Posted in Prayers and the Sacred

Martyr’s Mirror

495 years ago today, in 1525, the Swiss Anabaptist Movement was founded when Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, George Blaurock, and about a dozen others baptized each other, breaking a thousand-year tradition of church-state union. (Historical Calendar https://goo.gl/TDME3p )

Below is a hymn by Felix Manz, who was martyred for his faith by drowning in Lake Zurich in January of 1527, becoming the first casualty of the Zurich council’s edict that made adult rebaptism punishable by drowning.

Here is the hymn in German and in English:

Mit Lust so will ich singen

Mein Herz freut sich in Gott

Der mir viel Kunst thut bringen,

Dasz ich entrinn dem Tod

Der ewiglich nimmet kein End.

Ich preiz dich Christ vom Himmel,

Der mir mein Kummer wend.

With gladness will I now sing;

My heart delights in God,

Who showed me such forbearance

That I from death was saved

Which never hath an end.

I praise Thee, Christ in heaven

Who all my sorrow changed.

I am grateful for my forbears and the faith passed down to me by my family.

May I be as courageous.

Selah

Posted in Longreads and Essays

True Acts of Valor – Biting Off Buttons

A MIDWEEK ESSAY

In past postings I have called attention to the troubling trend of merging entertainment with the military.

(see https://peacegrooves.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/going-past-midway-dont-tread-play-sing-dance-on-me/ and  https://peacegrooves.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/817/ )

Not too long ago a movie came out that featured Navy Seals in action – I guess as a way for the media to continue the Special Forces love fest so fresh after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. I have wanted to write something about the movie when it came out but wasn’t able to. It seems fitting to do so on Memorial Day.

I have many problems with the movie, but I will simply whip the same dead horse I seem to do so often. Such “entertainment” glorifies violence, trivializes the sacrifices of soldiers, citizens, and their families, and diminishes the enormous human and monetary costs of war. On this day, when we honor those who “serve” or “who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom,” I felt it was important to highlight those whose acts of valor are not memorialized, who in some cases gave their lives rather than kill others, and whose sacrifice paved the way for more democratic freedoms for citizens whose conscience objects to them going to war.

The following is an excerpt from an Amish Country News Article by Brad Igou http://www.amishnews.com/amisharticles/peopleofpeace.htm

The “war to end all wars” spelled problems for the Amish and Mennonites, whose Pennsylvania German dialect made them suspect in some people’s eyes. By this time, Amish dress and customs also made them more distinct from average Americans. The Amish declared conscientious objector (CO) status. As Albert Keim writes in THE AMISH AND THE STATE, “CO’s were drafted into the army and posted to military camps with the hope that they would enter noncombatant service.” The question then became one of how much to “cooperate.” Their resistance to wearing uniforms rather than their plain clothes, and their refusal to bear arms, resulted in harassment, beatings, and humiliation in many cases.

A book recounting these incidents called NONRESISTANCE PUT TO THE TEST was published in 1981. Particularly shocking were the experiences recounted by Menno Diener at Camp Taylor, Kentucky, where he witnessed the bayonet stabbing of one Amish boy. During the course of his stay, Menno protested having to wear a military uniform and take orders. Here is how he describes what followed…

So the commander got a broomstick and beat me across the legs till he broke his stick. I had streaks and swelling on my legs. Then he got a 2×4 about three feet long that had four spikes in one end, and threatened to hit me in the face with it. He put it near to my face and then back again like a ball bat and said, “If it weren’t for the law, I would like to see how far I could sink these spikes into your face.”

A few days later another boy, his face black and blue from beatings, was placed on display by a public road. Someone placed a sign on him that read, “I refuse to fight for my country.”

When camp officials were court martialed for their actions, the Amish refused to testify against them because “it would be helping to punish them and cause ill feelings between resisting and nonresistance, and be a poor light of Christianity in our church and background.”

The book contains stories of suffering in many other camps, including one where a boy was pulled for half a mile on the ground by a horse. At another camp in Georgia, a man was hung by a rope until unconscious.

According to Steven Nolt in his HISTORY OF THE AMISH, “Officers occasionally ‘baptized’ Amish COs in the camp latrines in mockery of their Anabaptist beliefs.”

In Kansas, Amish bishop Manasses Bontrager wrote a letter urging his members not to buy Liberty Bonds, and urging support of the Amish youth serving in the camps. In his words…

Many people can’t understand why we don’t want to defend our country. Christ said, “Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God that which belongs to God.” Caesar protects our property, for which we should willingly pay our taxes as Christ asked us to…. But our coming in this world, our intellects, our physical powers — these do not belong to Caesar. If he claims them to defend him, Christ’s laws strictly forbid our yielding to such a claim.

A few months later, Bontrager was arrested by a U.S. Marshall and put on trial for Violation of the 1917 Espionage Act and was fined $500 for “inciting and attempting to incite subordination, disloyalty, and refusal of duty in the military and naval forces of the United States.”

When I was in college, one elderly gentlemen told me a story from WW I involving Amish as well. Amish Mennonite men imprisoned for their beliefs would take the buttons off of the clothes they were forced to wear. When they were handcuffed to keep them from doing so, they would bite the buttons off. I also read that some men were then forced to stand naked in their cells. The image of simple men behind bars with lips bloodied rather than wear clothes that resembled  a military uniform is one that shames and inspires me.

Contrary to popular belief, the military does not have an exclusive corner on fighting for one’s beliefs. Acts of valor have been occurring every day throughout the history of this country. Countless times, citizens (pacifists and others) have put their lives on the line to help, rather than kill others. Yet we do not see fit to memorialize this “army.”

My forbears, some of who are mentioned above, would not want to be recognized.

Yet doing so perhaps will redefine within the body politic such terms as: valor, freedom, sacrifice, service.

Then and only then will our country truly live up to the ideals it was founded upon and be a nation that exports life rather than death.

Originally posted May 28, 2012

Posted in PEACE GROOVES

Forgiveness Is An Unending Circle

Most are aware of the tragic shooting of Amish school girls in Lancaster County, PA in October 2006 and perhaps many have heard of the Amish’s gracious response to the tragedy. I found the excerpt below to be well written so I include it here:

In the midst of their grief over this shocking loss, the Amish community didn’t cast blame, they didn’t point fingers, they didn’t hold a press conference with attorneys at their sides. Instead, they reached out with grace and compassion toward the killer’s family.

The afternoon of the shooting an Amish grandfather of one of the girls who was killed expressed forgiveness toward the killer, Charles Roberts. That same day Amish neighbors visited the Roberts family to comfort them in their sorrow and pain.

Later that week the Roberts family was invited to the funeral of one of the Amish girls who had been killed. And Amish mourners outnumbered the non-Amish at Charles Roberts’ funeral.

It’s ironic that the killer was tormented for nine years by the premature death of his young daughter. He never forgave God for her death. Yet, after he cold-bloodily shot 10 innocent Amish school girls, the Amish almost immediately forgave him and showed compassion toward his family. http://www.800padutch.com/amishforgiveness.shtml

And forgiveness has a way of coming full circle.

Terri Roberts, the mother of Charles Roberts, has found peace in the midst of her pain at her first-born’s anger at God and the horrible actions her son committed. She spends her days caring for her son’s most injured victim yet alive – an 11 year old girl who is paralyzed. Each week, Terri bathes the girl, brushes her hair, talks to her and sings hymns.

As she says: “As we reach out in ways that bring a touch, we can find great healing.”

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-09-29/amish-schoolhouse-shooting/50609184/1

Originally posted February 2012

Posted in Longreads and Essays

The A Word

At first glance it seems like a good thing.

A college student decides to take a break from his cellphone, email and social media for 90 days. I applaud him for attempting and succeeding at the task. He also seems to have learned a lot about relationships and true communication. http://news.yahoo.com/90-days-without-cell-phone-email-social-media-015300257.html

I just wish he hadn’t used the A word to describe the project.

Yeah, you know what I mean. In America, it’s an adjective.

It’s the one that people like to put in front of furniture so folks will think it is well made and therefore buy it.

Or to describe food (like cheese) so those who hunger for nostalgia can eat and be satisfied.

Or those new-fangled heaters I saw being advertised in a magazine the other day, the wood exterior is made by, well, you know.

I mean it’s like Elvis. The dude’s dead but you wouldn’t think so with all of the impersonators out there. We like the idea, but when it comes to the real thing, well, let’s just stick with precious memories.

“Bless my soul, whassa wrong with me?”

The A word is a noun. It describes a people who have made a very conscious effort to live differently as a result of their faith. The rejection of certain technologies is only a part of that life.

You see, these folks are my family and they don’t really like people using their name to sell things (especially if it isn’t true) and to, quite frankly, draw attention to someone or something other than God.

Or to describe a project that misses the essence of a people’s way of life.

In fact, it kind of cheapens it.

You know like a stereotype.

Or an avatar.

I don’t have a problem with taking a break from technology. In  fact, I think we should make a conscious effort every day to evaluate our use of media, the time we spend with/on/in it, and its impact on our relationships with the very real people around us.

But let’s not kid ourselves.

A 90 days media fast does not a Luddite make.

It’s a nice publicity stunt.

An educational project even.

But unless you or I decide to join the noun, then we’ve got no business pretending to own the adjective.

So take a break. (In religious circles, we call that a Sabbath).

But when you describe it, please don’t use the A word.