Monday, September 9, 2013

Did you just compare me to Miley?

Since The Mennonite’s wonderful round up of “edgy” mennonite blogs, I have been contemplating its word choice -- edgy. When Anna Groff contacted me to ask for some information about this blog, its mission, readership, and so forth, I chuckled at the idea that someone would think me edgy. Please don’t hear me as implying that anything is wrong with being edgy, nor even with the article’s choice of that word. In fact I think the framing was very positive, and meant to highlight that there is lots of good, constructive work going on at these various websites. Young mennonite theological thinkers are doing good work, and technology provides a way for those conversations to cross geographical boundaries. All of this is good. I’m glad to be one of the voices in that choir, and humbled by my growing readership. So first I should say thank you.

Still, I do not think I am edgy. One of my friends, upon my initial rejection of the term, asked, “But what if “edgy” is a good thing?” Perhaps it is a good thing, and I do hope I am doing good work, but I am still not edgy. On the contrary, since a large part of what I hope to do here (speaking of “mission”!) is think within the anabaptist tradition about what it means to be faithful to the gospel, and since I believe that “the gospel is anti-sexism through and through” (at the risk of sounding like a horrible person by quoting myself, from my very first post here), I see myself as part of the mennonite tradition, in conversation with and committed to our shared Confession of Faith. Are there are places I wish to challenge it, and hope and pray to see it changed in time? Of course. But surely there’s nothing un-mennonite about that impulse. I hope that I am radical, in the sense that anabaptist tradition has been radical in the past, but that is not, perhaps, quite the same as being “edgy.”

Normally I have a strict rule for myself when it comes to internet publications: Don’t read the comments! Rarely, if ever, do they lead to fruitful, constructive conversation. The internet creates space to speak, but not always to listen and dialogue and heal in the way that it might. Thus when I publish something I tend to think, “Okay, now, talk amongst yourself. My part is done,” and let my own follow-up conversations happen in person with readers who I know in the flesh. I decided to read the comments on Ms. Groff’s article, though, because I was curious to see people’s reactions. Two statements stuck out to me. First, the assertion that the blogs on this list run contrary to the doctrinal positions of our Confession of Faith, coupled with the desire for a “true radical reformation” instead of an edgy one. To that, I couldn’t help but think about how most of the bloggers I know on this list are deeply committed to just that.

Second, someone stated that encouraging us -- “us” being young, “edgy”/radical bloggers -- is “like encouraging Miley.”

This is a “sorry I’m not sorry” moment, folks. I simply cannot let that stand. You just compared me to Miley Cyrus, and the only thing I have to say is this:

You clearly have not read my blog.

My careful, prayerful, studied efforts to be in conversation with church history, theology, and anabaptist tradition are as far from some sexist, racist, “girls gone wild” Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke performance as you can get.

I am breaking my usual rule a second time, because not only did I read the comments, now I am responding to them. Feeding the trolls, as it were. Sometimes you have to break your own rules a bit to make a point, and my point is this: If you read my blog, you might pick up on the fact that I love Bonhoeffer, Barth, and Kierkegaard. I also love Jesus. You might notice that I am deeply devoted to scripture, I believe prayer makes a difference, and that the gospel is a message of peace which we are called to live out in our lives together. I love potlucks, four-part harmony, and my More With Less cookbook. I am fascinated by the anabaptist tradition. I kind of want to start a Martyr’s Mirror book club to think about what these stories mean for the church, today. I gladly gave up a week of my summer to go to Phoenix and represent my church as a delegate at the MCUSA convention.

I love the mennonite church, including you, person who just compared my work to Miley Cyrus twerking in a latex bikini. One of the things I love about the mennonite church is that we coexist with such a broad range of viewpoints on the kinds of issues I care deeply about, and for that reason I would hope that instead of dismissing me as a “girl gone wild,” those who disagree would read carefully, and that you would critically and prayerfully engage with me, and with the other bloggers on The Mennonite's list.

I am not edgy. I am a young mennonite theologian trying to be faithful.