Ep. 17: Lived Walks of Humility: Anabaptist Perspectives on Peace
Embracing a diversity of voices and musicians, this podcast explores the beautiful interwoven thoughts and expressions of what it means to live the Anabaptist walk of peace, community, witness, and humility.
Featuring Rev. Pam Reist, Dr. Drew Hart, Dr. Jeff Bach, and Dr. Don Kraybill, the Oasis Chorale, the Nigerian Women’s Choir, and Frances Miller and Daryl Snider of Sopa Sol, we explore the intersections of history and the lived, and embodied walk of faith and love.
Keywords: Anabaptist, Mennonite, Brethren, Lived Theology, Peace, Pacifism, Nonviolence, Humility, Faith
Rev. Pam Reist is pastor to the Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren. She has served on the Ministry Board of the Church of the Brethren, the Atlantic Northeast District board of the Church of the Brethren, and has served in two months of outreach work with the Brethren church in Nigeria.
Dr. Drew Hart is Assistant Professor of Theology at Messiah College. His interests and areas of expertise include the Anabaptist tradition, Black Theology and Black Church Studies, and issues of White Supremacy and Colonialism. He is the author of two books, “Trouble I’ve seen, Changing the way the Church views Race” and “Who will be a witness, Igniting activism for God’s Justice, love, and deliverance.”
The Oasis Chorale is a group of 40 singers from the US and Canada who meet to sing a cappella music. They “are constantly seeking fresh ways for choral musicians to share God’s beauty with others and to sing God’s grace into our world.” More at oasischorale.org
Dr. Don Kraybill is Distinguished College Professor and Senior Fellow at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietest Studies at Elizabethtown College. He is an internationally renowned scholar on Anabaptist groups, including his extensive expertise and scholarship on Old Order Amish. He is the author of at least 30 books and he served as consultant to PBS for The American Experience series on the Amish.
Dr. Jeff Bach is director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College and Associate Professor of the Department of Religious Studies. He is the author on books and articles on Anabaptist and Pietist groups and communal societies. He is also an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren.
Daryl Snider and Frances Crowhill Miller began collaborating while studying at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) at Eastern Mennonite University. Soap Sol draws on their experiences in countries and cultures to explore music that is transformative in individual lives, communities, and the broader society. More at sopasol.com
1) What is a story of pacfisim in Anabaptist traditions? What are the qualities of a uniquely Anabaptist approach to pacifism?
2) Describe the essence of a "lived theology" and how Anabaptist traditions live the walk of "taking Jesus seriously."
3) What is the intersection of ideas of reconciliation with pacfiisim?
4) How are ethics of presence and humility lived out in Anabaptist life? How do these ethics transfer to the building of peace?
And I think when Jesus said, love your enemies, he meant it, that the sermon on the Mount is for here and now it's not just like something that was good then, but it's also, you know, it's, I think it guides who we are today.
You are listening to the music and peacebuilding podcast, a professional development network at music, peacebuilding.com exploring intersections of peacebuilding, sacredness, community, creativity and imagination through research and story. In this podcast, we seek to explore diverse cultural traditions and perspectives because when we say the word peace, the word lives differently in diverse traditions as the sunlight of cultural traditions illuminates the words, practices and intentions, we come to know the richness of diverse ways of doing peace. So far we have explored podcasts of peace from Hindu, Quaker, Shona, Presbyterian, Catholic, Hispanic/Latino and African diaspora cultures and traditions. In this podcast, we dive deep into the heritage of this institution, Elizabethtown college, exploring an Anabaptist heritage of peacemaking. In may of 2020 our first cohort of seven music educators began studying in our new master of music education program, focusing on social emotional learning, world music drumming, and peacebuilding. The word Anabaptist represents a diverse constellation of traditions including Mennonite, brethren, Hutterite and Amish to name a few. The background of our program at Etown is rooted in the rich heritage of Anabaptist traditions of presence, humility, community and pacifism. Our podcast today focuses on diverse insights from Dr. Jeff Bach, Dr. Donald Kraybill, Reverend Pam Reist, and Dr. Drew Hart. No podcasts can represent the full complexity of a tradition with a multitude of different theologies and ways of being. However, we entered this conversation with the first steps of a journey of story, thought and experience. We begin with
Reverend Pam Reist, pastor at Elizabethtown church of the Brethren. So imagining that you're on an airplane and someone asks you about who you are and what you do, and they turn to the question. So what is an Anabaptist? What would be your elevator pitch? How would you respond to that elevator or, well, I guess that's different. So, so what is an Anabaptist, in this short conversation?
That's really interesting because I was not born Anabaptist, which many, many of us are. Um, we chose to become Anabaptist, um, as young adults when we were beginning our family and our children were born because we saw a real, um, practice of radical discipleship among some Anabaptists at, at that time, particularly Mennonites that were in our community that we knew in other ways. Um, but we were really drawn to that thinking, they, their faith makes a difference. And I think we were kind of hungry for that next thing. And we found that in the Mennonite church, um, ironically, many of our generation were exiting the church when we entered because of some strict rules that they would have encountered growing up and wanting to have a little bit more freedom and not be bound by what they experienced as, um, uh, lots of rules and things that they needed to, that they felt like they needed to comply with.
Um, so we were embracing, we were kind of the new folks coming in and embracing what we were learning there Anabaptism. Um, um, let me think of how I would describe that. Um, I think, um, we have found it to be a faithful interpretation of who Jesus was and continues to be and a way of following in Jesus' footsteps. Uh, even today. Um, it's a way of peace, a way of, I mean, the core values that are very much Anabaptist would be core values that are very important to us. Um, inclusive, welcoming, um, peace, service. Um, many of those qualities are, are what we value and, and feel like guide our, uh, journey with Jesus.
So when you say radical discipleship, what makes it radical?
I, yeah, that's a, that's a good question because that word really kind of seemed to fit with discipleship because we really, as we learned to know Jesus, he wasn't we in, in a, uh, Anabaptist setting, he really is and was, um, a radical as opposed to being a gentle, kind. And that was all part of it as well. But there was this radical part that we said, man, yeah, uh, peace and justice matter in this world. And, and we can be part of God's kingdom coming here and now. So it was exciting to, to have a new understanding of who Jesus was and, and continues to be in this world. Um, I think it's embodied most significantly in the sermon on the Mount. And I think, you know, some of those things before we, um, we were able to study them in a new way. Um, we felt like they were things for Jesus, things that he said for the people he was, um, interacting with. But we see them still as qualities and, um, uh, actions that we would want to embody ourselves today.
Dr drew Hart is assistant professor of theology at Messiah college. His interests and areas of expertise include the Anabaptist tradition, black theology and black church studies and issues of white supremacy and colonialism.
It all began on the campus of Messiah college. Um, in fact, I went there as a biblical studies major and, uh, always had at least some idea that my vocation and calling was moving towards ministry in some form. But, uh, when I got there, I got introduced to this word and a baptism and really didn't even know what it was or meant. And no background to that, you know, as far as I was concerned there were anti-baptists, you know, I was like, what's wrong with the Baptists? You know, I don't know. But, um, but slowly and surely engaging with my different professors, you know, I got a sense of the kind of peace tradition, the emphasis on taking Jesus seriously. Um, I think it was clear that those who identified as pacifists within the biblical religious studies department, strong pacifism was there. Um, certainly emphasizing certain social questions. Now it was probably a little bit hard for me to parse out at that time what was Anabaptism, what was just scholarship in general, you know, all that.
It's all mixed, mixed and mashed together. But, um, but that was my introduction. And then when I was, uh, getting ready to graduate from Messiah college, I got a phone call from the senior pastor at Harrisburg brethren in Christ church. Uh, and he wanted to come out and meet me. Um, he was preparing, one of their youth pastors were leaving, uh, and they heard about me. And so my senior year he came out on campus and we had a meal and just conversed. And honestly, what attracted me about the church was not that it was Anabaptist. It was actually, um, just the conversations around race that they were having as a congregation that was built into their vision. And that's something that I was passionate about. And so leaving Messiah college, I wouldn't have identified as Anabaptist, but I did, um, begin wrestling with some of the themes that are really critical to Anabaptism, right.
Wrestling with questions around peace and violence. Um, certainly, um, the idea of following Jesus being more central to Christianity than just, you know, adoring him, right. In some broad sense. And so I went to, there not necessarily identifying as a Baptist, but appreciating the conversations and the questions that it raised for me in my own walk and journey. But I would say while I was there in that community, um, a lot of things began to happen probably quietly. Right. Um, the kind of hospitality that I was, I was a stranger and literally had people put me up in their homes. Um, which I just thought was crazy. Like, why are you got this random black guy in your home for months? Right before I was able to get settled and get situated. And so the kind of hospitality that I received was moving, the emphasis of the church in terms of some of the social concerns that they had.
Um, I just thought it was really beautiful the way that it was kind of being fleshed out in community. Um, and it wasn't a perfect community either. We wrestled and I disagreed with some stuff that was happening there. Um, and so all of that was happening. Uh, but I was only there for about three and a half years, even as youth pastor there, I never identified as Anabaptist, which is interesting. Um, no, I, again, I think I had some inclinations and leanings in that way, but when I left and went back home to begin my MDiv program in Philly, I actually became associate pastor for my home church that I grew up in. And it was actually at that point when I was in seminar, I was reconnecting with friends from my old social networks and that I realized that, you know, these damn Anabaptists did something to me.
Right. Um, and then so I actually, while I wasn't a part of the Anabaptist community and when I first started referring to myself as an Anabaptist, um, and for me, you know, if I were to sum up for me, like the oversimplification definition for me of what that meant was taking Jesus seriously right, then that's usually the language I kind of sum it down to write and how to do that in community with others. Um, and so yeah, that was my journey. That's how I got into the Anabaptist community. And then it was really, while I was in Philadelphia that I started connecting with, um, many more black and Brown Anabaptist leaders, particularly in multi-racial communities, um, that are all throughout Philly. I'll often say Philadelphia is the best place to be Anabaptist in the world. It's just beautiful. There are different kind of Anabaptist expressions that exist in the city. Hmm. Hmm.
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Dr. Don Kraybill is one of the most renowned international scholars on Anabaptist groups, including his extensive experience in scholarship on old order Amish. He is the author of at least 30 books and served as the consultant to PBS for the American experience series on the Amish.
I would say the first thing that my Anabaptist heritage means to me is a strong sense of community. Uh, this was not so much, um, intellectual thing. It was much more, uh, when I grew up, I had this feeling that was in a, uh, special community, special in the sense that it was a countercultural community. It was counter cultural to, um, uh, the surrounding society. I remember one time as a child, I was probably eight or nine years old. Uh, my mother has retold this story a number of times. Uh, we were out driving, uh, one Christmas Eve and saw Christmas lights on many of the houses. Uh, we lived on a farm and we didn't have a Christmas tree and didn't put the lights up outside our house. And I said to my mom, well, why don't we, uh, why don't we have lights like everybody else does? And her answer was, well, we have the light of Jesus in our heart, and because we have the light of Jesus in our heart, we don't need to act like the outside world. Um, we put some candles up in our windows and a few things like that, but, um, it's the living in the light with the light of Jesus in our heart. That is what's important for us.
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This tradition formed its first roots in Europe during the Protestant reformation. Dr Jeff Bach, director of the young center for antibiotic Pietist studies, a passionate historian and an ordained minister within the church of the Brethren explains the roots of Anabaptism. Yes.
Well, a good way to start is to remember that they are not anti-baptists, which some people think when they hear the word Anabaptist. Anabaptist means literally re-baptizer because they believed in adult baptism on the confession of faith. And because at the time they emerged in 1525, uh, everyone practice, all Christians in Western Europe practiced infant baptism. They were accused of baptizing people a second time, which was actually illegal. Uh, the Anabaptists themselves believed that they were receiving their first baptism because it was the one they confessed their own faith for rather than having a sponsor pledge faith on their behalf. Uh, so it was a difference of perspective. Unfortunately, it was a fatal difference of perspective for the Anabaptists because the crime of baptizing a second time or receiving baptism was punishable by death. Uh, in the, uh, church related governments of Western Europe at the time, Anabaptism began among a circle of friends around Huldrych Zwingli who started the reform tradition in Zurich, Switzerland in the years 1522 and 23 they discussed reform principles for the city and wanted to follow the Bible as their guideline.
As they explored reform, the circle of friends became convinced not only that the mass should be rejected, but also infant baptism as they debated with Zwingli, He, uh, supported infant baptism and criticized their call for adult baptism. And finally, in 1525, uh, this group of friends led by people like Conrad Grable, Felix Mans, George Blaurock, uh, felt compelled to practice baptism. And so in January of 1525, the first adult baptisms were practiced. Uh, the movement spread quickly in Switzerland and Southern Germany. Uh, the, at the same time, Anabaptism really emerged as a movement, not as one central religious tradition around one theologian, as was the case with Zwingli and Calvin or Luther. And so Anabaptism also emerged in Northern Germany and Holland, uh, under the leadership of a man named Melchior Hoffman, there were also Anabaptists in Southern Germany. And then another group of Anabaptists emerged in Austria, and eventually it came under the leadership of Jacob Hutter.
And that group became known as the Hutterites because they lived communally. Uh, some of the Anabaptists initially were, uh, quite apocalyptic, expecting Christ to come in judgment. And a few of them thought that the way to hasten his appearance was to take up the sword against the godless, meaning the rich and the powerful. Uh, those Anabaptists were all defeated. And the Anabaptists that survived from that era after the 1530s, were all peace loving Anabaptists. The circle in Zurich was always pacifist. Uh, and in the Northern, uh, Anabaptism there were many, uh, pacifists. There were some apocalyptic Anabaptists as well. Uh, the Austrian Anabaptists who formed the Hutterites were also peaceable Anabaptists. Uh, so that's the beginnings, uh, because of persecution in the 1500s and 1600s, uh, their numbers, which were small to start with dwindled. And where they did survive, it was usually because they lived in remote rural areas where they were tolerated. The Dutch were early to give legal toleration to Anabaptists. And gradually in the 1600s, the Anabaptist there, uh, accommodated to the Dutch culture, which was quite prosperous at the time. Uh, however, this teaching of peace that was a part of their understanding of Jesus' life and his teachings, uh, continued in the Anabaptist groups that survived the reformation era, into the 1600s.
What is the teaching of peace? How does that form,
does emphasis on peace has a couple of different approaches among the Swiss Anabaptists. It's very closely related to Jesus' teaching to love enemies and also not to use the sword, uh, killing and violence, they said was, were outside the perfection of Christ. And so Christians should not do that in the North, uh, in Northern Anabaptism, uh, peace was related to love for enemies, but also to the concept of Jesus as ruler, as the returning King, uh, who commanded his disciples to put away the sword when he was about to be arrested. And so for the Dutch Anabaptists, Northern German, German, Anabaptist, um, the idea of pacifism was related both to Jesus' teaching and then also to his authority and the life of believers that wasn't necessarily different from the Swiss Anabaptist. Just a little bit different emphasis. Uh, interestingly, for the Hutterites, uh, the teachings of peace are very much related to, uh, the same two principles, the teaching of love for enemies, and also Jesus' command to put away the sword. But it's embodied for the Hutterites in living communally. So they, uh, share their economic resources. Uh, they live in shared housing in, in separate units for families within shared housing. And the idea of living peaceably is a part of how they get along with each other as well as how they look toward the outside world.
That's something that we've written a lot about in our program is this ethic of intentional community, ritual comes out of that tradition. Does that authentically come out of the Hutterite tradition or, or many different traditions together? Start thinking about intentional community.
Uh, well, of course the history of it goes back to the Christians in Jerusalem right after Jesus' resurrection, uh, where the church lived communally. There of course there were other congregations in other cities that didn't, but it has a strong presence from the beginning of Christianity and survived in the monastic traditions, uh, in the middle ages. And then at the time of the reformation, there were people who began to explore that concept again. And the Hutterites were the ones who formally and most fully took it up among the Anabaptists. Uh, but that sense that the congregation is a community, a group of believers who share faith but then also share assistance to each other in times of need and when they have enough resources also share with the needs of others outside of the community. And that is a strong, um, a strong ethic in Anabaptism from the beginning.
So, uh, you know, there was this strong sense of community, Dr. Donald Kraybill and then also the strong sense of being part of a counterculture, a counterculture that, um, didn't automatically do everything people around us did in non-Mennonite communities. It was later in my life when I was in college that I had much more of an intellectual engagement, uh, with Anabaptism. Growing up as a child. Um, the focus was on our local church and our local church practices and being part of this community. Um, I knew we were conscientious objectors to war. I knew that we were taught that Jesus taught us, um, to be peacemakers and to be peaceful. And because of that we couldn't engage in war. Um, but I didn't have a historical awareness of Anabaptism. In fact, the word Anabaptism was rarely used. Um, as a child I, the first time I heard it, um, explicitly was at Eastern Mennonite College in my junior and senior year there where we had courses on Anabaptist history and Anabaptist beliefs.
What does that messy term piece actually mean in an Anabaptist context?
Well, I need to answer that question. I need to, um, talk about it historically because until 1950, um, Baptist would all, virtually all of them would have said, we are non resistant and nonresistant that phrase comes from the teachings of Jesus. When Jesus says we shouldn't resist evil. And if someone does something bad to us, we shouldn't retaliate with violence. It, it's not an eye for an eye. But, uh, if we're, if we're hit or someone does harm to us, uh, we respond with love. We don't respond with an equal, um, amount of harm against that person. So that was called non-resistance and that was, uh, not an active kind of peace, it was like, uh, we, we, uh, simply, uh, follow the way of Jesus. Jesus models this, um, nonresistant, um, form of response at his crucifixion, at his, um, suffering.
Um, so Jesus becomes a symbol of non-resistance that began to change, um, in the middle of the 20th century. And it was a shift from non-resistance to peacemaking, which has also, uh, comes out of the Christian tradition in terms of the new Testament that we should be peacemakers. And so pretty much in the last half of the 20th century, the focus was on peace making. Since the 21st century into the 21st century. The focus today is much more on peace building. And that means that peace many times relates to social justice. And if you don't engage in social justice, you can't really, uh, expect to have peace and harmony. That peace making is part of social justice. And so the key word that's been used in the last 20 years has been peace building and um, Mennonites in uh, many parts of the world have been actively involved in peace building, which means that the first step is often social justice to make sure everybody in a conflicted situation is being heard and that um, victims and perpetrators from both sides need to come together and talk with each other and there needs to be some form of social justice before we can really have a sense of peace and harmony.
Reverend Pam Reist spent two months with the Nigerian brethren church. On her recommendation, I present to you an audio clip of the Nigerian women's choir of Kulp Bible college in Nigeria.
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Reverend Pam Reist speaks of her first time experiencing music within the church of the brethren and the interaction of music with sacred community.
We realized that there was a very different way of singing and worship we had been accustomed to a hymnal with an organ accompaniment. That's what we had grown up with. Um, and we came to the Mennonite church where it was still very much four-part singing, which was difficult for us because we had never really learned to sing all that well. Um, and we did learn by being part of the community. And, and not only did we learn, but we, we embraced it. It's a beautiful thing when the voice is the instrument and when a group stands and sings together, you find yourself breathing together. And there's something about community that you do in that four-part singing that can't be done out of a hymnal with an instrument accompaniment. There's just something very beautiful and we have come to appreciate, um, the Mennonite doxology is just a beautiful piece. Some acapella, um, Move in our Midst is kind of the, um, doxology of the church of the brethren. That's one of our foundational hymns. And, and to hear that sung acapella is a different experience than having it sung any other way.
We present an audio excerpt from the Church of the Brethren movie on the hymn "move in our midst."
Speaker 9 (28:54):
Speaker 10 (28:54):
it's been said that to really know that people call brethren, you need to witness a love feast service. You could also say that to know the brethren, you need to listen to the words of their favorite hymn, move in our midst.
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Speaker 10 (29:13):
Move in our midst is the number one him or it's them, the most of our people now. So I was really struck with what a plea. Uh, what a prayer. Uh, this hymn is that asks God to come and move in our midst. But, but we can, as we sing,
we had communion twice a year in the fall and in the spring, dr Donald Kraybill and after you were baptized, I was baptized about 10 years of age. After you were baptized, then you were considered a member of the church. And we had the Sunday before each communion, we had a preparatory service. And for that service we would go out, um, in groups of five or six people, uh, we would go out to a small room and meet with the ministers there. This was like a, an hour long or an hour and a half long experience. And for just three or four minutes there, they would ask us, uh, are we at peace with God? And we would say yes or no. And are we at peace with other members of our congregation? And we would say yes or no. If the answer was no, then, um, they would want to talk with us more privately. And in some cases, if there was, um, ill will or disagreements that were significant in the church, um, at that time in the congregations, we would actually postpone, um, communion because communion wasn't a vertical thing just between, uh, the individual and God, it was a communal thing.
It was a celebration of communal, um, unity. And thus the two questions are you at peace with God? That was half of it. And the other half was, are you at peace with your fellow believers in this congregation? So that was a, um, reminder every fall and every spring that the church was important. Our relationship to members in the church should be harmonious. We should engage in forgiveness and say we were sorry. And try to heal misunderstandings or heal points of conflict.
Intellectually. To me, a sharp distinction about the Anabaptist tradition is the central theological question is this, what does it mean to follow Jesus in daily life? Every faith tradition has a central theological question. And that's the question that's central in the Anabaptist tradition. What does it mean to follow Jesus in daily life? And if you think about that for a moment, it's not a creedal question. It's not a doctrinal question. It's not about Orthodoxy, but it's about Praxis. Praxis, how you practice your faith every day in daily life as a follower of Jesus. And for many of us in the Anabaptist tradition that meant practicing nonviolence, it meant practicing service and it meant practicing, um, peace and community. And this question of practice, how do I follow Jesus in daily life meant that I lived a life of the counterculture of non-conformity to the outside world. A life of nonviolence and a life of service. I would say one of the major shaping practices, uh, for me growing up was service and for my family that represented participation in Mennonite Central Committee, which is based in Lancaster County and was formed, uh, between world war one and world war II to help, um, people in Europe, particularly in Russia after world war one, um, to help them because they were victims of a war and uh, tell them with relief with medical supplies, with food and so on.
Dr Jeff Bach speaks to the heritage of lived and embodied discipleship.
One of the points that a lot of people would raise about a lived theology is Anabaptist commitment to service. And that, uh, is also reflected in the ritual feet. Washing Anabaptists have always been quick to help each other and to help others beyond their own circles too. Um, I think that, uh, for Anabaptists living in discipleship is embodied in actions of service as well as, uh, living practically in a peaceable way, uh, refusing violence, but then also looking for constructive ways to engage together and with the world to practice peace, to witness, to peace, to look for ways, uh, to bring peaceable solutions to problems. Uh, there's a great book from the 1600s, the martyr's mirror that was written to record stories of faithful Anabaptists from the 1500s and 1600s, uh, who suffered and often met death for their faith.
And, uh, one of the classic stories that, uh, Anabaptists like from that book is the story of Dirk Williams, a Dutch Anabaptist who is arrested in 1569. Uh, he was able to escape and, uh, the jailer deputy, uh, followed him and, uh, Derek ran across the frozen pond and then the Anabaptist Hunter, uh, followed him and broke through the ice and Dirk returned to save his life. Uh, Dirk was promptly rearrested and, uh, the sentence of death was carried out on him. But the story of loving your enemies and risking your own life to share that love, uh, is really important to the Anabaptist tradition. There are ways, many ways that's been lived out through history. Uh, an important way that this ethic of love is lived out, uh, occurs today in Northeastern Nigeria, especially in the church of the Brethren there, uh, they have been under severe attack by Boko Haram for many years.
Uh, many churches have been burned over 10,000 members have been killed. And, uh, the Brethren there continue to try to respond peaceably and, uh, not to retaliate. One of their, uh, ways of reaching out is to offer aid, uh, to Muslims to moderate Muslims who have lost relatives or lost property to attacks, from Boko Haram and the brethren, uh, also try to care for Muslims who have been displaced as refugees, uh, alongside with Christians. And in this way, they try to, uh, live out the teachings of peace for, uh, Christians and try to build peace in an atmosphere that's continually charged with violence and the threat of violence. Um, for the brethren, they're building peace with their Muslim neighbors is an important part of way of answering the threat and challenge of Boko Haram's, uh, attacks on Christians and moderate Muslims in that area.
I reflect back to you that like as I sat with true heart, what captivated me so much about his language as he kept returning to this idea of taking Jesus seriously and how that was kind of the root of his, of his movement toward Anabaptist.
And I think when Jesus said, love your enemies, he meant it. I think that's probably where Drew was going with that. The sermon on the Mount is for here and now it's not just like something that was good then, but it's also, you know, it's, I think it guides who we are today and in very significant ways,
a future episode, we'll explore the fullness of dr Hart's scholarship on race, reconciliation, prophetic witness, and hope we turn to an excerpt here to delve into the richness of the language of reconciliation as an expression of solidarity and humanization. So then you talk, talk about solidarity. I think this continues this conversation and you write, Um, solidarity requires that socially advantaged people realize that their life in this racialized society requires them to use their bodies. That goes back to our first conversation as a living sacrifice and joining in the struggle and encountering the presence of Jesus in new and unimagined ways. People will be amazed at how their fractured relationships with God. Others in themselves are reconciled. So we're not only talking about reconciliation as the deconstruction of racism, but we're also talking about it is kind of a hope for the repair of all fractured relationships.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, so it's interesting. So I'll go back to my experience with that first church that I was a youth pastor at and you know, it had a, the language of racial reconciliation was really important to that congregation. Um, but the more I went, the more I struggled with how they talked about reconciliation, um, because it was, it was bringing people together, but it wasn't necessarily participating. I would in my, my understanding of what that might mean, right? Participating in, um, the pursuit of justice and wellbeing for all people together. It was, you could have people who lived on the West shore right across from Harrisburg, which is a historically white area where black people were banned from, right. Um, sending their kids to the schools that have better funding and this and that. And meanwhile, on Sunday morning, they're coming together with folks who are a part of the Harrisburg school district and their kids are experiencing underfunding and all kinds of challenges that are historic and go back decades.
And it seemed like that outer world had nothing to do with reconciliation. But it seems like if there's a way to think about reconciliation in terms of solidarity, right, on the ground, in the struggle together, joints, right, fully human together and that, um, your concerns and my concerns are bound up together and that we're going to collaborate and link arms in that kind of real way. Um, it seems to be a better context for meaningful reconciliation. Um, otherwise reconciliation feels cheap, right? If we play off Dietrich Bonhoeffer, right, cheap reconciliation and costly reconciliation. Right? Um, so like I think about some of the friends that I have now who, you know, some, a leader of a group in Harrisburg called free together and one of the co-leaders is a white woman, a friend of mine, Heather and I think about the collaboration that we do on the work, like our friendship has been built out of co laboring together. Right? Um, and so that seems to be, and it doesn't necessarily have to be that specific context, but, but, but that kind of solidarity, um, in the midst of actually struggling together for, you know, uh, the flourishing of all in our neighborhood, that that is, I think a more meaningful way to think about reconciliation than just let's sing kumbaya or have a potluck together. Yeah.
In a book chapter on Mennonite approaches to peacebuilding, Merry offered that key cultural characteristics of Mennonite peacebuilding include witness presence, vulnerability, humility, discernment, nonviolence, intentional community and non-conformity. Merry writes that "since the community holds greater wisdom than any individual, the process of discernment is a deliberation in which the community seeks a decision on the basis of its collective knowledge." Dr Jeff Bach reflects on the centrality of humility. So one of the themes that I noticed as I read it about brethren and Mennonite traditions, a peacemaking is a notion of presence and humility. Um, tell us about why presence seems to be such a core part of what makes Anabaptist peace work different from other traditions.
I think the reason that presence is such an important and powerful element of peacemaking is the way Anabaptists understand the church. For Anabaptists. The church is voluntary. People confess faith and join it. It's not a group that you are born into. Uh, even if you're raised in an Anabaptist family, at some point you make a confession of faith and receive baptism. Uh, also, uh, different from both Luther and Calvin. Uh, the Anabaptist believe in a visible church. Uh, Calvin and Luther because they depended on Augustin, uh, believe that you can't know who is the church because of the teaching of, um, election. But for the Anabaptist, the church is defined by the confession of faith and, um, members pledge not only to be obedient to the teachings in the new Testament, but also to hold each other accountable for those. And so there's a sense of yielding to one another and to Christ as well.
A famous, uh, word that comes through Anabaptism and actually is rooted in medieval mysticism. And monasticism is the word galasenheidt, which means yielding or surrender to Christ. And it's a kind of yielding to one another. And so the concept of church is that it is the people who share a confession of faith and share the path of discipleship. And so peace then is embodied in that group of people who make and share that commitment and pledge to hold each other accountable for it. So peacemaking isn't a program necessarily to improve the world, although the hope is that living peaceably will make the world a better place, but it's because they're living out the teachings of Jesus, uh, not because they found the right social program to, to advocate. Um, I think some of the Anabaptist practices, uh, reflect that sense of lived presence and, and peace, peacebleness.
Uh, one practice that emerged in some of the Anabaptist circles, not all of them, uh, was the practice of feet washing, uh, related to communion that survives in the church of the brethren and in the Amish and some other Anabaptist groups as well. And, uh, in washing each other's feet, uh, following the teaching of Jesus, uh, they humble themselves before one another and also make themselves vulnerable to receive this act, a symbolic both of cleansing, uh, and a humble service. And so that creates a ritual rhythm that reinforces the sense of lived presence, uh, that's undergirded by a sense of humble yielding to one another. And it's always a mutual giving and receiving of these gifts of relationship.
Another dimension of that, uh, lived presence of peacemaking is that because it's in a visible church that's committed by confession of faith, it's also durable and long lasting. The members pledged to live this out while they're in this world, and it's, um, a teaching of discipleship that they teach actively to new members who join. So the commitment is for this, this, uh, peaceable of living to endure over the length of the community that connects them to the teaching of Jesus when he lived on earth and connects them to a hope for a future fulfillment of a peaceable reign of Christ.
Speaker 9 (47:29):
Speaker 2 (47:30):
with gratitude, we feature the Oasis Chorale singing. We are not alone by Pepper Choplin
Speaker 9 (48:12):
[inaudible] [inaudible], [inaudible] [inaudible].
And I also would underscore the word humility. I mean, that was a central, dr Donald Kraybill a central theme as I was growing up in the community. And it's, it's, it's over against ah hyper individualism where you don't have the, this and, and, and beyond just the individual. But in terms of peacemaking, it would be the central. We don't have all the answers and we can't come into a situation and assume that we know what's best for everybody. And so essentially humility means, if you're working in a conflicted situation trying to engage in peacebuilding, you absolutely have to have a sense of humility where you invite the voices of everyone to speak, that you invite everyone to articulate their concerns and interests. And that sense of humility, uh, builds credibility for you as a, as a peacemaker and a peace builder. And so humility is really very important because Americans historically, um, were want to go about assuming we knew what was best for everybody else.
And if we moved into, I'm saying in a broad sense, but some Mennonites as well. Historically, you know, like, uh, you move into an international situation or even a situation in a subculture in America that, um, the tendency in the past has been to assume, well, we know what's best for you and we can solve this issue. Here's how you do this. X, X, Y, and Z will take care of everything and make everything nice. Well, that simply doesn't work. And so humility, listening to other people, listening carefully and deeply to other people, um, is very important as an integral part of the peace building process.
Speaker 11 (50:56):
Eastern Mennonite, uh, university has this center for peacebuilding. I mean, and they have given that has given a lot of leadership to Mennonite. Um, and to Anabaptist various groups, uh, peacebuilding initiatives around the world. I mean it's, it's a huge, um, it became a major force at the right time and it really helped to inscribe, uh, the word peacebuilding as central to an Anabaptist vision for, uh, dealing with conflict.
The scholar who had roots at Eastern Mennonite university, John Paul Lederach has been a key figure in influencing the thinking of our new masters program. Reverend Pam rice and I reflect on the walk of peace.
Yeah. I reflect on to what I've learned from John Paul letter about, he talks a lot about the importance of witness and the witness kind of works together along with the walking alongside someone and that's also the presence and all that. And just the power of not solving the problem but being with the same time seems to be a very core part of this tradition that's being built.
Well and its very Jesus Like, isn't it? Jesus walked along the way and people walked along with him and that's where they had their conversations. Um, so yeah, it feels very, it feels very much like a Jesus way of doing things. Yeah.
Pam Reist later reflected on the power of music and church within the experience of her family
Our daughters. Our four daughters grew up in the Mennonite church and every Easter we would sing up from the grave. He arose. That was a, just a traditional thing, acapella. It was beautiful. And I remember one of our daughters one year before Easter said, I can't wait for Easter. And we thought, okay, here come the chocolate bunnies and all the stuff that goes with it. And she said, I can't wait to go to church and sing up from the grave. He arose. So
Hmm. So there's something very sacred about that song.
Yeah, yeah. And Very foundational for her, for her experience of church and of Christianity really. So anyhow, every year we sing that, we always make eye contact of where the same lift, where the same sanctuary, um, is just kind of a, it was a formational piece for us. Hmm.
I feel like the first time that I experienced the magic of voices without accompaniment, it was when I went to Mennonite church and getting to hear the Karen language side by side with English is one of the most gorgeous things that I've heard. Oh, that's wonderful in this area. Yeah. Yeah.
Speaker 12 (54:00):
Speaker 8 (54:03):
as an outsider-insider who has come to love Anabaptist perspectives late in life, I am grateful for the lived experience of peace walked humbly. This notion of humility has been foundational in helping me to a re-imagine peace not as geopolitical grandeur but as the moment to moment, person to person daily walk together in love. Special thanks to Reverend Pam Reist, Dr Donald Kraybill, Dr Jeff Bach and Dr Drew Hart for their time and thoughtfulness. A depth of gratitude is extended to the Oasis Chorale and Pepper Chopin for the use of their recording. The Oasis corral can be found at oasischorale.org thanks are also extended to the church of the brethren for permission to use recordings. And we leave with a blessing by sopasol at sopassol.com of Francis Miller and Daryl Snyder from an album exploring grief, trauma, resilience, and restoration through music. This is the music and peacebuilding podcast hosted by Kevin Shorner-Johnson at Elizabethtown college we host a master of music education with an emphasis in peacebuilding thinking deeply. We reclaim space for connection and care. Join us at musicpeacebuilding.com
Speaker 11 (55:36):
Speaker 12 (55:40):
Speaker 8 (55:48):
Speaker 12 (56:23):
Speaker 13 (56:25):
[inaudible] may you be?
Speaker 12 (56:31):
Well, my friends
Speaker 13 (56:36):