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I Don’t Want to Be a Mennonite

It happened again the other day.  That predictable conversation that begins with, “So what do you do?”, traverses through the awkward terrain where it is discovered that I belong to that most bizarre and incomprehensible of categories—“pastor”—thus placing myself outside the boundaries of ordinary humanity, and ends, inevitably, with a tortured query about what kind of creature, exactly, a Mennonite might be.  I can almost write the script by now: “You’re a what?”  “Why would you want to do that?”  “Don’t Mennonites drive horses and buggies and wear only black?”  “How many kinds of Mennonites are there?”  “You’re a what?! Add a few variations here and there, for colour and variety.  Rinse and repeat.

So, I started to write a post about my discomfort with names and labels and the ways in which they limit and restrict conversations… about how I don’t like labels like “Mennonite” very much, even though I am grateful to and for those who have gone before me, even though I know that there is no such things as an un-traditioned worldview, no such thing as a way of understanding oneself and living in the world that does not lean heavily, whether acknowledged or not, upon the intellectual, ideological and historical capital of the past.  But then I realized that I wrote that post five and a half years ago.  So I stopped.

As I reread my previous post and as I reflected upon the tired old conversation rehearsed above, it occurred to me that there’s another reason that I often don’t want to be known as a Mennonite.  It’s not just my discomfort with the limiting nature of labels, not just the fact that I don’t particularly enjoy being associated with certain expressions of Mennonite-ness (past or present), not just the pragmatic reality that the word “Mennonite” can often serve as a barrier for postmodern folks who have little time for arcane historical and theological distinctions, not just that denominational differences can seem increasingly irrelevant in an era of dwindling church attendance and religious commitment.  Each of these concerns resonates with me personally, to varying degrees, but there’s something else, too.

While I admire Menno Simons greatly, and while I think that his historical legacy is important, and while I am grateful for the many women and men who were emboldened to courageously follow Jesus through this man’s teachings,  I simply don’t like the idea of so rigidly identifying myself with his name.

I don’t like the idea of calling myself a Menno-nite any more than I would like the idea of calling myself a Rick Warren-ite or a N.T. Wright-ite or a John Piper-ite or a Miroslav Volf-ite or an anyone-ite (although, admittedly, some of the above options are immensely more attractive than others!).  I am a human being.  I am a follower of Jesus.  I am a husband, a father, a brother, a son, a friend, a neighbour, and a whole host of other things.  But a Mennonite?  Why should I name myself after some guy who lived half a millennia ago, who was a flawed human being, just like everyone else?

Martin Luther, John Calvin, Menno Simons, John Wesley, Jan Hus, Augustine of Hippo… the list could go on and on.  And on.  All of these people played an important role of the story of God once upon a time.  All are worthy of the honour we accord them.  But I suspect that none of them would have been comfortable having a movement named after them.  I suspect the idea that words like “Lutheran,” “Calvinist,” and “Mennonite” being affixed to entire churches and denominations would have been abhorrent to Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Menno Simons.  And whatever these dear gentlemen might have thought of the idea, I think it is abhorrent that these words, these names have been used (and continue to be used) to spawn all manner of tribalistic nonsense that, aside from just being stupid and immoral, is profoundly damaging to the mission of the church.

I could be making too much of this.  But I doubt it :).

I think of Paul’s exasperated exhortations to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)—Stop saying, “I follow Paul” or “I belong to Apollos” or “I’m with Cephas.”  You’re all in Christ!!  Stop it with the stupid games and allegiances built upon the fragile castles of human personality, leadership style, theology, etc.

Or, more importantly, I think of Jesus words in Matthew 23:8-12:

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven.  Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah.  The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

As I read this passage, I think Jesus is going beyond simply putting the scribes and Pharisees in their place.  He is making a profound point about the nature of human allegiance and our temptation to render inappropriate honour in inappropriate ways.  His rebuke is for all of us.  You are all students and you have one instructor.  Stop elevating yourselves, stop climbing all over each other to make sure that the right people are elevated in the right ways with the right names.  Stop implying that some people matter more than others because of what or how they think or do. Just stop. That isn’t how things work in this kingdom.  In this kingdom, things have an upside down look and feel.  We don’t honour people in the same ways and for the same reasons here.  You have one Father, one teacher, one Messiah in this kingdom.  So stop.

I get it that we all come from somewhere.  I get it that none of us comes to Jesus in a vacuum.  I get it that there is richness and diversity in the Christian tradition, and that it’s important to be honest and open about the “lenses” through which we interpret and live out faith in Jesus.  I get it that there are some distinctions that really do matter, and that we have to use imperfect tools and terms to convey this because imperfect tools and terms are all we have.  I get it that these names undoubtedly have too much historical and institutional weight by now to simply jettison because some guy with a blog is tired of explaining what a Mennonite is.  I get all of this.

And maybe it’s just because I’m so tired of the “you’re a what?!” conversation…

And it’s not as if I’m going to be crossing off the word on our church sign or anything…

And don’t worry, I promise I won’t fly into a rage the next time someone refers to me as a Mennonite… At least I’ll try not to…

But I don’t want to be a Mennonite.  I don’t want to be an anyone-ite.  I don’t think that’s how we (should) do things in this kingdom.

35 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tanya #

    Amen. Amen. Amen.
    Drives me nuts. I AM a follower of Jesus and have a faith that is central to my life and I have had the privilege of of attending many churches. But, I AM not Catholic, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Evangelical, etc. I have been attending an Evangelical Free church for many years where I have grown in many ways, so I guess you can put me in whatever box you decide. But I am Tanya Plato-Duerksen and that comes with a whole shwack (my own word) of things that will take awhile to define. Thank you very much. 😀

    Getting off my soap box now.

    P.S. I realize that “box” would be even more confining when your pastor. Sorry about that.

    December 4, 2013
    • That soap box looks good on you, Tanya :).

      December 4, 2013
  2. renita #

    Maybe instead of getting all whiny and defensive about having to explain, for the 25th time, that you don’t drive a buggy to work… maybe you could realize that you are helping broaden people’s definitions and world views by being both Who You Are and also a Mennonite.

    As a Menno PK I have encountered similar ideas of what baggage I should be carrying, but guess what? People quickly realize I am myself and not the box they would’ve put me in. And now my in-laws, for instance, can tell people “oh, my daughter-in-law grew up Mennonite and she’s just like anyone else…”

    PS Some of us like the identity the term confers, while choosing to define it for ourselves. Don’t discount that.

    December 4, 2013
    • Whiny and defensive, eh? Well, I guess that’s one way of interpreting it.

      Of course I realize that these sorts of conversations present opportunities as well as challenges. I think I made enough references in the post to the gratitude and respect that I have for the ways in which the Mennonite tradition has nourished and shaped me. I am not trying to discount anyone else’s experience or to to tell anyone how to live with the word. This is a personal reflection. Nothing more.

      (Any thoughts about the main point of the post? Say, paragraphs 4-8?)

      December 4, 2013
      • renita #

        What, you want me to have substantive thoughts in addition to my knee-jerk reaction to your knee-jerk reaction? ::grin::

        I do understand your larger point — that we should be following God and not men, right? That Menno Simons might not have been comfortable with the label affixed to the denomination that followed from his teachings?

        Sure, sure, I get it.

        But here’s my point: it seems like a pointless thing to complain about. Either you recognize that the name of the man is somewhat meaningless at this point, after centuries of changes and evolutions and iterations, and embrace the parts that you do appreciate — or you find a new denomination to align yourself with. Or go “non-denominational”. Because nobody’s forcing you to call yourself a Mennonite. Either it’s the best place for you and you live with the name, you redefine that name for yourself, or you move along. The title of the post is “I don’t want to be a Mennonite” and the obvious answer is “so… don’t be.”

        (You don’t know me, obviously, but I am a critical thinker and analytical person — it’s certainly nothing against you. This is just the way I am.:))

        December 5, 2013
      • Re:

        I do understand your larger point — that we should be following God and not men, right? That Menno Simons might not have been comfortable with the label affixed to the denomination that followed from his teachings?

        No, I think I would want to modify this just a bit. We can’t help but follow human beings as they follow God. That’s the way things work. My concern is with the naming. To call oneself an anyone-ite is to designate something as primary which should be absolutely, resolutely secondary (at best). Of course, I realize that there is probably no getting away from this. We are always bumping up against the limits of language and the mixed legacies of history. I suppose I am just making the unremarkable point that if anyone were to have good reasons for not elevating human beings to the lofty heights of naming movements after them, it would be the church of Jesus Christ.

        Re: nobody’s forcing me to call myself a Mennonite. Yes, I realize that. The title of the post, unsurprisingly, was meant to be a mildly provocative way of expressing, again, the unremarkable point that we shouldn’t be naming ourselves after human beings. It was also, perhaps, a gentle reminder to myself (and others) to hold these names we attach to ourselves loosely. It was a personal reflection upon a common experience I’ve had, and not much more.

        I absolutely agree with you that we either make the best of our inherited nomenclature or move on to something else. I guess I just figure that part of making the best of it is understanding and acknowledging how unimportant (and possibly even problematic) the names we (sometimes) cherish really are.

        December 5, 2013
      • renita #

        The older I get (not that I am “wise” by any stretch) the more I realize most of daily life is problematic.

        But I would rather not spend my day working myself into a tizzy about it, so I shrug and go on trying to be the best person I can be. Heathen Mennonite that I am. 😉

        December 5, 2013
  3. Ryan #

    We could spare a spot in the baptist circles for ya. You’re baptised right? Yea. Ok. You’re in. 😉

    December 4, 2013
    • Ryan #

      In all seriousness, I have a harder time with the “pastor” label then the “Mennonite” one (I’m accredited with MB just currently attending a baptist church). Mennonite lends itself to all kinds of interesting discussions. Why dont I drive a buggy? What? That’s in the bible? Cool. 🙂 …. Buy “pastor” .. Oh. Im a religious brainwashet and all kinds of other offensive assumptions… Anyways. Right on. Great thoughts!

      December 4, 2013
      • Thanks, Ryan. I’m sure I’d find something to complain about under the Baptist tent as well :).

        Like you, the “pastor” label is often more of a barrier than the “Mennonite label.” The problem is, they seem to inevitably come together. So I find myself untangling assumptions and misconceptions on two fronts, often in the same conversation. I assume the same is true for you.

        Ironically, I obviously find the “Mennonite” designation more theologically suspect than “pastor” but I find it more enjoyable to deal with in actual conversation. As you say, it can lead into some interesting territory. The discovery that I am a “pastor” often just leads to blank stares and dead ends.

        December 4, 2013
  4. mike #

    It’s curious to note that as part of their belief’s, most of the old school Amish,Mennonite’s and Quaker’s take great pains to “not draw attention to themselves”, while in fact they do draw all manor of attention to themselves wherever they go by their tell-tell beards and manner of dress…But then,.I could say the same about some hard core Baptist’s ,Pentecostal’s and even Catholic’s who have their own peculiarism’s as well. ….I’m just sayin..

    December 4, 2013
    • mike #

      I think that wherever you find organized religion being acted-out, you will of necessity also find all manner of so called “Traditions” and customs being upheld and encouraged. This, I think, is the glaring difference between Religion versus authentic Spirituality. The Christ addresses this issue by referring to it as attending to the outside of the cup.. while leaving the inside undone.

      December 5, 2013
    • Yes, the ironies abound don’t they, Mike?

      Re: religion vs. spirituality, I would be hesitant to make the distinction in that way, even if I would largely agree with your assessment of Christ’s approach. I think there is much spiritual vitality within the confines of “religion” and a lot of pretty vacuous spirituality that defines itself largely by what it is not (i.e., religion). I think Jesus issues a challenge to both rigid and ossified religion and reactionary spirituality that seeks to detach itself from the messy confines of institutions and the flesh and blood of history.

      December 5, 2013
  5. Larry S #

    “But I don’t want to be a Mennonite. I don’t want to be an anyone-ite. I don’t think that’s how we (should) do things in this kingdom.”

    Well, Ryan, we all have to be something .. Might as well make the most of it. (And I don’t think you were being all whiny …. Well maybe just a bit).

    Posting about Abel’s and such brought to mind something a friend of mine the you and I both know and love said many years ago that by a freak of memory somehow stuck JT). “I keep people in a box till they give me some reason to let them out.” We all have labels to wear. I just wish that my personality was more peacefully Mennonite-like cause most folk wouldn’t confuse me with a pacifist.

    December 4, 2013
    • Yes, we all have labels to wear, Larry. No getting around that. Far better to make the most of the labels we inherit than to moan about their provenance. The latter is just so much easier… and more fun :).

      Love the quote. And I think my Mennonite box is just big enough to accommodate those (like you and me and, well, pretty much every other Mennonite I know) who struggle with peace :).

      December 5, 2013
  6. April #

    Perhaps, we worry that while we are busy explaining what something is, the history etc, they may forget about who we are and what we stand for; that it may somehow get lost underneath and in-between it all. The history and tradition of that identity being so large that it somehow consumes us, our individuality and renders us irrelevant and inconsequential in the scope of things.

    Boxes and labels can put lines between people when really we all have a lot in common that we can start with and work from.

    I think everyone has something to learn and everyone has something they can teach. I think it’s important to set a good example, but no one needs a label in order to do that!

    I appreciate humility but I think it is also perfectly ok to make the announcement that you’ve dedicated your life to what you believe in first and foremost. When someone says they are a Pastor; that’s what I hear. I don’t hear that they think they are better than me or somehow more righteous. I hear that if I ever have questions, or need help with my faith they’ll be there to try to help. It gives me comfort that there are people who have given that level of dedication and it gives me courage to try harder myself. I guess “Pastor” is a label but it is up to you to define how you want people to perceive it. IMO you do just fine, I find you very approachable and don’t feel intimidated at all…which is how I would imagine a Pastor should be in order to be able to carry out His work.

    December 5, 2013
    • Thank you, April. I appreciate your last paragraph.

      And I think there is much wisdom in your words above—particularly regarding our sense that we might get lost or rendered irrelevant or under-nuanced within/underneath all of our labels.

      Thanks for writing.

      December 5, 2013
  7. Rebecca Dyck #

    I take it with a grain of salt. My friends kid me about being Mennonite and I’m okay with that because the friends I have made since I moved here are a diverse group. When they ask me if I’m jumping in my buggy and driving back to my colony I tell them yes I am–I take that as jumping in my pick-up and driving home to my family. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of judging and labelling others and I have to remind myself that we’re all God’s creations. As Red Green used to say “We’re all in this together”
    Great post….got me thinking

    December 7, 2013
    • Red Green! Beautiful.

      Thanks, Rebecca.

      December 7, 2013
  8. Brian D. Stucky #

    Ryan:
    In reading your blog in the Mennonite World Review, “I don’t want to be a Mennonite,” my first knee-jerk reaction is, “OK, then don’t. Fine. Go. Get out of here and leave us Mennonites alone.”
    But then I read it to the end, and was impressed by some points. One is the I Cor. verse of Paul/Apollos/Cephas—you’re all in Christ. Yes, you made a good point.
    The final verse about “Stop elevating yourselves. Stop implying some people matter more than others…..” OK, but I think you are really missing the boat a little here.
    What you are really dealing with are a couple of issues. 1) Your weariness in being confused with Amish. 2) Identity, and 3) Faith stories.
    1) On your weariness of being confused with Amish: I don’t give a hoot. Too bad. That’s happened about a million times. The fact that you are tired about it is of no concern to the wider church. What you should do is not bear the burden of feeling like you have to explain everything. You should throw it back onto the non-Mennonite who is confused. Tell them, “What? You don’t know the difference between Amish and modern Mennonites? Where have you been? Let me help you.”
    As a teacher, we go to classes and workshops to renew teacher’s licenses. One parenting workshop I went to saved me more energy than anything. When you have whining kids coming you, begging you to solve their problem, turn it around and say, “How are you going to solve YOUR problem?” Instead of you expending tons of energy of solving everyone’s problems, you let the student carry that burden. You’re there to help, but it’s not your problem.
    2) Identity. This is a much, much bigger issue than you know. What makes me blow a fuse is when churches take the name Mennonite off the church sign, and don’t want to be affiliated with the name, because they mistakenly think that it’s a hindrance to evangelism. They quote anecdotal stories about confusion with Amish like above, and mourn that people won’t come to church because of the Mennonite name. This is false, and I will prove it.
    Being from Canada, you should know the name Cal Redekop. Back in the 90’s he wrote the book, “Leaving Anabaptism” which you should read for other reasons than I will quote here. He is the only one (that I know) who has academically studied the phenomenon of churches removing the Mennonite name. In Canada and northeastern U.S., there was an Evangelical conference of Mennonites. They thought that the name was a hindrance to evangelism, so they changed it to FEBC, ”Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches.” What happened? Over the next 11 years, their total membership plunged. So, it’s not the name that’s the hindrance. This is what happens when churches sit around, trying to wonder why their membership is dropping, and without much research, say, “well, it must be that.” What they don’t know is, that to bring attendance up, is not a super preacher, or some zippy praise band, but church members inviting others to come. Simple as that. So, academic research has proven that it’s not the name Mennonite keeping people away.
    As far as identifying with any human, Rick Warren or otherwise, sure, they’re all human and flawed. Sure Menno is 500 years ago. But Jesus was 2,000 years ago, from a middle eastern culture that has nothing to do with North American culture today. And, in general North American conversations, to call yourself a Christian is what chases people away, because they see hard-core conservatives being critical and wanting to send people to hell, while being hypocritical. So, to use the name “Christian” is in many ways, will scare people away even more than the name Mennonite. Even the name Anabaptist is confusing and you have to explain the whole history.
    “Christ-follower” is maybe more accurate than anything. And you can explain in 5 seconds that your faith is centered on the life and teachings of Jesus, which you take seriously. If they have questions, you can go into more distinctions.
    3) Faith stories. The people that make me saddened and angry, are those who leave the Mennonite church because of what they think are greener pastures—listening to someone on the radio, or some praise band, or more theatrical and entertaining, all while not knowing or valuing the Great Faith Stories of the Mennonites. And those are stories of 1) The Martyrs, 2) Migrations, and 3) Experiences during wars. When people leave the Mennonite church, they throw these three great faith stories out the window. They don’t know their own history, so they don’t know to value it. They think they are inventing the wheel to go to a new jazzy church, and they don’t know the faith heritage and the theology they are leaving. That’s what makes me sad and angry.
    Why Menno Simons is important is that he shaped and articulated the faith in ways others did not before or after him. And besides, we didn’t call ourselves Mennonites anyway. Only the enemies of them called the followers “Mennists” as a derogatory name. Over time, the name stuck.
    So, in my experience, it’s only a short step from those who want to drop the name Mennonite to dropping the faith and theology. If you can come up with a way to have a more accurate name while keeping the faith and theology, I want to know about it.
    You know what scares me even more than this? That is that the young adults are leaving the church in droves. A Hesston College professor told that of his 9 nieces and nephews, only 2 have anything to do with the church today. And that, he says, is typical. That scares me.
    But just to knock the name Mennonite is something I have no time for. I left a Sunday school class because people from within the church began to attack Mennonite values. I told our pastors, “If you can’t be Mennonite in a Mennonite church, then where CAN you be a Mennonite?”
    Brian D. Stucky
    Goessel, KS

    December 23, 2013
    • Thank you for taking the time to write, Brian.

      I probably won’t be able to address everything you have said here, but I will do my best to respond.

      The overarching thing I would want to say is simply that my post was a personal reflection based on a frequent experience, not some kind of sweeping manifesto or call-to-arms (pun intended) to abandon the name “Mennonite” in churches across the land. I think I was reasonably clear in the article that I am not seeking to change the name of my church (or anyone else’s) or calling for a rejection of Mennonite history or theology. Far from it.

      Re: your three points.

      1) First, I wasn’t looking for sympathy. As far as burdens go, being confused with Amish and other Mennonites is a rather meagre one to bear ☺. I couldn’t agree more with the challenge to use these moments as teaching moments or opportunities for dialogue. In my view, part of this historical/theological dialogue is probing the attachment we have to our names and not being afraid to poke at a few sacred cows.

      2) I am not under the illusion that dropping the name “Mennonite” (or any other name) from our church signs will result in a flood of grateful postmodern exiles coming through our doors. I know very well of the stories you recount of churches dropping their name only to see attendance continue to dwindle. I am also familiar with (and have personal experience with) other stories, as well—stories where the absence of the word “Mennonite” (or “Christian Reformed” or “Baptist” or anything else) was an important factor in someone deciding to come to church. Both stories are out there, even if the latter are perhaps more rare.

      3) The only thing I would say to this point is simply the reminder that I made the point on more than one occasion in the article itself (and in a few comments below), I am grateful for my Mennonite heritage and the many ways it has shaped my view of the world and my manner of living in it. I am not embarrassed of my history and I am not looking for some “jazzed-up” generic church (as if there could be such a thing) experience. I serve at a fairly traditional Mennonite church and am glad to do so. I am certainly not seeking to pander to the masses seeking church-lite here. The motivation for the post was theological, not pragmatic. I care very little for what “sells” in a consumeristic, individualistic, easily distracted age.

      My main point was simply to reflect upon our theology of identity. As I said in the post, I think we have very good theological reasons to be self-critical when it comes to how we self-identify. I am not a follower of Menno Simons. I am a follower of Jesus.

      I will conclude by simply repeating what I said in the exchange I had with Renita above:

      To call oneself an anyone-ite is to designate something as primary which should be absolutely, resolutely secondary (at best). Of course, I realize that there is probably no getting away from this. We are always bumping up against the limits of language and the mixed legacies of history. I suppose I am just making the unremarkable point that if anyone were to have good reasons for not elevating human beings to the lofty heights of naming movements after them, it would be the church of Jesus Christ.

      Re: nobody’s forcing me to call myself a Mennonite. Yes, I realize that. The title of the post, unsurprisingly, was meant to be a mildly provocative way of expressing, again, the unremarkable point that we shouldn’t be naming ourselves after human beings. It was also, perhaps, a gentle reminder to myself (and others) to hold these names we attach to ourselves loosely. It was a personal reflection upon a common experience I’ve had, and not much more.

      I absolutely agree with you that we either make the best of our inherited nomenclature or move on to something else. I guess I just figure that part of making the best of it is understanding and acknowledging how unimportant (and possibly even problematic) the names we (sometimes) cherish really are.

      December 24, 2013
  9. John Robert Novak #

    Well Ryan the anabaptist tradition is a rigid system the few Mennonites I have encountered are very pompous and smug that they are the only real Christians and everyone else are second class and somehow the Mennonite church somehow. Existed from the very beginning
    Also the book of concord points out the heretical teaching within the anabaptist tradition which Amish Mennonites brethren the Hutterites all come out of those tradition
    As a lutheran I do not. Consider the lutheran church above anyone else church I do however say if a church does not hold to the fundamental. Christian truths the trinity the death and resurrection of Jesus the deity of Jesus and salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone and not by works can disqualify a church from being considered in the pale of Christianity

    June 21, 2017
    • With respect, it sounds like you need to broaden your circle of Mennonite acquaintances. And read a bit more theology (Mennonites happen to believe in all of those basic Christian doctrines).

      June 21, 2017
      • Kevin K #

        I’m glad my Lutheran friends don’t take this particular part of the book of concord literally “…establish good and godly minds against the godless and fanatical opinions of the Anabaptists.”

        http://bookofconcord.org/defense_7_baptism.php

        Mind you… there are a few fanatical Anabaptist opinions that raise their ugly head around these parts from time to time 😉

        June 22, 2017
      • Kevin K #

        This is fantastic fodder for conversation at my next ministerial meeting (our community has a significant Lutheran population, and to be honest the Lutheran ministers are the among the more friendly pastors in town). Thanks!

        June 22, 2017
  10. Paul Johnston #

    Wise words here also, Ryan, though perhaps it would help to frame the argument in a positive rather than in a negative light. Describing who we are, before describing who we are not. Nouns before adjectives, so to speak.

    Jeremiah 1 tells us who we are. Known to God, formed in the womb and consecrated…made holy…the fullness of our identity is created and known by God. Only through personal relationship with God, mediated through Jesus and Holy Spirit can we know the fullness of ourselves; our true identity.

    This pursuit may take a lifetime and beyond to discover but knowing that it is the only path to the truth about ourselves and all things, it should give us courage and a joyful sense of willingness to pick up, “that cross”. 🙂

    The first joyful understanding of this pursuit is the understanding that we are all in it together. We are all brothers and sisters, in Christ. All known. All formed in the womb. All consecrated.

    Whatever other descriptive we would attach to ourselves, the adjectives so to speak…whether it be male or female, gentile or jew, catholic or mennonite, they are only true adjectives if they are reconcilable with the persons we already have been created to be. Revealed to us through relationship with the Most Holy Trinity, maintaining us as holy and affirming the holiness of every one of our brothers and sisters.

    A lifetime and beyond, almost certainly 🙂 but it feels great to be on a true path. And I for one have more energy and abounding joy for this “true” work, then I have ever had at any time in my
    life. 🙂 regarding the work involved in my own creation, apart from God, of my other “identities”.

    June 22, 2017
    • Well said, Paul. I would simply say, in my meagre defense, that I wasn’t so much making an “argument” as much as reflecting upon an experience (or set of experiences). That’s why I framed this piece the way that I did.

      June 22, 2017
      • Paul Johnston #

        Ha, ha, it’s well documented that I have viewed your, “defenses” somewhat differently then you have over the years but one thing is for certain in my mind, they are anything but meagre!

        It is certainly true what you say here but observations often speak to advocacy and advocacy
        often invites debate… at least in the world as it’s experienced between my ears…and so it goes…. 🙂

        I do think that the church is drowning in a myriad of identities. Some of them false, most of them unnecessary.

        My sense of the Spirit is that a time of winnowing is at hand. Certainly for me, perhaps for the whole church as well.

        I’ve always been something of a universalist with regard to eschatology and certainly my belief that God desires all to return back to Him, has never wavered but as God deepens His relationship with me, through the Spirit I am being profoundly moved by the understanding that perfect mercy is only fully realized through perfect justice and perfect justice is only realized through perfect mercy.

        I am simultaneously elated with each and every day of my life, the joys of living, the joys of giving, the joys of receiving, while at the same time dumbstruck by the holiness of God, the seriousness of salvation and the fact that a righteous understanding and living out the “fear of God” is my only option.

        I am thankful as a catholic that I have a doctrine of purgatory to believe in for the expiation of sin. I now better understanding those harsh voices within the church who rant against sin. Those voices I once rejected are not to be ignored. Sin is real and we must share in the atonement to the extent we have sinned, so as to be made perfect. To think otherwise leads to eternal separation from God.

        June 23, 2017
      • I largely agree with your assessment of a church drowning in unnecessary and sometimes false identities. I think that this is perhaps among the biggest challenge the church faces in the 21st century west—proclaiming a coherent faith that retains the scandalous particularity of the gospel in the context of pluralism. I think that our obsession with the myriad identities that are presented to us is rapidly become a form of idolatry. Perhaps it’s just a new version of an old sin. Since Genesis 3, we have always been choosing self over God. Nothing new under the sun…

        June 23, 2017
  11. Paul Johnston #

    Pluralists and consumers, this is what we have become. Consumerism, the means by which we live and pluralism the necessary ethos by which consumerism shall be fully realized. The ideas and actions of, “Mamnon”…whom we cannot serve.

    The church is not converting this worldliness. This worldliness is converting the church. The only right spiritual response is found in Matthew 10. The’ “house” of culture that we live in is not worthy and those with, “eyes to see and ears to hear” know it.

    I believe we are in a, “Gethsemane time”. A time for serious prayer and utter dependence on the Holy Spirit. The time of western fictions masquerading as truth is over. The time of self interest wickedly disguising itself as the interests of others, as love, is about to be confronted. God will be defied no longer.

    Something wicked this way comes. A crucifixion moment that is perhaps long over due in the west. I believe with all my being that the calamities are unavoidable. I believe the choice will simply be between remaining faithful, until the end if necessary, or in fear and faithlessness, choosing a life that leads to death.

    Until such time, should I live to see it, I choose to remain in the company of the Lord. Joyful and engaged with the gifts of life, people and experiences He lovingly shares with me. I will remain in each moment with all my strength, loving and serving the Lord, my family and my neighbour. I will pray for humility and a repentant heart when I do not.

    I know it sounds like an absurd, almost schizophrenic dichotomy and then I think of how I understand the life of Christ to have been. To me, it seems to have been something like I have just described.

    And that belief makes me smile, gives me hope.

    If it was good enough for Jesus, it ought to be good enough for me. 🙂

    June 24, 2017
    • I choose to remain in the company of the Lord. Joyful and engaged with the gifts of life, people and experiences He lovingly shares with me. I will remain in each moment with all my strength, loving and serving the Lord, my family and my neighbour. I will pray for humility and a repentant heart when I do not.

      This doesn’t sound absurd or schizophrenic at all, Paul. It sounds like what each one of us should aspire to, however we assess the times we are in.

      June 25, 2017
      • Paul Johnston #

        Thanks for the encouragement, Ryan it is greatly appreciated. Sometimes my fears and pessimism undermine my joy and wonder for the life God has given us.

        June 26, 2017

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