Rip Those Pages Out

Last week, over a simple meal, some friends and I were discussing the merits of the Old Testament.  Can we as followers of Christ in the 21st century do without the Old Testament?  What is the real value of this text to the person in the pew?  As a Mennonite, I often struggle with the “God as Warrior” image of the Old Testament.  Or even the “vengeful God” imagery.  It would be so easy to rip those pages out of the Canon.  And yet, there they are glaring at us. 

Johnny is a close friend of mine who lives in South East Asia.  He frequently shares stories of his displaced friends living on the Thai-Burma border.  Johnny is an ardent promoter of just peace making.  This deeply rooted belief has put him on various government target lists.  He has been prohibited from visiting dear friends and places and even spent time in prison for this belief.  As he watches his displaced friends on the border continuing to suffer, he asks me (his institutional administrator friend), “as a leader, how often do you consider how your decision impacts the poor?” 

This question came roaring back to me last week.  Here we were in Lancaster County, USA discussing the merits of the Old Testament wanting to rip pages out of the Bible to suit our perspective on just peace making.  Meanwhile, the displaced in SE Asia find comfort in the arms of a God who is on their side and would be willing to fight and take revenge on those who were continually maiming, raping and killing their families.  So, if we are to truly seek the welfare of the poor, should we be ripping pages out of the Bible or releasing our dogmas to God? – JM

Counter Cultural Engagement

There are at least three good reasons to start new Anabaptist faith communities.

First, starting a new faith community represents one important way to express faithfulness to Christ.  Following Jesus has historically led us into the development of new faith communities.

Second, it helps we Christians keep the Gospel relevant without being culture-bound.  I use the word, “relevant” with caution.  I have seen many new projects do dumb things in the name of “relevancy”.  Nevertheless, as Western culture gives way from modernity, Christendom and an industrial economy to post- all of that, the way we did church in the last century is less and less coherent.  We need new forms of church to speak into the culture being created.

Third, starting a new faith community helps the people of my tribe leave our Mennonite ethos of separation behind, and become more engaged with the wider society.  There is a lot of litter across the history of the church with the relics of expressions of churches that practiced physical separation from the world, rather than a counter-cultural engagement with the world.  Anabaptism is, at its best, a counter-cultural engagement with the world.  Mennonites and our spiritual cousins settled for separation for good historical reasons.  However, the time has come to renew our commitment to radical discipleship, authentic community, and genuine peace building, and to do so in the form of new churches.  Starting new faith communities in the brave new world we are creating must become thoroughly Anabaptist in perspective. – JW