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Archive for November, 2009

Believe it or not but Mennonites are….wait for it….actually….get ready……leading the way and boldly innovative.

For a bunch of people who have historically simply kept to themselves and haven’t really worried about engaging the hot topics of the day, when it comes to health care, Mennonites are actually leading by example.  I’ve recently come across two concrete examples of this.

Example 1 – The Corinthian Plan

As a pastor in the Mennonite church who has had conference provided health insurance, I can vouch for the fact that it has not been exactly stellar in the past.  Part of this is due to the fact that the job of “Pastor” is a sedentary, high stress job that has a quickly aging population.  Translation: we’re old, fat and have high blood pressure.  Not exactly an easy group to insure.

With the new plan, there isn’t necessarily a profound change in the kind of coverage that the insured pastors are getting.  What is profoundly new and important is that within the insurance dues is contained a plan for extending coverage to pastors who are working in low income churches.  The Mennonite church actually does have a lot of churches that are growing and who are in need of good pastoral leadership but whose members are simply not in financial situations to provide for the high costs of health care for their pastor.  The goal of the Corinthian Plan is to close this gap and make it possible for pastors to take those jobs.

And we’re getting some larger attention.  Christian Century even wrote a story on us.  Click Here for the story.

Example 2 – Maple City Health Clinic

As someone on the Blog Young Anabaptist Radicals, wrote, ” The award for Anabaptist Health Clinic of the year goes to them.”  Maple City Health Clinic is a community clinic in Goshen, In. that has been intentional about meeting the needs of it’s relatively low income and highly hispanic neighborhood.  They’ve done all kinds of innovative things for years, like having community members on the board and conducting all business and meetings in both English and Spanish.  They’ve also worked to lower the massive income gap between doctors and employees in some astounding ways.

But here’s the real kicker.  They have a sliding scale of billing for their patients.  The base is something like $10 for an office visit.  In the tanking economy, it appears that many people can’t even come up with that.  So they set up a plan where their patients can get $10 toward medical care at the clinic for every hour that they volunteer at another non-profit agency in the area.  How’s that for innovative!

Again, they got national attention.  Check out the NPR story here.

Moral of the story

When many people here these kinds of stories there is a temptation that many of us have.  It’s really easy to sit back and think, “hey, they’re Mennonite, I’m Mennonite, we did something really cool.  Now I can feel better about not doing anything where I’m living.”  It’s easy to take the credit for what MCUSA or Maple City Health Clinic are doing, as if we were somehow involved.

Yes it is good to be happy that other people who we’re affiliated with are doing cutting edge things.  The ultimate reaction that we need to have is not satisfaction but rather inspiration.  As Christians, we’re supposed to be able to use our imaginations to envision new ways for God’s kingdom of wholeness and reconciliation to happen.  My hope is that these stories provide concrete examples of where that vision has come to bear fruit.

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When I was still in college I heard something that was kind of amazing to me.  Two people, one advocating peace and one advocating war, said the exact same thing.

One of my Religion professors, Duane Friesen, had was talking about the potential involvement of the U.S. in military action in Afghanistan.  This was in early 2002 and we had not yet begun either the war with Iraq or Afghanistan.  He argued that the basic response of the U.S. to Al-Queida should not be one of war but of police action.  The reason was because there are restraints within the concept of policing that ultimately lead to the perpetrators being brought to trial and ultimately justice.  The framework of war, however, is about obliteration and destruction and would allow us to do horrible things to other people.

Then I caught a very pro-military, pro-war advocate on TV.  He said the exact same thing that Duane did.  The framework of policing held within it restraints that the framework of war did not.  The difference was that he was using this to say that we needed to see this as a war because the enemy was so horrible that we needed to obliterate them and destroy them at all costs.

So how’d that work out for us.

Eight years later we’re still fighting two wars, one of which was unnecessary.

In the name of war and retribution the U.S. has illegally picked up people who they saw as a “threat” and shipped them off to secret torture facilities in a whole host of unnamed countries.

Not to mention the abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gahrib.

Racial and religious discrimination has spiked against not only Arabs and Muslims but all kinds of other people as well.

The position of the U.S. as a leader in the world has almost completely been destroyed because of our disregard for other people and nations, both militarily and politically.

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So now we stand at another crossroads.  President Obama is considering what overarching strategy to move forward with in Afghanistan.  Some are arguing for large numbers of new troops.  Some are calling for a complete pull out.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) just sent a bulletin insert out to all the churches.  In addition to reiterating our general peace position it calls for three things.

Democracy

Diplomacy

Development

All of these are to be carried out within a framework not of war but of policing.

Afghanistan is a country that is unbelievably impoverished.  I remember that the joke back in the early 2000’s was that if we bombed Afghanistan back to the stone age it would be an improvement.  The way the MCC describes it is this:

Afghanistan is one of the least developed countries in the world, with
more than 60 per cent of its population living on less than U.S.$1 a day.
More than 20 years of wars and internal instability and recent floods
and disease have nearly destroyed the country. Only 22 per cent of the
population has access to improved drinking-water sources and 30 per
cent to safe sanitation facilities.

In a country with that much desolation it’s no wonder that it has become a breeding ground for hatred and violence.  The response that is needed now is not to re-escalate a war that can’t be won.  The barrel of a gun has never brought safety and security.  What brings security is living in a society where everyone extends respect and trust to their neighbor and agrees to live in peace.

From a Christian perspective, if we are really a people that put our hope and trust in Jesus for our security, then we should be the first ones in line to speak the truth that no government, military, bomb or any other act of violence will ultimately create security.

So, to echo Bruce’s words, it’s time to Bring ’em home.

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I think I’m getting soft.

Two weeks ago Katie and I got a couple of kittens from some people in our church (big thanks to Mike and Vonnie Reber).  All seemed to be going well.  We quickly fell in love with these two little furballs.  I even built a little cat house for them that we insulated and made all nice and cozy.  One evening I even got to be the big protector and hose down a neighbor cat who was encroaching on their territory.

Then we left for a conference at Hesston College this last weekend.  We made sure that they had someone to check on them and give them some food and headed out for the weekend.  While we were gone we heard reports that they were incredibly curious and found their way over to the church when everyone was there.  But when we got home late on Sunday we couldn’t find them anywhere.  There was no sign of them anywhere and nobody seemed to have seen them.  We searched all over for them, and after we heard a pack of coyotes right across the road one night……well……we started to think that someone higher on the food chain had found them.  I have to admit, I had given up on them and I was heartbroken.

Then today I got a phone call from Darlene Bontrager, one of our neighbors.  She said that she was talking with another neighbor and that they had found the kittens down the road by the Methodist church.  One of them had something wrong with a foot so they picked them up and took them out to their parents house out in the country, because the dad happened to be a retired veterinarian.  It turns out that the kittens were out there all week and that they had even put up posters around in the grocery store.  Katie and I just hadn’t really been out and about this week so we hadn’t seen them.

So, without further delay.  Here are our new Kittens, Vicar and Dibley.  Their names come from one of our favorite TV shows, the Vicar of Dibley.  It’s a great BBC show that airs on PBS every now and then.  I really recommend checking it out sometime.  The reason that we thought of the names began with the fact that one of their collars is black with a white clasp that made the kitten look just look like a vicar (priest in the church of England).  And the rest just came from there.  Here they are.

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