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 Musings and Reflections

Amazon or Anabaptist? – An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos

Dear Mr. Bezos,

The opposition of Amazon (hereafter referred to as “your company”) to a tax law to help the homeless in Seattle was the last straw. Let me explain.

After your company stopped construction on a new office building in protest over a previous law, you felt the watered down version of the tax bill the city council passed in May was still too much. So you continued to pressure the council until it buried compassion at the feet of the god of capitalism to rescind even this edict in June.

Therefore, I have decided that I can no longer in good conscience remain a Prime member and customer of Amazon.

Here are some comparative figures:

As of June 2018, there are over 12,000 homeless in and around Seattle. This does not include the 33,000 people who live and work in unsafe buildings, according to the Seattle Times.

Currently, your company has approximately 40,000 employees in Seattle, who work in the 8.1 million square feet of office space you control which is almost 20% of all of the prime office space in the city. I suspect the majority of your employees do not live in unsafe housing and their ability to pay high rents is one of the main reasons there is a housing crisis in Seattle.

Over the past year, homelessness in the Seattle area has increased by 4%, while your company’s North American revenue alone for 4Q 2017 rose 42%.

The May 2018 version of the city council tax bill would have raised $47 million dollars per year. Your company’s net income for just the 4Q of 2017 was $1.9 billion, which included a tax benefit of $789 million due to the change in U.S. tax code.

This is particularly troubling. Your company received $789 million in tax benefits and you couldn’t even support a paltry $47 million tax to help the homeless in your home town?

Furthermore, as I learned while researching this article, this is only one of the most recent in a long line of troubling business practices and decisions made by your company.

There have been several media reports detailing the poor working conditions for warehouse employees in your company, namely that they barely have time to go to the bathroom and can be fired for being sick. And the contractors your company hires to deliver packages as part of Amazon Flex fare even worse.

Your company has a history of fierce opposition to unionization so the workers described above and others are not able to advocate for and force better working conditions. Or in the case of your company’s recent takeover of Whole Foods, they have very little say in a decision that caused a significant amount of layoffs and brought about a culture change in the way Whole Foods does business.

In May, The Guardian published a report that your company has been marketing and selling Amazon Rekognition facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies, a decision which poses a grave threat to personal privacy and individual freedom. Nor am I comfortable with your continued monopoly over the “internet of things” or your Echo, Alexa, Key, and Blink tentacles that reach inside my house and into the intimate details of my life.

And more recently, the Washington Post (which you own and I still subscribe to for now) reported that your company continues to profit from the sale of white supremacist propaganda and products, in direct violation of your company’s policy against selling products that promote hate.

You continue to raise the fee for Prime membership, up $20 from last year and $40 from 5 years ago, to $120 annually. Even your student Prime membership is going up from $49 to $59. You claim you offer additional benefits, but it seems a little greedy to me for you to keep raising the fee with all of the profits you continue to make off of your Prime members.

This does not take into account the multitude of storefront bookstores that you forced out of business early on when books were the primary products you sold. Since then you have expanded into anything and everything, much to the detriment of small businesses everywhere. Now I learn you might for all practical purposes become a pharmaceutical company.

But even without all of your shoddy business dealings, after I leave behind the magic of clicking a mouse and having an item appear on my doorstep, the product you sell is really not all that great. Like all good snake oil salesmen though, you have marketed convenience and created a demand that does not exist. If I get off my rear end and shop locally, I can usually find something at a lower price and of a decidedly higher quality. But even if I pay more, I have the satisfaction of contributing to my local economy, supporting local artisans and small businesses, and perhaps in my small way am helping to strengthen my community.

I have caught a glimpse of the future you are pulling us towards and I do not like it. I must confess that your siren song has lured me away from the Anabaptist values that I grew up with:

– A belief in community and in the equal and significant value of every precious member of that community.

– A belief in living simply so others may simply live.

– A belief in speaking up for the voiceless, advocating for those who cannot do so themselves, and working to end any and all forms of injustice.

– A belief in the way of peace and in practicing nonviolence in all of my life choices, including where and what I buy.

– A belief in service and in helping others in any and every way I can.

– A belief in being a good steward of my time, talents, and money, spending such in a way that honors God and the values I have listed above.

I have come to the conclusion that your company is the antithesis to these values and therefore, since I cannot serve both God and Mammon, I am choosing to serve God. My only regret is that it has taken me so long to come to this decision. I ask God’s forgiveness for the damage I may have caused another by my collusion with your company. I continue to pray that your company will cease to worship at the altar of profit and that you will be grounded in your past to be driven by an obsession with compassion, rather than with customers.

And may God, so rich in grace and slow to anger, have mercy on all of our souls.

Sincerely,

Keith M. Lyndaker

Posted in PEACE GROOVES

On Thin Ice

Late at night, in the cold of a Dutch winter, an innocent man flees before his pursuer.

If he is caught, he will be put to death for his faith.

Coming to a body of water, he runs across the ice and despite the danger, makes it to the other side.

His pursuer is not so lucky and falls through the ice.

The man, Dirk Willems, hearing the cries of his enemy, returns and saves his life.

The “thief-catcher” wants to free his savior, but the authorities insist he follow the law.

Willems is arrested and burned at the stake, literally giving his life for another, his enemy.

(A note regarding numbers: As he died a long slow death, Willems “was heard to exclaim over seventy times, ‘O my Lord; my God,’ etc.” Strange to find this number in the account of a man who exemplified the Rule of the 490).

Source: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/dirk-willems.htm

February 5, 2012

Posted in Longreads and Essays

How a Mennonite Yankee Learned to Fight in Dixieland: The Shaping of Personal Conflict Style through Culture

Conflict is bad.

I am on the bus. The big fat bully, Glenn, has been sitting behind me, slapping the back of my head all the way home. I’ve taken it, though the dam inside me is about to burst.

Up ahead, through the bus windshield, I see my mailbox and suddenly I’m standing up, whipping around with my fist cocked, and landing a haymaker upside of Glenn’s head. I’m just as surprised as he is. Through his shock he jumps up, and we wrestle awhile. I tear his disgustingly nice gold chain from around his neck in the tussle. Ricky, my on-again-off-again friend and nemesis, ironically, is the person who breaks us up.

I don’t remember much about the long walk home down our dirt driveway, except that I was unhurt and Glenn got home with a big knot on his head and a broken chain in his pocket.

I do remember that Glenn and I became best buddies. Around the Fourth of July his daddy would buy him a whole crate full of fireworks. Glenn would bring them by our house and we’d have bottle rocket wars against each other. Conflict of another sort.

He and I even planned to start a turtle farm. We were going to go out into the woods and catch box turtles which we would sell to the local pet stores. It never came about, but it was fun to dream with a former enemy.

Growing up a Mennonite Yankee in Dixieland helped formulate the way I dealt with conflict. I was an outsider, outnumbered, different, quiet, patient to a fault, unwilling to fight, and so for the most part I kept my dukes to myself. That day on the bus I broke out of the mold and strangely, I earned the respect and friendship of my bullying neighbor. I still feel guilty about it. Perhaps this essay is an exercise in my ongoing wrestling with this dichotomy.

In my personal conflict style inventory, I discovered some interesting responses on my part in the midst of conflict. During calm times, when disagreement first arises I am a collaborator, then a forcer and on down to an avoider as my lowest score. There is a significant shift in my response if things are not easily resolved and emotions get stronger (storm times). At this time I am an avoider first. Collaborating falls midway with accommodating bringing up the rear.

What I gather from these responses is that initially in conflict I am good at collaborating and/or actively engaging in the conflict with a variety of responses. Avoidance is my least favorable response. However, if the conflict is not easily resolved, my emotions are engaged, and/or it simmers for awhile, I am an avoider extraordinaire. This response, coupled with my cultural experience of conflict as being bad, has led to me to struggle at times with how to engage conflict in a mutually constructive way.

Perhaps the greatest insight I have learned so far in my readings for this class is that conflict is not bad, no matter how much every fiber in my being resists the idea. I have dealt with conflict in the past because it’s a necessary evil. I may feel bad if I do, but I feel worse if I don’t.

To understand conflict as good, a vibrant part of life and relationships, is indeed a new and exciting concept, though like the bully on the bus I am still wrestling with the idea. Will I engage the fireworks, or stay in my shell like one of those box turtles my former adversary and I dreamed of catching in the woods?

October 2, 2003 – reflections for graduate conflict class

Posted in PEACE GROOVES

Split

image

I sit in your sanctuary beside my daughter who loves the rainbow.

She is still trying to figure out this God-thing, but one thing she believes strongly in is tolerance.

She wouldn’t understand your need to run away from showing hospitality or your unwillingness to welcome the stranger, the person different, and yet not so very, than you.

I won’t tell her. She would lose what little faith she has.

So I will stand here and sing the worship songs, but inside I am weeping for the splintering of a church.

Posted in Longreads and Essays

Midweek Essay: Bomb Iran? (Or Anyone Else) – Fallout from a Flawed US Nuclear Weapons Policy

Fallout shelter by kmls

Many years ago at our annual Christmas gathering, my cousins and I started singing “Bomb Iran” to the tune of “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys. We were having loads of fun coming up with various violent verses when my Dad and an uncle or two came into the room to give us a gentle yet firm reprimand.

We were just kids, but we knew better. In a brief unguarded moment, we had allowed the current mainstream warlike attitude of the country to usurp our pacifist Mennonite values. Even more unfortunate is that even to this day I can recall many of the so-called “fun” lyrics we came up with that day.

So it came as a pleasant surprise all of these years later to witness the recent nuclear weapons agreement between Iran and the US (and other countries).  In a nutshell, Iran will not pursue the development of nuclear weapons in exchange for the gradual lifting of economic sanctions. While of course there are the usual naysayers and there are details to be worked out, most experts agree that this is a good deal.

Even for Israel, the principal opponent to the deal.

President Obama rather bluntly stated that war had been avoided, which in my opinion is always a good thing. Benjamin Franklin, as Ambassador to France, writing  to an acquaintance in 1783, agreed:

I JOIN with you most cordially in rejoicing at the return of peace. I hope it will be lasting, and that mankind will at length, as they call themselves reasonable creatures, have reason enough to settle their differences without cutting throats; for, in my opinion, there never was a good war or a bad peace. What vast additions to the conveniences and comforts of life might mankind have acquired, if the money spent in wars had been employed in works of utility!

Imagine my dismay then to read an article yesterday detailing a new nuclear smart bomb, the B61-12, being developed by the US military. As the article states:

“The concern over the B61-12 — and the thing that could make it the most dangerous bomb in the US arsenal — is that such an accurate and usable nuclear weapon could encourage military thinkers to start imagining a wider variety of situations in which the use of nuclear weapons would be acceptable. “

“Once the B61-12 is fully tested and deployed, it will be integrated into existing NATO forces and the F-35 in order to enhance the alliance’s nuclear posture in Europe. “

The entire article is found here.

So with one hand the US makes deals to stop nuclear weapons proliferation while at the same time it continues to develop nuclear-enhanced weapons. What is even more alarming about the B61-12 is that as stated above it may make the use of nuclear weapons “more acceptable” in combat. Not only is this a horrible idea from the standpoint of greater loss of life, especially collateral, but this could set off an entirely new and different kind of nuclear arms race as other nations follow suit.

The B61-12 is just the latest in a whole series of smart bombs, but its development, to put it mildly, is just plain dumb.

Midweek Essays are published every Wednesday. Please see the publication schedule page for more details.

Posted in Longreads and Essays

It’s in the Blood

Blood-Kin by kmls

In 1539, a fugitive former-priest-turned-Anabaptist, in his seminal work “The Foundation,” penned the following words:

“Christ is our fortress; patience our weapon of defense; the Word of God our sword. …Iron and metal spears and swords we leave to those who, alas, regard human blood and swine’s blood of well-nigh equal value.”

So said Menno Simons, principal leader of the Protestant sect which then became known as the Mennonites.

Almost 500 years later, his words still resound with a mighty truth.

At the risk of sounding morbid, it has to do with blood.

While Menno specifically refers to the difference between human blood and that of an animal, his larger point is the “value” we place on the blood of another.

My point is quite simple.

Killing will not end through education, conflict resolution, or disarmament, though all of these are important and can help. Killing will end only when there is a fundamental shift in the mind and heart of those who kill.

For how can you kill someone if you believe that their blood is just as valuable as your own?

Let’s call it – for lack of a better term – bloodism. The other, their humanity, life, blood, is somehow less than I, and therefore, their humanity, life, blood, is not as valuable as my own. It becomes quite easy then to justify killing the other, ie. spilling his/her blood.

The directors of death throughout history from every nation, tribe and religion have understood and disseminated this concept quite well. A person (and those like him/her) is described as having the wrong beliefs, the wrong skin color, the wrong gender, the wrong age, the wrong station in life, the wrong land, the wrong possessions, the wrong clothing, the wrong language —- the wrong blood. These others are not as valued as you are, the leaders of the macabre scream, though they couch their speech in terms such as vigilance, freedom, history, security, and truth. Then the killing begins.

The Nazis did it to the Jews. Israelis do it to the Palestinians. Hutus did it to the Tutsis. Shiite do it to the Sunni. Palestinians do it to the Israelis. Sunni do it to the Shiite. Muslims do it to the Christians. Christians do it to the Muslims. This country does it to that country. That neighborhood does it to this neighborhood. This race does it to that race. That religion does it to this religion.

And any one of a million other combinations.

STOP!

Do not allow your mind and heart to be filled with bloodism.

We are made in the image of God.

ALL of us.

And that divine DNA resides in the very marrow of our bones and flows through our veins.

It’s in the blood.

Posted in The Sunday Driver: Life in the Slow Lane

Weather Man

How far I have fallen from my farmer folk whose lives and livelihood revolved around the patterns of the weather.

Or from my youth when each day I worked for the strawberry farmer began with the two of us gathered around the transistor radio in the garage awaiting the word of the meteorologist. The forecast determined the work of the day.

The dairy farm of my ancestors existed within the circle of the elements. Minute changes in the mix of precipitation and sun determined the success or failure of any given year. Their lives existed within the confines of each season.

Now in the so-called security of my modernity very little of the outside shifts me from my regular routine. I am in danger of forgetting a truth that my people knew subconsciously. It is that my inner landscape is a mirror to the world without and divorce from one leaves the other void.

I remember four accidents, each during one of the four seasons.

A summer sun is in my eyes so I do not see and therefore turn into the path of a yellow truck.

A young man on a springtime joyride tries to pass me as I turn and crashes his motorcycle into my driver’s side door.

Driving around a curve, I see a car in the ditch. I hit the brakes, sliding on wet leaves, and crash into the rear end of the car.

At the beginning of a winter storm, I lose control of my jeep on the slush. It flips over and lands on its side in the middle of the road.

In each case, I was not hurt, and fortunately neither was anyone else. But for one moment on my journey, the elements gave me a jolt.

The last two accidents I mentioned happened close together. Musing upon them with a friend, I spoke about God’s protection. He got angry with me and said that perhaps God was telling me to slow down.

It should not take a storm of epic proportions to shake me. The intensity of the earth’s storms has been increasing rapidly over the past several years, as a result no doubt of global warming and human neglect. But I wonder if the elements are simply having to work harder to get our attention.

Why does it take the strike of a monster typhoon before I reach into my wallet?

When a hurricane destroys my hometown, why cannot I find the time to take my chainsaw south to assist?

When Snowmaggedon locks down the city, why do I get angry at my son for hitting me with a slushball?

When was the last time I lifted my face to the sun? Felt the wind in my hair? Let the rain wash my cheeks? Tasted a snowflake on the tip of my tongue?

With gratitude rather than annoyance.

So today during the first snow of the season when my daughter throws some snow on me, I laugh and join in the play.

Perhaps there is still hope for the Mennonite farm boy lost somewhere inside of me.