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Faith and Inauguration Day: Some Mennonite Perspectives

1.20. 2017 Written By: The Mennonite, Inc. 1,335 read

We invited people from across the church to reflect on Inauguration Day, what they are praying for and how their faith impacts how they are engaging (or not engaging) this day. 

Sarah Augustine

Sarah Augustine is a member of Seattle Mennonite Church, and  an assistant professor of sociology at Heritage University on the homeland of the Yakama Nation.

On the eve of the 2017 inauguration, I pray for what Amos declares: “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

I am an Indigenous woman who advocates for Indigenous Peoples. The Wayana and Miskitu peoples are in sore need of it – justice that flows like a river. The homelands of both peoples are contaminated by resource extraction, militarized and the communities are systematically removed from their homes.  This is all in the name of economic development, globalization.

Today a new leader will take office who claims to hate globalization. Yet will he seek justice for my people?

Regardless of who has inhabited the White House, our country and our allies benefit from the brutalization of Indigenous Peoples and their lands. Regardless of the executive, things have grown consistently worse for the Wayana and Miskitu, and for Indigenous Peoples the world around.

To date, our leaders have focused on globalizing trade: a bargain that means destruction for my people.  We must advocate for the globalization of justice – safe homes free of contamination, enough to eat, freedom from oppression.

Isaiah urges us, Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.” Jesus calls us to be the light of the world.

As a new world leader rises to power, I pray for the courage not to stand aside, but to seek justice that rolls on like a river.

Berry Friesen

Berry Friesen is a member of East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church, Lancaster, Pennsylvania and one of the co-authors of the recent Call to Protect All Peoples.

Today, I am grateful for my church—that it speaks about peace, engages in practical acts of kindness, and lives on the margins of the state. I’m grateful it has challenged me to root my identity in the way of Jesus, not in nation, ideology, ethnicity or personal experience.

Might the anxiety and disillusionment of this moment become part of our liberation: when we break free of the empire’s spell? Stop believing America is the exceptional nation, the world’s indispensable leader? Stop buying what the Democrats and the Republicans are selling us? Stop looking to Babylon for our answers? I pray it is so. With the inauguration of Donald Trump, a slender space seems to be opening for that to happen.

But the propaganda is ever present, the fear-mongering relentless, the tactics of divide-and-conquer never ending. We’ll need to continue resisting, now as much as ever. Lord, be our unity and our strength; remind us often of that cloud of witnesses who endured much harder times than these.

In the days ahead, congregational life is likely to be more important than ever—encouraging, teaching, protecting. If that’s where the action will be, maybe I should double-down on my commitment there.

Ken Gingerich is a member of Albuquerque Mennonite Church and the moderator of Mountain States Mennonite Conference.

I know that people I care about and love have high hopes for the new order and others are terrified. I’m praying for a larger vision that helps us sense how God is moving in all of this. I’m praying both for calmness and an invigorated conversation about the role of the church.

I believe God has a preference for the disadvantaged. We need to pursue any means, whether political, social or spiritual, that lifts and liberates people from systems and situations that deny basic human rights, economic opportunities and equal access to a decent level of living. This is not a material versus a spiritual issue: It’s all one and the same.

I was taught to observe before commenting or speaking out, but I’ve become acutely aware that silence is paramount to complicity when one notices injustice. I am trying to cultivate more courage to risk the discomfort of speaking up immediately when I sense that someone is being mistreated, misjudged or discriminated against. I honestly believe that socially dysfunctional times provide followers of Jesus with opportunities to demonstrate the best way to live out peaceful and just responses. That’s how the light gets in.

Ruth Harder is the pastor of Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City, Kansas. When she isn’t falling down stairs or training for half marathons, she enjoys writing,  cuddling with her cats, and in general, Ruth does not always listen well to medical advice. Just ask her husband, Jesse.

“O you beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow.”

These words to “It came upon a midnight clear” have been on my mind this week after falling down our house stairs and injuring my lower back. The good news is that I’m feeling better. Bad news is that I am registered to run a half-marathon this coming Saturday, January 21, in Topeka, Kansas. The race was supposed to be my inauguration weekend therapy. When I asked if there was a chance I could heal in time, the doctor told me that I could do anything that doesn’t cause pain. “Activity as tolerated” was the official note in my medical chart.

And so, as I figure out what physical activity I can tolerate in the coming days, I’m also thinking about what political activity I will and won’t tolerate in the coming year. My high- school-aged nephew reminded me recently that progress isn’t a single policy and that no single law, court case, executive order, or president (or personal back injury?) can stop progress altogether. “Progress,” he told me in a text the day after the election, “is a movement and a mindset.”

Therefore, I suppose my political treatment plan is to keep surrounding myself with those who use their body and voice to lift up visions of progress—progress that doesn’t only benefit a few, but that cares for the well-being of all, especially those “whose forms are bending low” as a result of injuries, oppression, and blockades of all kinds. And whether or not I run, I will be in Topeka cheering people on. And later that day, I will participate in the Women’s March in Topeka—“as tolerated.”

Eric R. Kurtz is Executive Director of MCC Great Lakes in Goshen, Indiana, married to Carmen Horst and father of Elisa and Nayli.

On inauguration day and every day, my prayer is this: that Christians will choose to be church together.

By which I mean, that we will do the things that Jesus talked about and modeled: proclaim good news to the poor, care for the hungry and sick, bring relief to prisoners, and set the oppressed free.

I pray that our experience in the world, and our faith in the God who called all of us beloved children, will lead us to speak truth to those in power when our society says some lives don’t matter. Let us advocate for the humane treatment of refugees and immigrants. Let us listen to people in Appalachia who have been forgotten by our economic system. Let us call out racial injustice in our prison system. Let us approach our work together with what Brazilian Bishop Helder Camara called “patient impatience” – impatience with all injustice, but recognizing that faithfulness to the call of Jesus requires patience and the ability to stick with it for the long haul.

And finally, I pray that we find ways to counter the demon of polarization, both within our church and in society at large. Not to ignore or smooth over our differences, but rather find ways to hear and learn from each other. I pray that as we volunteer at relief sales, fix homes after a flood, knot comforters for Syria, and worship together in many languages and styles, we will see the image of God in each other and in the people we serve.

Darrel Mast is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and attends James Street Mennonite Church with his wife, Esther. They are parents to two adult children.

The truth is I didn’t care much for President Obama and I am pretty sure I am not going to like President Trump, but as much as I may disagree with one candidate or the other as to policy and matters of state, my chief dislike of them is I feel we have given them a place in our hearts and minds that should be reserved for God.

I am also bothered by the polarization that continues to mark our political discourse. We are intolerant of those we consider intolerant. Love is not our first response and from my observations we as Mennonites are no different than society around us.

It was eight o’clock on election night; polls were just closing here on the East Coast. Representatives from about a dozen local churches had just led us in a time of prayer, singing and meditation. As the hour approached we moved quietly to drink from the cup and eat the bread and proclaim Jesus is Lord. I went into that night prepared for whatever would happen.

I am not aware of any communion service for me to attend on inauguration day, but I would hope that God gives me that same sense of peace and comfort. I believe we are called pray for our leaders and our new president, pray for our country and for the world around us and to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. We are to proclaim “Jesus is Lord” and when we proclaim that we are also proclaiming that the president, political parties or anything that keeps us from loving our friends, family, neighbors or enemies IS NOT.

Gerald J. Mast is Professor of Communication at Bluffton (Ohio) University and author of Go to Church, Change the World: Christian Community as Calling.

In 1708, the Swiss Brethren published a book of prayers entitled Die Ernsthafte Christenpflicht, now translated into English by Leonard Gross and in print from Herald Press as Prayer Book for Earnest Christians. This prayer book was published while the authorities in Berne were imprisoning and deporting Swiss Brethren from the canton because of their Anabaptist religious beliefs and practices, which were seen as a threat to Swiss Reformed Christianity and civil society. The prayer book was reprinted many times in both Europe and North America and continues to be used by the Amish as a primary devotional source.

Three prayers from Christenpflicht provide some guidance for North American Anabaptist Christians who seek to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in relationship to the powers of this world, especially when these powers threaten religious liberty and oppose the love and hospitality of Jesus Christ. These three prayers from our faith ancestors show up in the prayer book one right after the other: For Political Authorities, For Our Enemies, and Against the Ungodly Archenemies (44-46 in Prayer Book for Earnest Christians). In the prayer below, I have combined sentences from all three prayers, using the exact language found in the prayers.

We pray, O holy Father, for all types of people throughout the whole wide world. Protect all devout authorities throughout the whole wide world and let not the hands of officials cause innocent blood to flow. Instead give them grace to rule according to your will, for the purpose for which you have appointed them. May they plant and protect the good, and suppress and punish the evil.

 Forgive all our enemies and all the insulting antagonists who hate us and wish evil upon us. Forgive them all their sins and misdeeds, since they do not yet know what they are doing. Convert them and us together, according to your holy will.

 We pray concerning all the ungodly archenemies who rant and rave against your dear church and community. Most graciously protect us from such people. Impede and restrain, shatter and destroy all their evil intentions. Make a shambles out of all their evil counsels and harsh attacks which they devise against you and your Word. Keep us from being corrupted by them. Instead, call us to true repentance, and save all whom you desire to bless.  Convert all those whom you choose to convert. Assist all of us who are willing to be helped, that we before our departure will be able to truly repent of all our sins and transgressions. Amen.

Melody M. Pannell currently serves as assistant professor of social work at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.

On the day of Inauguration, I will engage with others and lead an online Study Circle at The Gathering Place to discuss a book for such a time as this; “Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing The Way The Church Views Racism,” by Drew G.I. Hart. As an Anabaptist, a woman of color who grew up in an urban environment, I have never been afforded the privilege to remain silent concerning the social injustices of our nation. Historically, the Mennonite Church has chosen to not engage in political protest or take a radical stand against racial and gender discrimination. Yet, I believe that a new awakening is upon us, Inauguration Day is here.

On the day of the Inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, my prayers will be for peace and I will also pray for protest. I will pray for love and I will also pray for liberty. I will pray for spiritual empowerment and I will also pray for economic equality.

I will mark this moment by marching from the margins at the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday. I will seek to be counted in that number with those that choose to take the risk to utilize our radical Christian faith on the behalf of others that may not look, think or believe as we do.

I will take a stand symbolizing the core values of my Anabaptist beliefs that have called me to the work of justice and radical love for humankind. I will seek to create compassionate sanctuaries wherever I go that will welcome those that are weary and even those that are well-meaning. I will strive to build bridges between those that are marginalized and those that are born into privilege. Love is my purpose, my plan and my protest. And remember, Love is a Verb!

Aaron Yoder is Pastor at First Mennonite Church, Morton, Illinois.

If the Holy Spirit led Paul and Peter to respect leaders like Claudius and Nero, then Jesus-followers ought to take 1 Timothy 2:1-2 and 1 Peter 3:17 to heart and “pray for those in high positions” and “honor the emperor, “especially during presidential transitions. Even if we profoundly disagree or dislike our worldly leaders (and we will), it’s important to note that during the first 300 years of Roman corruption and severe persecution, the church remained faithful to share the Gospel and make disciples through the boldness provided by the Holy Spirit. They never protested or complained.

Anabaptists (and all Christians) would be wise to keep our eyes fixed on the mission which Jesus gave the church and let nothing distract us from that goal. The government will never represent the Kingdom of God. That’s our job. So let’s pray for as many as possible and get back to Jesus’ Great Commission.

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One Response to “Faith and Inauguration Day: Some Mennonite Perspectives”

  1. Frederick John Lamp says:

    I must react to what some of these preachers said. “Respecting Caesar” is fine now, and I remember them saying that when Reagan was President (despite his treason with Iran and the Contras), but I don’t recall them saying that when Obama was President. And many Mennonites actively supported Trump even before he became Caesar. In fact, some of my most conservative Mennonite relatives (who think it’s a sin to vote) actually protested with signs publicly against the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v Wade. So much for respecting Caesar–when it’s convenient.

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