Category Archives: Pathways to Whole

The Naked Anabaptist

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Sooo, here’s a question.  Why would a cranky, cynical, seemingly secular urbanite like me delve into a serious journey examining spirituality and faith?  Well, in the past few years I’ve been hanging out with Anabaptists – first as an M.A. student in Conflict Transformation at Eastern Mennonite’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and now as digital media faculty with EMU’s Visual and Communication Arts Program.

These folks are radical.  They throw down for justice. They don’t fly a flag because they won’t commit to the State (only to God).  Anabaptists are profoundly non-violent and I am discovering how this plays out in interactions all over the community.   I am pushed and pulled (non-violently!) by this set of practices and am in a process of discovery with (among so many others) a formidable Mennonite mentor named Beryl.

Apparently, I am not the only non-Mennonite exploring the modern implications of this 500-year-old faith whose followers consider themselves (and often actively place themselves) on the fringe of society.  The first reading assignment Beryl and I will explore together will be the recent book intriguingly titled “The Naked Anabaptist” – written by an Anabaptist “outsider” named Stuart Murray.  I’ll get back to this topic throughout the semester as Beryl, other EMU colleagues and I compare notes.

In the meantime, here is an excerpt from an interview with Murray. His quote that Anabaptism “is a way of following Jesus that challenges, disturbs, and inspires” rings true.

Why do you think there is growing interest in Anabaptism in Great Britain and other countries in Europe?

Europe has become very secular. The old links between the church and the state—what used to be called “Christendom”—are disappearing. Today we are living in a post-Christendom era, when the church is no longer at the center of societal life. Since the early Anabaptists also lived at the margins of society, their experiences and perspectives are attractive to many people who are looking for ways to live faithfully as follows of Jesus today.

What are the bare essentials of Anabaptism for you?
For me, there are seven essentials, or core convictions. First and foremost is belief in Jesus; he is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord. The second is seeing Jesus as the focal point of God’s revelation. The third is being free from the state and all that Christendom implied.

Fourth, Anabaptists are committed to finding ways to be good news to the poor, powerless and persecuted. Fifth, Anabaptist churches are called to be communities of discipleship and mission, friendship, mutual accountability and multi-voiced worship. Sixth, spirituality and economics are interconnected for Anabaptists—something that is very important in our individualist and consumerist culture.

Finally, for Anabaptists peace is central to the gospel. It is not the center of the gospel—Jesus is the center of it all. It is as followers of Jesus that we are committed to finding nonviolent alternatives to violence in our world—not peace for its own sake.

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Filed under A Story Doula Kind of Story, Pathways to Whole, The Giant

Using the Buffalo – Gwen’s Adventures in Shopping Less


Center for Justice and Peacebuilding pal Gwen just started a blog Using the Buffalo (“I killed the Buffalo – it’s time I used it.”). It’s about her quest to buy less and use what she owns already. I like it because it is about the daily decision-making process and value shift in being lower impact. This dialogue is critical in the midst of systems change to help our little marble survive. The picture above is the chalkboard wall in her house. Thanks, Gwen!!

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Low Impact Adventures and What Those Have To Do With My Life As a Man

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No, this isn’t a transgender confession. At least not in the traditional sense – just read on.

Last month I posted my dismay at our planet in peril. Since then, I’ve been working steadily at becoming a lower impact individual and all I can really say so early on is this will certainly be an intriguing journey.

StoryDoula

First (and in no particular order) I’m surprised at the times I feel foolish embarking on this journey. There’s the fact that this it is SO obvious that I should be further along on being low impact. I watched An Inconvenient Truth. What’s taken me so long?! I’m slightly embarrassed to talk to my activist pals about how I’ve discovered the method of doing my dishes more efficiently (two tubs of water – one for soapy, one for rinse – start with glassware – then move through cutlery, dishes, pots and pans – saves lot of water). The word paltry comes to mind. But alas, we must crawl before we walk. And this parody on the comedy site The Onion helps shore me up.

I’ve also found myself embarrassed to be low-impact in public. I took my groovy tin cup along with me on my recent driving trip to Maine (I’ve been failing miserably on the carbon emissions front) so I wouldn’t waste disposable cups at rest stops. I’m embarrassed to say I was too embarrassed to ask Starbucks barristas to use my cup instead of their paper cup (although I asked them to refill three of my water bottles with no trepidation – go figure). The outcome turned out to be MORE impactful though, because I chose no coffee over coffee in a paper cup. It just points out to me how insanely consumerist our culture is – and how we are ALL caught in that system in ways we can’t even imagine.

Second, I HAVE unearthed the makings of a lower impact lifestyle and how that brings intimacy to my interactions with my people, my stuff and my food. Doing dishes (as above), turning off the water while lathering in shower, sharing paint, supplies, tools with neighbors. My cabin walls are now painted a lovely combination of three yellows donated to me by Bill and Lisa. I’ve discovered how effective and non-toxic vinegar and baking soda are at cleaning. I realize that thinking about every action that I take and the way that I take it slows me down, makes me think, breathe, consider, be grateful, be careful, be sweet, be gentle. Also, be funny. Check out this Brazilian video about how peeing in the shower saves water:

The third even MORE surprising outcome is how this journey to low impact is helping me redefine was feminism is and what it should be. There was an era of my life – one friend calls calls it My Life As a Man – when I thought the key to being powerful as a woman was to act like those whom I perceived as having power – namely white men. As a television director I was often the only woman in a crew – and I usually covered stories about “powerful” white men. I was clear I wasn’t going to be anyone’s mom, girlfriend, sister, whatever. So I intentionally didn’t ask questions of others, launched into my own stories without prompting, had little empathy for myself or anyone who might be lagging on the shoot and developed my own special form of misogyny toward women who weren’t strong, couldn’t give good directions, and couldn’t weave a really good tale. I finally had a wake up call after I decided that I, like most men around me, would not pick up my dishes after a meal at someone’s house. The problem was – all those really nice ladies who had prepared the meal were now having to pick up after me. Yuck. That was enough. I realized that this form of feminism was as destructive as the existing misogyny that wouldn’t let anyone – men or women – become whole. So if feminism isn’t female misogyny – what is it?

StoryDoula

My low impact adventure helps answer this question because I am finding intense power and connection in these acts I find myself performing. These humble, simple commitments of service are opening a door to understanding that there is little in this world more powerful than collective and incremental action. I can’t save the planet. I can only begin to do my dishes differently and I am dependent on the wisdom and action of others for that one small act to become large. This is not the way those whom are considered powerful in our culture act. They expect others to clean up after them – while they single-handedly sweep-in with brilliant solutions. Hello BP. Feminism to me redefines what power is – appreciating, embracing the powerful smallness of women, men, old, young, quiet, gentle… you name it. You get it. All of it. All of our power.

Water. Wind. Soil. Air. As we seek to lessen our destructiveness on these powerful, vulnerable things – they become metaphors for so many others. Tell me your low impact tales. I’ll print them here.

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Jesus Wasn’t Sentimental and What That Has to do With My 40th Birthday Party

My 40th birthday party happened six years ago – but my dear friend David Dill recently reinterpreted the event (which featured a beautiful restaurant and 25 of my very favorite people), much to my amazement, in a sermon he delivered to Trinity Church in Boston. David is a stunning storyteller and the crux of this sermon is the notion that Jesus was not in any way sentimental.  He explores how that non-sentimentality can be a important state of being – no matter what sort of spiritual path we might be following. This sermon is a tremendous gift – to know that someone heard so well is a wonderful thing.

The party begins about 7 minutes in to the audio podcast below – but listen to the entire sermon – David is onto something.
Paulette’s Party and Jesus Wasn’t Sentimental by Story Doula

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Ach! Where to Begin?!: A Wittgensteinian Essay on Fixing Our Planet.

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Read this Editor’s Note titled American Psychosis in the May/June edition of the Utne Reader please. Editor David Schimke demands: what does it take to confront our collective denial concerning climate change and all that ails our planet?!

Coal mine disasters, a devastating oil spill, hydrofracking in my own backyard, obesity epidemics, rampant stress, out-of-wack food and values systems. Enough.

I’m taking the Schimke challenge: I don’t have the choice to become overwhelmed by this stuff anymore. And merely recycling my plastic jugs just doesn’t cut it.

My approach to this needs to get way more radical – way more systemic.

First, I’m listening to modern-day prophets – Colin Beavan tried to go “no impact” in New York for an entire year – an adventure documented in a film and on his blog. Annie Leonard created The Story of Stuff – an animated video and website about our insane system of consumerism and waste.

My pals Tom Benevento and Robb Davis pulled back from fat international consulting careers when they realized the problems they were hired to fix overseas stemmed from U.S. dependence on oil and THINGS we buy – right here. Tom and Robb are both community advocates.

StoryDoula

What I like about each of these prophets is that they aren’t telling me what I need to do.  They are all challenging me to locate my own responsibility, my own piece of this massive problem and then DO THAT.  DO SOMETHING.

We all risk looking ridiculous when we try to envision a new reality.

Today I felt a little foolish posting this on Facebook:

hey h-burgers and berry-villers – i’m plantin’ and paintin’ – if you have plants you want to split off or leftover indoor paint you’d like to clear out of your basement – just let me know. i’m headed to the cabin wednesday (july 7) morn for a few weeks of hard labor and would be thrilled to not buy new.

Why did I feel foolish?  Because being consumers is what we as Americans know how to DO so incredibly well. We’re rewarded for having the capability to buy, the independence and “freedom” and grooviness that brings us.  Being collective, being community – the messages we get is that community is messy, it’s dependent, it’s inefficient. Some think downright un-American.

Here is where this becomes radical.

My friend Lisa offered up some paint and some plants.  I’m going to go see her late this eve.

We’ll probably have some tea.

Laugh a bit.

Her leftover paint will end up on my walls.

Her lovely plants in my garden.

I’ll bond with my friend, be surrounded by her at my cabin and save a little cash in the process.

StoryDoula

Way more interesting and rewarding than a trip to Home Depot.

Radical, huh?

Enough for now.  But more on this soon.  I have to do this in small doses or I lose my brain.

Meanwhile – here are the prophets:

1) No Impact Man Trailer – but PLEASE see the entire movie as an instant download on Netflix or wherever you can get your hands on it.

2) Click here for Voluntary Gas Tax Club in Harrisonburg.

3) The Story of Stuff animated film with Annie Leonard (20 minutes):

4) Click here for a thoughtful Penn State interview with Annie Leonard. She’s fantastic.

5) Interview with David Holgrem – co-originator of permaculture:

6) Click here for 31 Tips to Reduce Your Impact While Saving Money. But don’t stop there. Figure out how to look really foolish around saving yourself and the planet. Then let’s compare notes.

7) And click here to figure out what the heck is a Wittgensteinian Essay.

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