy farm, where we participated in the operation of growing crops to feed the cattle and gardening to feed ourselves. I parented my younger siblings and learned how to cook and sew all my own clothes as well as milk cows, put up hay, wean and feed calves. We helped my dad, the jack of all trades, build stuff, fix stuff, invent stuff. My family, in many ways is the best image I have of positive community. As we lived and worked together, in all our various personalities, we almost didn’t know where one hand’s effort became another’s.

 

 All of us pursued higher education except for one brother. I was sort of the instigator of that. My parents resisted it strongly but after talking about it for four years, during my high school years, they relented. And I started off at the local community college. As I discovered and freely shared with all my siblings—“they pay you to go to school, if you are poor.” This we all did in the context of a Beachy Church Community. In a sense, we were also raised under the auspices of this subculture.

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

Abigail: I am the full-time administrative assistant to faculty at Bethel Seminary for the past number of years. I was also a student during that time, receiving my MATS[Master of Arts in Theological Studies] last spring [2006]. I’ve also taken up some side projects in book editing/typesetting for some professors. I volunteer as a director on my district’s board of directors. I joined, accidentally but accepted my duties and responsibilities as I began to realize the opportunity it provided me to develop my leadership.

 

I like exploring. I like adventures and challenges. I like learning a new language and getting on the inside of new cultures. I like meeting new people depending on my phase in life, I also like to sit and daydream, wander around alone, generally at night, thinking or praying or just feeling the solitude. I like to organize and problem solve and do systems analysis and tweaking. I like to garden, cook, work on my various art and knitting projects. I like building and fixing things. I like to read and write and teach. I like designing things. I like hanging out with friends and family. I tremendously enjoy rigorous discussion.

 MLW-W:  Bethel Seminary is run by the Baptist General Conference , a conservative evangelical denomination that began as immigrant Swedish Baptists.  I’ve visited there. The seminary culture reflects a typical American Evangelical sub-culture that is quite different from your upbringing.  What led you to choose Bethel Seminary rather than enrolling in a seminary in the Anabaptist tradition, such as Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, VA, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Goshen, IN, or even Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, CA? 

Abigail: To be entirely honest, I didn’t really intend to go to Seminary. I began working at Bethel Seminary, because I needed a job badly and a friend got me in. Then I started taking classes and couldn’t quit. As for the other Anabaptist Seminaries—I didn’t really know about them and it would have required a move far away from my family. Career navigating and resume building and moving across the country for a job or a school still aren’t a part of my hardware.

 MLW-W: Okay, you’ve begun this already, but tell us something more directly  about your faith. How long have you been a Christian (follower of Jesus)? 

Abigail: Being raised Beachy, I am no stranger to Christian teaching. The best thing my community gave me was a slow way of life and humility. It is those habits that cultivated the ground for faith, for hearing the Holy Spirit. I remember praying and a sense of oneness with God long before the confession of faith that my tradition recognized as the deciding point for following Christ.[N.B.: This is a believers’ baptism tradition, requiring an adult, or, at least, adolescent confession of faith, followed by baptism, to officially join the church.]

 

 So, I don’t know how long I’ve been a Christian, but I know I am actively pursuing the path and that is what matters. There have been times in my life when I have encountered the reality of Christ so significantly that, by comparison, I could almost say I wasn’t a Christian before the growth surge. For instance I can point to a mystical-like experienced I received during my senior year of college, as a result my faith was heavily influenced by the concept and motive of incarnation. My experience has been that there is a progressive process infused by Spirit catalyzed moments.

MLW-W:  Of what local congregation/parish are you a member? If your local church is part of a denomination, what is it?    

Abigail: I go to church services but I would be loathe to consider myself a member of any such institution, mostly because it would be a bit meaningless to the end toward which church should be. Membership in the context I have found myself in, no longer means much other than formal affiliation to an organization. I have my circles of Christian influence, numerous mentors and people that are companions in sharpening my growth and maturity in faith and circles of human fellowship. So I go to services and celebrations and I participate in various communities but I also meet with mentors and discipleship partners to challenge and keep me accountable in my spiritual growth. I think there was a time when that was all wrapped up into the same ball of wax but it isn’t anymore. So, I piece it together in an attempt at fostering wholeness in myself.

 

MLW-W: How did you get into blogging?   What do you like about it?  Are there problems you see with blogging?

 

Abigail: I started blogging at the urging of my seminary ethics professor. He enjoyed my personal stories as well as my intentional living. He urged me to get into it as a means of being a Christian witness. I like the challenge of blogging because it is forcing me to be succinct and write well. The thing I hate about it most, though, is that my readers/lurkers could remain anonymous forever, not putting in the effort to reveal themselves and interact with me toward a mutuality. I find the one-sidedness of blogging most unsatisfying because I hold mutuality and equality in friendship as such a high ideal.

 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? 

Abigail: Peacemaking is a lifestyle. Posts on the perspective and the position—the issue itself, per say—will be rare. However the perspective and lifestyle choice, pervading my worldview, will surface everywhere. I write in stories or in-divisive commentary. It’s not so popular. I also add a touch of humanness by telling of some life stuff—my family keeps tabs on me that way. I’ve been contemplating splitting up my blog into two themes: a more personal life and event blog and then thoughts and meditations and parables.

 MLW-W:  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? 

Abigail: Matt Stone’s Journeys In Between. I like the mystical bent and the knowledge of Paganism he’s got.  Mark VanSteenwick’s Jesus Manifesto. He’s my friend and he responds to me when I comment. Plus, I like many of the ideas, because they describe the philosophy and principles out of which I come. Graham Old’s Leaving Münster. I don’t know what I like about his blog but I read certain themes ccasionally.

   MLW-W: I know that nonviolence/nonresistance is part of Amish faith, but you’ve moved a bit from your roots.  Do you consider yourself a pacifist? If so, say something about how you see nonviolence (or nonresistance) and its connections to the gospel.   

Abigail: You might say I was raised in a Christian pacifist community but I doubt my father would have passed the conscientious objector test.[N.B.: This refers to the U.S. government’s standards, during times we have had coerced military induction, a “draft,” for allowing someone to refuse military service because their religion or conscience objects to all war.]  My father is an armchair history buff, specializing in military history. He is rather an anomaly in that sense; he lived a very nonresistant life but in his business dealings and in his relationship with others he participated in active non-resistance. However, when it came to military history, tactical planning and such, he switched into this other mode of thinking. I kind-of compare it to folks who assent to the gospel mentally and don’t live it. My father lived nonresistance but didn’t talk it. I came into my peaceful resistance stance via encountering the history of the Anabaptists as well as through the gospel.

 MLW-W: Some in the Anabaptist tradition(s) distinguish between “nonresistance,” which is generally more apolitical and doesn’t seek to influence “the world,” and active nonviolent resistance.  Is this a distinction you would make? 

Abigail: I would acknowledge the distinction. Nonresistance is the stance espoused by most of those in the community I am from. The “lived out” portion of that nonresistance  from which I would dissent is what I would term “non-participative”—the uninvolved habit one can form in a community which has a history of nonresistance, where the lifestyle has been accepted and incorporated into the culture around it. Active nonviolence is different in that it engages the turmoil and the violence of the world and with decided active nonviolence bringing ideological, social and interpersonal change.

 MLW-W: Outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them. 

Abigail: I am not intentionally a part of such an organized work. Rather, I join groups and organizations and bring peace-related teaching and living habits to it. For instance, I’ve been working toward a network of home churches/small churches. Most don’t see this as a peace-related activity. I do. Because I see these groups forming around common interests. Often they are very homogeneous. I say this only to point out as a passing observation about a reality that could turn unfavorable. Homogeneity was never really interesting to me in the first count but it also is a precursor to seeds of conflict laid on the lines that homogeneous groups are defined according to that which remains unexpressed till the moment of conflict. My “peace-related advocacy” in this situation (if I can even claim such an intent) is to introduce the catalyst factor to the situation. It will bring tension and opportunity through which greater capacity for peace can be worked out of.

In general, I habitually look for schisms and fissures in social structures and I look for ways to become both sides. Basically, I realize that if I am going to have anything profound or new to say about the issues on a philosophical or theological plane than I must be immersed in life of it.

MLW-W: Have you ever considered bringing your Beachy Amish perspective to some active peacemaking programs started by more “engaged” Anabaptists, e.g., the Mennonite Central Committee or Christian Peacemaker Teams?

 

Abigail: No, I haven’t. Generally, I start where I’m at with what there is and begin organizing and networking with people. I’ve considered being a missionary and have looked at some mission organizations in the hopes of finding a place on the margins of violence and haven’t found anything uncomfortable enough. I know I need guidance or maybe a windfall on how to best make use of what God has entrusted to me. Until then, I wait and pray.

 MLW-W: You rightly show that peacemaking is a lifestyle. You bring this perspective to conflict resolution in families and congregations. In my own experience, churches with little or no history of peacemaking are often very receptive to this kind of “internal” peacemaking and reconciliation. Have you found this, too?  If so, has such a reception ever opened up opportunities to talk about peacemaking “in the world” as also part of our discipleship (e.g., through prison ministry, victim/offender reconciliation, opposition to war, neighborhood peacemaking vs. neighborhood violence, etc.)? 

Abigail: Yes, I have seen that connection and grappled with it in my own church community. I’ve done a house church that was concentrated in a particular location for most of the past 6 years. So, the setting for peacemaking was immediate and applicable both internally and external to our community. Our external foci were connected to the Spanish speaking new immigrants and immediate neighbors. The first issue placed our focus into the global realities of economic disparity and injustice which are often the underpinnings of violence. Mostly, what to do to make a lasting difference was something we tried to wrap our heads around but couldn’t come up with any immediate answers for lasting impact. Us women joked about marrying illegal immigrants to subvert the system and through it forge inroads into international unity. One did marry internationally. Yet, in truth, American foreign policy would be forced to be significantly different if a critical mass of its population were married into families from other nations.

 MLW-W: Ha-ha! That might really work if we could get enough of the “elites” to have such family connections. I notice that three  of the current candidates for U.S. president have such international families:  Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has gotten much attention because his mother is a white woman from Kansas and his father a black Kenyan, his stepfather a Filipino. But Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) also has such a complex background: His father is an Anglo from Boston and his mother is from Mexico and remained a Mexican citizen and he is married to a naturalized citizen from Nicaragua.  Less dramatically, in terms of cultural stretches, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is now married to an Englishwoman.  Significantly, while none of these candidates is pacifist (Kucinich comes very close), each of them takes a far more internationalist and peacemaking approach to foreign policy than anything this nation has seen for some time.  So, that “subvert by marriage” strategy might actually work!  It also shows how immigration policy and foreign policy are deeply connected.  

MLW-W: Speaking of international connections, have you travelled outside the U.S. ? How well do you stay informed with global events? 

Abigail: I’ve been to several places in Latin America and Canada. I don’t stay very well informed of global events. I’m trying to figure out how to do this, once I’ve got the time. I was raised on not TV or radio and my family never got the paper. I was isolated from world events. In my community, we relied on the personal testimony of folks who were a part of our extended global church family, for the real deal on national events of interest to us. Since I have been separated from the community that raised me, I have tried to check out the news from various sources but have given up in frustration. I’ve not wanted to become indoctrinated into the general media slant.

 MLW-W:  I certainly understand that.  Abigail, thank-you for joining us and thank you and our readers for patience in the weeks this series has been dormant.  More Peace Blogger interviews to come, I promise.  Meanwhile, check out Abigail’s blog, Parables !

June 9, 2007 Posted by | anabaptists, blog-ring, blogs, pacifism, peacemaking | Comments Off on Peace Blogger Interview #7: Abigail Miller

Peace Blogger Interview #6: Marty Friedrich

I don’t usually post these interviews so close to one another, but I am trying to catch up a backlog.  Plus, this gives folk all weekend to read it without me posting anything else. So here goes:

Today’s Christian Peace Blogger interview is with Marty Friedrich, a church administrator in Houston, Texas, USA.  Her blog, On the Homefront, was begun after her son was sent to Iraq as part of the U.S. Army and his emails to her in 2003 opened her eyes to the horrors of war. Marty’s blog is very political (and, in Texas, it very much swims UPSTREAM) and includes numerous pictures, videos, audio interviews, etc., giving it quite a hi-tech look.  She is dedicated firmly to the view that “peace is patriotic” and that one can love and support military members and veterans and still vigorously oppose particular wars and/or war and violence itself. Welcome to the CPB interview, Marty.

MLW-W:  Let’s start, as all these interviews have, by telling us something about yourself, personally. 

Marty: I have a bit of rebel in me. Well…maybe more than a little bit.  Left over from my “hippie” days in the late 60s early 70s. I am shy and reserved, but do not hesitate to speak my mind if I feel it appropriate. Presently, I am obsessed with exposing the lies that led us into
Iraq and doing all I can to bring the troops home and take care of them when they get here.  

 MLW-W:  Tell us about your immediate family. 

Marty: I am married with 2 children: A married daughter (28); a son (33) who is now an Iraq War combat veteran. I am lucky to still have both my parents. My mom just turned 86 and my Dad turned 90 this past November.  He is a WWII combat veteran.

MLW-W: That’s quite a family. You’ve spoken of your son’s military service in Iraq and we’ll say more about that in a bit, but you haven’t spoken about your family’s reaction to your new-found activism.  Were they supportive or opposed? 

Marty: My family has not really reacted much at all.  I’ve always been left of center so I don’t think any of them are surprised at my recent activism.  My kids are very supportive and proud of me.  My husband doesn’t share my activism, but he isn’t opposed to me doing it. He can’t stand politics and sometimes becomes annoyed at my ranting.   My mom has always been against war but she was never an activist. She and my Dad (while on military leave) were married in 1942 and shortly thereafter my Dad went overseas and didn’t come home until 1945. It was a very stressful time for my mom. She does not like for my Dad to talk about “the war.”  She amuses me when Bush is on TV.  She becomes really agitated and calls him a “warmonger.” She can’t stand to look at him and can’t understand why anyone could like him. 

 My Dad doesn’t say too much, but I can tell he doesn’t have much respect for this administration and their policies.  I have no siblings; I am an only child. 

 My husband’s family are all extremely conservative.  I don’t talk politics, religion, or activism with them.                                                                                                 

MLW-W: I’m so glad that your peace activism hasn’t caused the family rifts that sometimes happen.  Switching topics, what do you do for a living?  When not working or blogging, what do you like to do? 

Marty: I have been a church administrator/secretary for the last 25 years. [Marty works at a different church than she attends.]  I enjoy spending time with my family, eating good food (not necessarily healthy), working out, and sitting in a comfy chair with a good book.  I am a member of Military Families Speak Out  and am presently helping to establish a Houston Chapter. I enjoy “short” vacations, which must include a museum or two and must not include an airplane.  I like to take the “scenic route” with the wheels firmly on the ground.  

MLW-W: We’ll return to your work in Military Families Speak Out and the “no airplaine” thing. First,tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian? 

Marty: I can’t remember when I wasn’t a “Christian.”  My mother read the scriptures to me from the time I was in her womb . There is no defining moment that I can pinpoint and say “this is when I became a Christian.”  It has just always been a part of who I am. I have gone through periods of doubt and drought, however.

MLW-W:  Of what local congregation/parish are you a member? If your local church is part of a denomination, what is it?  

Marty: I am a member of a local United Methodist Church in the Houston area. [Because her peace activism is somewhat controversial in Texas, Marty prefers not to identify the particular United Methodist parish she calls home.]

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

Marty: No. I was raised Southern Baptist and continued in that denomination until I became a United Methodist in 2003. The church that I had grown to love was in full “warrior” mode and the war drums beat loudly.  “Support the troops” meant “support the war and George Bush.” I wasn’t buying it.  Pride in America was overflowing.  I was drowning in it.  I made a hasty exit and have not looked back.

 MLW-W: How did you get into blogging?  

Marty: I came across the blog of a former pastor of mine and rather than rant and rave in the comments section of his blog, I decided to do him a favor and start my own blog. It has given me an outlet to speak my mind without fear.

MLW-W: Are there problems you see with blogging? 

Marty:  Yes, there are problems with blogging. For me at least.  It can be addicting.  I sometimes leave things undone to blog. It can be very time consuming.   

MLW-W: With all the news stories and multi-media parts to your blog, I imagine that it is even more time consuming than some of us other bloggers find it! J Switching gears, again, how do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found? 

 Marty: “Love your enemies and blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”…that pretty much says it all for me.  I find strength in the peace bloggers I’ve met on my journey. The UMC [United Methodist Church]  has been a place of rest in the midst of the storm.  I have found strength in the military families that I have met in person and online who are struggling along with me against war, yet have loved ones fighting in war.  The tension between the two can be overwhelming at times. It is a blessing to have someone who understands that tension. War brought us together, yet it is peace that we work together to achieve. 

 MLW-W: You are the daughter of a veteran and the mother of a veteran. Do you have  military experience, yourself?  

Marty: I’ve never been in the military, but come from a long line of those who have going back to American Revolution.

MLW-W: Wow. As a member of a family with a military tradition, myself, I know something of what that’s like.  The tensions between that heritage and a commitment to gospel nonviolence can be very strong.  Other than your son’s email messages, I am wondering just what experiences initiated you into the nonviolent tradition. 

Marty: I took a class “From Violence to Wholeness“- a ten part process in the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence in 2004.  I have tried to incorporate what I learned in my daily life. 

MLW-W: Is that the Franciscan course by that name? 

Marty: Yes, by Ken Butigan in collaboration with Patricia Bruno, O.P. [It is from] Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service . I learned about this class at church.  The woman who led the class was a nun and she came and spoke about the class during a morning worship service. I couldn’t wait to talk to her after the service.  While taking that class my son’s (first) tour in Iraq was extended for an additional 3 months . It was during the Al Sadr uprising. It was in that class that I began to heal and find the courage to speak out. Unfortunately, not long after this my pastor was appointed elswhere and the minister that took his place was obviously a Bush and war supporter. Everything about the church immediately changed. People that I had connected with left and started attending other churches.  It would take me two years to find another church.MLW-W: Okay, you may have already answered this, but do you consider yourself a pacifist?  

Marty: Yes, I would consider myself a pacifist.  The gospel is peace. It isn’t just “peace in your heart.” It’s more than that, much more. I’ve always known that and believed it but never really gave it a lot of thought.  It took my son’s involvement in the Iraq War and especially his letters from Baghdad, to cause me to take peace and peace activism more seriously. His letters were a wake-up call for me.  I began to see every aspect of my life differently, including my faith and what it meant to be a Christ-follower.

MLW-W: Wow.  What led you to join Christian Peace Bloggers?   

Marty: I wasn’t sure I would qualify for the Christian Peace Bloggers and hesitated to even join because of the nature of my blog.  Hopefully, I will learn to be a better peacemaker by participating. Thank you, Michael, for allowing me that opportunity.  

MLW-W:  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? 

Marty: Since I joined the blog-ring I’ve not had an opportunity to read many of the other blogs.  My plan is to take the time to do that and will alert my readers to posts that I like.

MLW-W: Again, you have partly answered this, but, outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them. 

Marty: Military Families Speak Out  (everyone in this organization is against the Iraq War, but not everyone is a pacifist). We work to support the troops by ending the occupation of Iraq and to take care of them when they come home.  We also support reparations to
Iraq. [Nota bene for readers outside the U.S.: As in most nations, traditionally in the U.S. military personnel, veterans, and military families have been expected to keep any criticisms of a particular war or of government policies to themselves.  Cracks in this tradition began at least as early as the Vietnam War when many returning veterans began joining the peace movement, forming organizations such as Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War.  But, perhaps because of instant email communication with loved ones, the U.S. and U.K.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq has, for the first-time, spawned vocal resistance from family members of active-duty military personnel. In addition to MFSO, with which Marty is affiliated, there is Gold Star Families for Peace, composed of family members who have lost loved ones to the war and whose most famous member is Cindy Sheehan, and the Aztec Warrior Project, founded by Gold Star member Fernando Suarez del Solar in memory of his late son, Jesus Alberto Suarez del Solar Navarro, to conduct counter-recruitment among Latinos and African-Americans who are the special targets of U.S. military recruiters.]

Freeway Bloggers. We stand on overpass bridges during rush hour traffic with signs such as “Stop the Killing,” “Bring ‘em Home,” “Wage Peace.”

Various local peace events and marches.

MLW-W Does your church take peace issues seriously? Give us some examples, if “yes.” If “no,” what could you do to raise awareness about this in your local congregation? 

Marty: Yes they do. There are several peace activists in my congregation.  I learn of ways to work for peace and justice through the United Methodist Women, the General Board of Church and Society, and the Peace with Justice Ministry of the UMC.

  MLW-W:  Have you travelled outside your home nation?

Marty: No I have not traveled outside the U.S. That would require me to board an airplane.

MLW-W: Hmm. If you could travel by car or boat to another country (Canada, Mexico, etc.), would you be open to this?  Say, a short-term mission experience or a church-based peace conference in which you represented your congregation? 

Marty: It would depend on the distance and the time of year. Plus I would not drive that far alone.

 MLW-W: Okay. Now, as a reader of your blog, I know this next question sounds crazy. But, for the benefit of those new to you, how well do you stay informed of global events? 

Marty: I am an internet news junkie.  I try to stay aware of what is happening all over the globe.

MLW-W: What internet news sources do you find helpful and trustworthy? 

Marty: Common Dreams, Raw StoryInformation Clearing House, Tom Paine, Think Progress, Crooks and Liars, Anti-War.com, Democracy Now, Liberty TV, Free Speech TV, Link TVPacifica Radio ….to name a few. 

MLW-W:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Marty: Thank you Michael for letting me be a part. 

MLW-W: Marty, you are more than welcome. You add much to Christian Peace Bloggers. Folks, be sure to check out On the Homefront.  And, if you have family or friends who believe they cannot “support the troops” without supporting war, send them to Marty’s blog.

April 13, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, human rights., peace, politics, sexism | Comments Off on Peace Blogger Interview #6: Marty Friedrich

Peace Blogger Interview # 5: Lee McCracken

Welcome to the 5th installment in our series of interviews with the folks in the Christian Peace Bloggers blog-ring.  For the previous interviews in this series, see #s 1, 2, 3, & 4. Up today is Lee McCracken who runs the blog, A Thinking Reed.   Welcome to the interview, Lee.

MLW-W:  Let’s get right to it. How would you describe yourself? 

Lee: In the words of my blog description: a thirty-something mainline Protestant, political outlier, aspiring vegetarian, heavy metal aficionado, husband, and coffee addict. (Not necessarily in order of importance). I grew up in western
Pennsylvania and attended college there. I pursued graduate studies in the Midwest, and since then have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, Philadelphia, and now Boston.

MLW-W:  I’ve been an “aspiring vegetarian” before and found it quite difficult. But what is a “political outlier?” I’m not familiar with that term. 

Lee: That’s just my way of saying that I don’t really feel like I fit in anywhere on the current American political landscape. Philosophically, I’m pretty conservative, but I think contemporary political conservatism is more or less a disaster. But nor do I think of myself as a liberal or leftist.

MLW-W: I think many readers of these interviews, and not just those in the U.S.,  could make similar comments.   Shifting topics, tell us about your family. 

Lee: I’m married to my wife of six years and we have two cats; I’ve got one older sister who’s married and has two adolescent boys, who all live in the same town where we grew up, as do my parents.

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

Lee: I work in the editorial department of a large publishing firm. In my spare time I like to spend time with my wife, enjoy the outdoors, read books on theology, philosophy, culture, politics, and even the occasional novel, spend time with friends, and enjoy the cultural offerings of the Boston area.

MLW-W: How did you get into publishing? 

Lee: The way I personally got into it was by applying for an entry-level position as an editorial assistant. I had just come out of grad school studying philosophy and had essentially no experience in the corporate sector. While being an editorial assistant isn’t the most glamorous (or high-paying!) job in the world, it provided a stepping-stone to better things.

MLW-W:  Tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian? 

Lee: I’ve been a convinced and practicing Christian since about 2001.

MLW-W: That’s pretty recent to be as well-informed as your blog shows you to be. You must not be kidding about reading theology!  Of what local congregation/parish are you a member? If your local church is part of a denomination, what is it? 

    Lee: I attend the Church of the Advent in Boston (Episcopal), often called the “flagship parish” of Anglo-Catholicism in the
U.S.
 

MLW-W:  You mentioned that you have been a practicing Christian only since 2001, but some people come back to the churches of their childhood.  So, were you raised as a cradle Episcopalian? Have you ever been part of a different Christian denomination or tradition? 

Lee: I was baptized in a Reformed church and attended Presbyterian and Methodist churches during my childhood. From about age 15 to 25 I was more or less completely unchurched. My wife and I have been members of several Lutheran (ELCA) congregations since we’ve been married, but we started attending “The Advent” shortly after moving to Boston in the summer of 2006.

MLW-W: How did you get into blogging?   What do you like about it?  Are there problems you see with blogging? 

Lee: Blogging seemed like the ideal way to spare my long-suffering wife my political tirades and inflict them on an unsuspecting world instead. I also initially saw it as a way of “thinking out loud” about various things I’m interested in. One problem I see with blogging is that there’s a temptation to write with more certainty than one genuinely has. What begins as a tentative and exploratory project can quickly become polemical.

MLW-W:  How do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found? 

Lee: I think for me the most important resource provided by my faith has been a certain critical distance over the last six years as we see our nation launching into what our rulers have called a generation-long “war on terror.” I see the role of Christians to be, in part, one of asking tough questions and questioning the assumptions that a lot of modern statecraft takes for granted. Christians of all people should be able to critically examine their own motives and not neatly divide the world into the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness.

MLW-W:  How do you think Christians can foster such critical distance from unthinking nationalism? We know that this kind of national idolatry has been a problem in other times and places in church history, most notoriously during the Nazi period when most German churches and pastors uncritically supported Hitler and turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the sufferings of the Jews. So, what kinds of practices could churches adopt which would help to immunize them against such nationalist fervor and help them be able to pose such critical questions to the nation-state?

Lee: I think Christians need to be reminded that our first allegiance is to God. One way of doing that is to learn the Christian story as the most important story of our lives, rather than the story of any particular political entity. As a liturgical Christian I find the church year with its seasons and feasts to be a good way of learning this story and beginnning to see ourselves in its light.

Another obvious issue is to be better connected with Christians around the world and try to understand how our nation’s policies affect them.

MLW-W: I have been stressing the second part of your answer for some time.  I think U.S. Christians have less contact with Christians around the world than ever before.  It used to be that furloughing missionaries regularly toured local churches in their denomination while on furlough and taught about their host culture (along with drumming up financial support). They also often arranged for representative leaders from their host culture to visit U.S. churches, too. Since most mainline Protestant denominations have been fielding fewer missionaries and instead mostly providing financial support to indigenous leaders in various former mission fields, that contact is much smaller.  I think that one result has been that U. S. Christians usually know only what the mainstream media propaganda tell them about other cultures. Combined with the fact that most Americans are not fluent in any other language than English and many are remarkably uncurious about the world outside our borders, and we have a people that is ripe to believe any nationalist propaganda that comes down the pike.  It’s a very scary situation.

Switching gears, do you consider yourself a pacifist? If so, say something about how you see nonviolence (or nonresistance) and its connections to the gospel.  Were you raised a Christian pacifist or did you convert to this view and, if the latter, tell us something of how that came about? 

 

 

Lee: I don’t consider myself a pacifist, though I’m very sympathetic to pacifism and have learned a lot from the writings and examples of pacifists.

MLW-W: Do you consider yourself part of the Just War tradition?  How do you connect JWT to the gospel and to Jesus’ command to be peacemakers? 

Lee: I do consider myself part of the Just War tradition broadly speaking. This is the tradition in which the churches under whose authority I most directly stand are situated, and reason and experience seem to me to corroborate this stance.

Just War theory, as I understand it, is rooted ultimately in the call to love our neighbor. Protecting the innocent from aggression can be, in my view, a legitimate function of the political authorities, just as ensuring social and economic justice is. But the rationale for going to war also delimits it; it’s the commitment to protecting the innocent that gives rise to the limitations JWT puts on the conduct of war.

Jesus’ call to be peacemakers is an important part of the gospel and I see the role of Christians to be to press for nonviolent solutions to problems wherever possible. According to Just War theory war should be a last resort, and I believe our polity has failed to take that seriously enough. So, one of the roles of Christians ought to be to press our leaders not to consider war-making a routine tool of policy.

MLW-W: Are you familiar with the emerging ethic of Just Peacemaking? It attempts to find common ground between pacifists and Just War folk by providing real content to the criterion of “last resort,” spelling out what “resorts” should be tried first. There would still be differences between Just War theorists and pacifists if all efforts failed, but this kind of ethic puts the emphasis on what we should be doing actively for a just peace, rather than on when and if we are ever allowed to make war.  

Lee: I’m not too familiar with this line of thought, but it’s definitely something I’m interested in learning more about.

MLW-W:  Well, in that case, I refer Lee and our readers herehere, and here, as well as here , and here .  Switching gears, again, what led you to join Christian Peace Bloggers?  Since joining have you blogged any posts on peacemaking?  Have they gotten any feedback from readers?

 Lee: CPB seemed to me a good way to bring together bloggers of both pacifist and just war outlooks who share a concern about current U.S. policy, especially in Iraq. I see more uniting than dividing pacifists and JWT-ists with respect to issues like preventive war as well as associated issues connected with civil liberties and the treatment of detainees. I think it’s good to have a critical Christian perspective represented in the blogosphere.  I’ve posted several items on war & peace and have received good feedback from readers, some of it critical, which I like.

MLW-W:  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? 

Lee: I’m a long-time fan of Avdat, The Ivy Bush, Leaving Münster, and A Conservative Blog for Peace, (and Levellers too, of course!). I like to read blogs that provide a wide range of viewpoints – theological, political, etc. I think CPB has done a great job bringing together voices from across the spectrum.

MLW-W: Those are some good blogs, by some good Christian thinkers. I’m not sure being a fan of Levellers is “of course,” but thanks, anyway. I agree that the blog-ring has brought together a wide range of voices and approaches to peacemaking and started some interesting cross-fertilization of perspectives. It’s caught on much faster than I had any reason to expect.  MLW-W:  Outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them. 

Lee: I’m not much of an activist, but I do try to lend some support to organizations that I think are doing good work. I think one of the more promising recent organizations is the National Religious Coalition Against Torture , which has been spearheaded by theologian George Hunsinger. I happily signed their petition and have tried to use what small influence I have to bring attention to that particular issue. 

MLW-W: That campaign is also one that I have tried to highlight on this blog, along with the recent spin-off organization, Evangelicals for Human Rights and the work of torture-survivor, Sr. Diana Ortiz, and her organization, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International.  Does your local congregation take peace issues seriously? Give us some example, if “yes.” If “no,” what could you do to raise awareness about this in your local congregation? 

Lee: I wouldn’t necessarily say that my parish is active in “peace issues” as such. We have a wide diversity of political outlooks among parishioners from the ultra-conservative to the ultra-liberal, which is actually part of what I like about it. However, we are involved in the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization which promotes interfaith cooperation in addressing local issues like health care and urban violence. This strikes me as a good thing both in bringing a faith-based perspective to issues faced by the city, but also in fostering cooperation among Christians, Jews, Muslims and others, which seems more necessary than ever.

 MLW-W: What about your denomination or your church’s wider connections to the Church Universal?  Are peace issues a part of those non-local/denominational connections? 

Lee: The leadership of both the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the two bodies I identify most closely with, were vocal in their opposition to the Iraq War. Both are also very involved in overseas humanitarian projects and promoting social justice which, one hopes, will help uproot at least some of the causes of conflict in our world.

MLW-W:  Have you travelled outside your home nation? How well do you stay informed with global events? 

Lee: I’ve been to Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Italy, and had wonderful experiences in all those places. The Internet has made an unprecedented amount of information from around the world available to anyone with a connection (even if it has also made an unprecedented amount of garbage available). I’d say I get 90% of my news from the Internet in fact. There’s also a plethora of alternative media available online, if you can separate the wheat from the chaff.

MLW-W: What do you think would help folk learn to separate wheat from chaff in either mainstream media or the alternatives available online? 

Lee: This is tricky because most of us have to rely on the accounts of others to know what’s going on – we’re not in a position to be on the ground in Iraq, say. And most people, to be fair, simply don’t have the time to sift through the vast sea of information out there – they’re too busy working, raising their families, etc. For those who have the luxury, I think it’s good to expose yourself to a variety of viewpoints from across the political spectrum as well as to international news. There’s a very noticeable difference between the way certain issues are covered in the U.S. just compared to other Anglophone nations.

MLW-W:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 

Lee: Just that I’m thankful for the opportunity to participate in this endeavor.

MLW-W: Thanks for participating. Folks, if you enjoyed this and would find more of Lee’s perspectives, be sure to keep checking out, A Thinking Reed.

April 11, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, just war theory, peace, sexism | 2 Comments

Peace Blogger Interview #4: Aric Clark

clark-aric.JPGWelcome to the next in our series of interviews with the members of Christian Peace Bloggers, blog ring. Today, we interview Aric Clark, whose blogging nom de plume is “The Miner,” who is a Presbyterian seminary student and who blogs at Mined Splatterings. Welcome to the Peace Blogger interview, Aric, even if the picture you sent looks MUCH younger than the one on your blog profile! 🙂

MLW-W: How would you describe yourself? 

Aric: Husband. Father. Adventurer. Student. Preacher. In that order… 

MLW-W: Interesting. I am finding the self-descriptions in these interviews to be very fascinating. Since you place “husband,” and “father” first in your list of roles, tell us about your family. 

Aric: I am wed to the incredible Stacia Ann, father of Avery, and soon to be father of another child (June15th). We are hopeless romantics and travelers with a passion for exotic food, archaeological digs and, um, Hot Wheels.

MLW-W: Congrats on a great family and your and Stacia Ann’s upcoming birth! Er, do you want to explain about the passion for Hot Wheels? Or archeology? Have you been on any digs? 

Aric: Well, the Hot Wheels are my son, Avery’s passion–so I get to play with them a lot by default. It’s really a great lesson in reordering priorities.  As for the archeology, I haven’t worked on any digs, but I’ve just had a fascination with it since childhood.  If I wasn’t going into the ministry, archeaology would be my other option. I devour National Geographic, and, if given the opportunity, I visit every dig or site I come within a hundred miles of–and I have far more fun than most people at museums.

MLW-W: Okay. Well, friends and family of Aric, think about giving him a gift subscription to Biblical Archeology Review  for his birthday or Christmas, right? Well, you’ve partly answered these next questions, already, but, what do you do for a living?  When not working or blogging, what do you like to do?

 Aric: I am full-time student in the M.Div. program at San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, CA.  However,  I work plenty of part-time jobs to make ends meet. The most recent ones have been waiting tables, painting houses and a paid internship. I am a very social person, so much of my free time is just spent in conversation. I also love movies and the theater. I host a weekly game-night where we cycle through different pen and paper RPG’s. I write fiction. I read, a lot, both fiction and theology.  

MLW-W:  Tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian?

 

Aric: There are two answers to this. On the one hand, I was baptized as an infant and raised in a Presbyterian household. On the other hand, I wasn’t very engaged in church or active discipleship until about three years ago after returning from some pretty dramatic experiences overseas. My call to ministry and commencement of active discipleship were pretty much simultaneous.

MLW-W:  Of what local congregation/parish are you a member?  

Aric: I am active in two congregations. My home church, which is supporting me through seminary, is Federated Church of Placerville (a Presbyterian/Methodist congregation), CA which is in the Sierra Nevada foothills on the way to Lake Tahoe. Nearer to seminary, and where I have been attending regularly lately, I am involved in First Presbyterian of Richmond, CA which is near Oakland.

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

Aric: I was raised Presbyterian, but my family attended worship only rarely – as such I managed to avoid being indoctrinated, but I also missed a lot of formation. Although, I’ve never been actively a part of another denomination or tradition I have experience of many traditions. I have lived with Buddhist monks in Taiwan. I spent a month in an Orthodox Monastery in Greece. I have frequently attended worship at Roman Catholic and Anglican churches when overseas.

MLW-W: Say something more about these experiences in Taiwan and Greece, please. 

Aric: During my undergraduate education I participated in a program called Comparative Religions and Cultures (which you can read more about here). As part of that program I spent time learning Chan meditation, doing dharma talks, sleeping, eating and observing life at the four major Buddhist “mountains” in Taiwan. We Christians have a lot to learn about nonviolence and compassion from Buddhists.

MLW-W: I agree and know several others who would, as well.  

Aric: While in Greece I did a similar thing at an Orthodox Monastery, which was unquestionably the most spiritual experience of my life. I adored the daily rhythm of the divine office, communal meals, observation of silence, vigils. That would be my third option for a vocation if ministry or archeology didn’t pan out (and I was unmarried).

MLW-W: How did you get into blogging?   What do you like about it?  Are there problems you see with blogging?

Aric: Friends dragged me into it. I love that it’s a public conversation. I adore getting comments on my blog – especially when they disagree with me. The main problem with blogging is that it takes up a fair amount of time that could arguably be better spent elsewhere. It is a bit narcissistic, isn’t it?

MLW-W: How do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found? 

Aric: To me these are one and the same. The enterprise of the Church is carrying out Jesus ministry – the goal of which is to bring God’s Shalom to the whole of creation. For me it is not possible to be Christian without also being a peacemaker.

MLW-W: Do you have (a) military experience? (b) experience in nonviolent struggle? (c) experience in conflict resolution/transformation practices?  Describe your experiences with any or all of these. 

Aric: My father was in the army when I was very little, but that is my only connection to the military. I have always been active in local peace protests, at least as a warm body in the crowd – not usually as an organizer, though I’ve recently been thrust into the role of social-justice minister at a congregation where I am interning so I expect I’ll be doing more of this.

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.  Were you raised a Christian pacifist or did you convert to this view and, if the latter, tell us something of how that came about? 

Aric: Yes. I was not raised a pacifist, but I am a Californian and my family has always been very liberal and generally anti-war (despite my father’s time in the military), so it is obvious from which vector I came into the church. However, as I read the gospel there is at almost every point a strong condemnation of the use of coercive power of any kind. I honestly think the burden is on the JWT and others to show how they possibly think violence is acceptable, because the scripture seems rather strongly opposed.

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? 

Aric: Largely I decided to join this ring as an encouragement to myself to step up my engagement on this issue. I am, and have always been very passionate about peacemaking, but it has not always played the central role in my active life that it deserves. I have posted several times about the build-up in the media of the case for war against Iran. I am still livid that our nation was so easily misled about
Iraq.

MLW-W. 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? 

Aric: Obviously, I read Levellers. I got to you through some of your fantastic comments in Kim Fabricius’ diatribes over at Faith and Theology. I’m also a follower of Fire and the Rose. I don’t always agree with David[Congdon], but his writing is definitely thought provoking. I just recently found the Jesus Manifesto through this ring and I plan on digging into it quite a bit.

MLW-W: Thanks for those kind words about my blog. I found Mined Spatterings  from your comments at Faith and Theology, too. Ben Myers has the best theology blog on the web, in my view. And I share your high view of D.W. Congdon’s Fire and the Rose. I like his Barthian theology and the way he connects that to social justice and peace views very directly. Outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them. 

Aric: I’ve been involved in World Peace Prayer Ceremonies all around the globe. I helped plan the event in Scotland three years ago which the Dalai Lama came for. I’m involved in Wesley Clark’s movement to stop a war with Iran.

MLW-W: Good movements and much work.  Have you ever been a part of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship or the Fellowship of Reconciliation? 

Aric: No.

 

MLW-W: Well, you are very busy already, but I think that you’d find the PPF right up your alley.

MLW-W: Does your local congregation take peace issues seriously? Give us some example, if “yes.” If “no,” what could you do to raise awareness about this in your local congregation? 

Aric: My home church has been very active in the past in funding aid workers to go into war-torn regions and provide relief or to help refugees. There is always much more we could be doing in this regard, though I think it is more important for the local church to teach their members how to live nonviolently and to give a consistent message in the local arena rather than to try and campaign nationally and have little impact.

MLW-W: What about your denomination?  Are peace issues a part of those non-local/denominational connections? 

At the denomination level the PC[USA] is right now very torn and focused on internal strife rather than witnessing to the world, which is tragic. There have been a few letters to congress and the president issued by General Assembly opposing the Iraq War, opposing our present stance with Israel and encouraging action in the Sudan. However, there has been very little outside this.

MLW-W: Well, that’s more than many U.S. denominations.  You have already said something about global travel, do you want to say more? 

Aric: Yes. I have lived extensive time abroad. In the context of ethnographic study I have lived and worked in Brasil, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and the UK.

MLW-W: Explain “ethnographic study,” please. 

Aric: What I mean by that is I was involved in educational programs that used ethnographic methods (participant observation, semiotic anthropology, daily journaling…). Basically, I went places, got involved in projects or communities and analyzed my experiences with social-critical tools.

MLW-W: How well do you stay abreast of global events and have your experiences abroad shaped how you view such events? 

Aric: I make a consistent effort to stay informed though I have grown quite cynical about most news outlets as providing accurate coverage. I always lament how many critical issues are ignored in our country in favor of detailed coverage of celebrity gossip.

My experiences have unquestionably impacted, nay completely reinvented, my view of world events. It is impossible for me, now to simply accept someone else’s blanket judgment about another culture or region no matter how much expertise that individual has. I’ve been through too many “eye-opening” moments regarding other cultures to hold too strongly to any one point of view as though it
were absolute truth. I am, therefore, always trying to read the news as though I were Persian or Korean or Arabian.

MLW-W: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? 

Hmm…I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts?

MLW-W: Thank-you, Monty Python. Thanks for joining us, Aric, and continued blessings on your seminary work, church life, and especially blessings for Stacia Ann’s  healthy pregnancy and birth in June.

March 27, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, discipleship, peace, sexism | 6 Comments

Updates on Zimbabwe Crisis Available

The problem with having friends all over the world is that you worry about them. News stories about famines or floods or wars or human rights abuses, etc. are never just abstract “crises,” but moments in which you pray for people you know face to face.  I met Henry and Hermina Mugabe in seminary. He is now the Principal of the Baptist college in Zimbabwe. A brilliant man whose dissertation was the first attempt at an indigenous Shona Christian theology, Henry had to flee his homeland during the revolution of the late ’70s and moved temporarily to South Africa, where he met Hermina, and finished his undergraduate education. Later he studied at the great World Council of Churches’ center at Bossey, Switzerland. I met them in the U.S. during seminary and doctoral work as Henry and I had several classes in common–and, since Kate and I didn’t have kids, then, we sometimes babysat for the Mugabes.

When the Mugabes returned to Zimbabwe in the early ’90s, they were already worried that Pres. Robert Mugabe (no relation–at least, no close relation), once hailed as Zimbabwe’s George Washington, had stayed in power too long, and was eroding the democracy he had helped to launch. Neither they nor we had any idea how bad it was going to get. I try to keep up through the BBC, the only English-language news agency that still tries to cover Zimbabwe, but with all foreign journalists banned from Zimbabwe, even the BBC has a hard time following things accurately.  Now, I have discovered the blog, Observations of Africa, by Leon Johnson (who, with his other blog, Observations from the Sidelines, has joined Christian Peace Bloggers), which has many updates on events in Zimbabwe. Now, I can, at least, pray for my friends in a somewhat more informed way.

March 20, 2007 Posted by | Africa, blog-ring, economic justice, human rights. | 1 Comment

Peace Blogger Interview #3: Patrik Hagman

patrik_hagman.pngWelcome to the 3rd Christian Peace Blogger Interview.  The first 2 posts in this series are here and here. Up this time is Patrik Hagman, a theology student and blogger in Pargas, Finland. Welcome to the Christian Peace Bloggers’ interview, Patrick.

MLW-W: How would you describe yourself? 

Patrik: Very determined and rather confused at the same time. 

MLW-W: Interesting answer. Since I could describe U.S. President Bush the same way, maybe it’s a good thing you aren’t head of a country. 🙂 Determined about what? Confused about what? 

Patrik: When I know what I want, I can do what it takes to get there. For example, writing my thesis comes rather naturally for me. On the other hand, I have no idea what I really want to do with my life. 

MLW-W: Okay. I see what you mean. Well, can you tell us about your family? 

Patrik: I’m married. 

MLW-W: Congratulations. You want to elaborate any? 

Patrik: Not really, I’m kind of private about such matters.

 MLW-W: Alright. Moving on. You’ve hinted that you are a student. Is that right? 

 Patrik: I’m working on my PhD in Theology on the 7th century ascetic, St. Isaac of Nineveh.

 MLW-W: I’m no expert in Medieval ascetics, but I have to say that I have  never heard of St. Isaac of Ninevah. Do you want to say something  about him and what drew you to him as a thesis subject? 

Patrik: He was born in what is now Qatar and lived most of his life in what is now (the ruins of) Iraq. He was bishop for five months until he reached the conclusion that  a bishop is not a job for a sane man. So he spent his life in prayer, instead, and wrote these magnificent, 
beautiful texts about spiritual life. He is not so well known in the West, but in Russia he is considered one of the most important [Church]Fathers and he has had tremendous importance in the modern Egyptian Coptic Church, for example. The West is catching up. I’m studying his asceticism; I can’t say what originally drew me to him, (I have my suspicions…) but today I am actually seeing things in his life and thinking that might actually be very relevant in our time. His asceticism is a way of living in a corrupt world.

MLW-W: Wow! St. Isaac sounds fascinating. Well, when you aren’t studying or blogging, what do you like to do?  

Patrik:  In my free time I like to interact with my friends, play and listen to rock music and practice karate. 

 MLW-W: Well, practicing karate will certainly help dispel the  stereotype of the “wimpy pacifist.” 🙂 

Patrik: Yeah, I see how people can find that strange. For me, karate practice has little to do with violence, it is more about learning to control my body and get some exercise. It is a very fun way to keep in shape. But of course, you also have to face the question what you would do in a situation where violence is a real option and your training might give you an advantage. Those are difficult questions.

MLW-W: I was teasing, some. I have known other pacifists who were students of the martial arts. I know a former police officer-turned-pastor who is a black belt in Kung Fu (don’t ask me what type). He said that the training helped him deal with anger and the knowledge that he could respond to violence with violence, made the commitment to nonviolence deliberate and stronger. 

MLW-W:. Tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian? 

Patrik: Hmm. I don’t really like these kind of questions. I was raised in a believing family and was baptized as a 14 year old. 

 MLW-W: Well, I certainly don’t want to make you uncomfortable. Do  you want to say something about why you dislike these types of   questions? Personal? Theological? Cultural? 

Patrik: Well, it’s just that I feel spirituality is a very personal matter,  and I really dislike the kind of loud spirituality that many  Chrisitans seem to prefer. 

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.)? 

Patrik: Another tricky one. I am a member of a Baptist congregation in my old home town. There is no Baptist congregation where I live now, and I regularly go to the Lutheran Church here but I have no plans for converting. I consider me a kind of ecumenical post-confessional, a member of the One, Holy, Apostolical and Catholic Church, wherever it exists. Any tradition that values the sacraments I feel at home in. Sometimes they have a problem with me, but that is their problem.  

 MLW-W: A fellow Baptist! I’ve met a Finnish Baptist before at a  meeting of the Baptist World Alliance. But I take it from your  answer that Baptists aren’t all that large in Finland. Do you want  to say something about Baptist life in Finland? 

 Patrik: Well, there are two Baptist movements in Finland, one Finnish  speaking, very conservative Southern Baptist kind, and one Swedish  speaking that has a tradition of more interaction with society, that  maybe is more rooted in the British [Baptist] tradition but also find people like Martin Luther King important. Both movements are very small[N.B.: According to the European Baptist Federation’s official statistics, Finnish-Speaking Finnish Baptists have 11 congregations with 692 members; Swedish-Speaking Baptists in Finland have 19 congregations with 1, 290 members. It should be noted for pedobaptist readers that Baptists do not count children or unbaptized adolescents as members and, in Europe especially, often have more adults attending who have not committed to joining by baptism than they do baptized members–precisely because they take committed discipleship very seriously.-MLW-W], so if the guy you  met is Swedish-speaking, he’s likely to be a friend of mine.

MLW-W: Actually, I don’t know. We communicated in a mixture of his limited English and my (even more) limited German–since he had studied several foreign languages. I think many resonate with being ecumenical and post-confessional  and your (small “c”) catholic sympathies. You say you feel at home with any tradition that “values the sacraments,” but that is something that some parts of the Baptist family have not always been  great about (although British Baptists are recovering a sacramental emphasis). Do you find the Lutheran emphasis personally refreshing or does Finnish Baptist life have a greater sacramental emphasis than some  other parts of Baptist-dom? 

 Patrik: Not really; this is a problem I have with my own tradition. I value the [Baptist] countercultural tradition, the disregard for authorities  (religious and secular) and – when it works – the sense of community  in the congregation, but I think it was a great mistake to de-value the sacraments. An unfortunate by-product of the much needed revolt  against what was around at the time. 

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

Patrik: As a kid we belonged to a Pentecostal Congregation. No ties in that direction though. 

 MLW-W: How did you get into blogging?   What do you like about it?  Are there problems you see with blogging? 

Patrik: I wanted a place to develop my ideas for how theology should react to the fact that our culture and very possibly our civilization is in decline. I like what everybody else likes: the contact you get with similarly-minded people around the world. I dislike that it tends to take up to big a part in my life.  

MLW-W: Your blog’s title is unusual, “God in a Shrinking  Universe.” Since the cosmos is still expanding, I assume this title  refers to media communications connecting people? Tell us some more   about this theme, if you would? 

Patrik: Not exactly. It is an adaption of a Muse tune, that goes “you’re a god in a shrinking universe” which just struck me as a great way of  telling someone he’s not much good. But what I mean with it is that  our universe is shrinking in the sense that our culture has lost most  of its vitality and we are using up the world’s resources. I want to use my blog to explore what it means to believe in God in that  scenario. A lot of the theology that is done today is based on an idea  that “everything will work out all right” on a very unconscious level,  I think. I think we will very soon see that that kind of theology is  not useful anymore. I’d like to work out a theology that does not  revert to “God is punishing us” as soon as the trouble starts.

MLW-W: Now, that is fascinating and very helpful. I recommend readers go to Patrik’s blog and especially check out his posts on “ideas for a theology of decline.” This brings us to a central question of this interview series: How do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found? 

 Patrik: I see the Church as a place where we practice life as it is lived in the coming existence, and peacemaking is certainly a central part of that. The Eucharist is a place where people come together regardless of political background, race, class, gender and celebrate together. There is no better symbol for peace than that. 

 MLW-W:  Do you have (a) military experience? (b) experience in nonviolent struggle? (c) experience in conflict resolution/transformation practices?  Describe your experiences with any or all of these. 

Patrik:In Finland we have mandatory military service for all males with two possible alternatives: (a) jail for those that reject the military system completely and (b) civilian service which is a rather pointless 13 month service in some form of society based activity. I chose the latter and worked in a school. As I was young when I made this choice it was based more on instinctive dislike for the military’s authoritarian system than pacifism, but I’m glad today that I made that choice.  

MLW-W: I knew that much of Europe had mandatory military service, but I am  glad that Finland has an alternative service option. Apparently, one  doesn’t have to declare one’s self a conscientious objector to get  such an option, either, as was true in the U.S. when we had military  conscription.

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.  Were you raised a Christian pacifist or did you convert to this view and, if the latter, tell us something of how that came about?

Patrik: Yes. I think I said enough about that in [the last question]. Pacifism was kind of a declining tradition in my religious surroundings when I grew up. Some of the Baptist leaders went to jail during [World War II]. In Finland this was an extremely tough choice to make and even today people get angry about that. But, as I said, when I was growing up one did not talk much about it. War was too distant a concept then.

 MLW-W: Yeah, 50 years later, people here are still upset with C.O.s from the “last good war,” as many see World War II.  If we  reach further back in history, Finland was historically threatened  by Russia. Does that shape views concerning war and peace, now or is   it primarily more recent history?

Patrik: Yes, Finland had its own WWII against Russia. [Jail for conscientious objection] must have been an  extremely difficult decision to make. Finland has because of those  wars a very strong militaristic tradition – it is considered very important for a male to have done well in the military service. It is  not so bad now, but even ten years ago you would have had trouble  getting certain positions if you had taken the alternative service.  But the Finnish defense is really a defense – apart from UN  peace-keeping there have been no Finns in active war duty since WWII.

MLW-W: Is Finland part of NATO? Are there chances that Finland could be sucked into something like the NATO involvement inAfghanistan? I doubt that conscientious  objection would seem so abstract to many, in that case.

Patrik: Finland is not member of the NATO, though there is an ongoing  discussion about it. Many politicians are for joining, but the people  are hesitant. We will see what happens.

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?  Patrik: A good idea I’d like to support. Not really, because I haven’t blogged much at all lately. MLW-W. Outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them. 

Patrik: Nothing organized, no. I was in Rome when the Iraq war broke out. It was a wonderful moment to be in, the city just exploded in these huge spontaneous demonstrations.  

 MLW-W:  Does your local congregation take peace issues seriously? Give us some example, if “yes.” If “no,” what could you do to raise awareness about this in your local congregation? 

Patrik: Not really. The Lutheran Church in Finland is too closely tied to the state to be very radical in any question, really. 

MLW-W: Well, maybe there could be a chance to hook up with the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. Finland doesn’t have an IFOR branch or affiliate, but Sweden does and might want to help sponsor such a group.

MLW-W:  Have you travelled outside your home nation? How well do you stay informed with global events? 

Patrik: Of course. I’m not much for tourism, but I’ve been in many European nations, and spent a little time in Syria andTurkey. I stay informed by reading a lot, both on-line and in books. Blogs are good for this too.  

MLW-W: I asked the question about travel because most  Americans seldom do. Even half the members of the U.S. House of Representatives  do not have a passport! I think our lack of knowledge about the  world contributes to our militarism–or, said differently, I am   exploring the question of whether travel to other cultures gives one  a global sensitivity that may reinforce peacemaking attitudes. 

Patrik: Oh it does. I have to tell you, and I hope it is not offending anyone,  but everyone here was predicting that Iraq would come to this before the war started. It is a mystery to most Europeans that the Americans  did not see what they were getting into. It may have to do with more  traveling or (slightly) better news media.

MLW-W: Actually, that is a mystery to a significant minority of Americans, too. What was it like in Syria and Turkey? Do you have friends there?

Patrik: No, I only stayed for a few weeks. It was a wonderful experience, especially Syria. It is a much more alive culture than Western culture  today, people seem to care for each other, families are really close,  people are helpful. Of course there is also a growing resentment for  the West, but what else could you expect when we have treated them as we have. I was just walking around desperately trying to show them that not all Westerners are like Bush and Blair. Must have acted  rather silly.

MLW-W: Somehow, I doubt you were perceived as silly. Patrik, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed.  I continue to look forward to reading God in a Shrinking Universe.

March 13, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, blogs, pacifism, peace, peacemaking, sexism | 4 Comments