Convention in Arizona

Posted on May 14th, 2010 by James

Mennonite Church USA is planning to hold their 2013 Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, with plans in place since last year.
With Arizona’s recent immigration law, the planning committee is now trying to figure out how that affects the Convention. Check out the article in The Mennonite here.

Rachel Swartzendruber Miller, director of convention planning, is quoted as saying, “The question we will be grappling with is, ‘Will we be helping the situation by refusing to meet in Phoenix to show that we are resisting this unjust law? Or, is God calling us to face this injustice by being a present witness of healing and hope in the Phoenix community?’”

I don’t think the right thing to do would be to boycott Arizona and find a new location, and not just because the Mennonite in me is worried about losing the downpayments already made.

A boycott would potentially hurt the government and businesses who would put pressure on the government, but it would also hurt the people working at the convention center and hotels- people who can’t necessarily afford it.

Not that boycotts can’t be or aren’t used as a successful tool in creating change. But I think they are more successful with a more defined scope – Arizona has a lot of innocent bystanders.

It sounds like they’re leaning towards the second option, and I agree. This is an opportunity to show the Mennonite Differenceâ„¢ in a real way. It’s a chance to welcome the strangers in our land. Maybe do some service trips to the border, work with organizations that work with immigrants, etc.

It’s a chance to act on the 2003 Resolution on Immigration. It’s a chance to act on Iglesia Menonita Hispana’s 2008 Resolution. It’s a chance to respond to the Pacific Southwest leaders’ 2006 call to focus on immigration issues. It’s a chance to live up to our Statement on Immigration.

But honestly, I hope that this is all a moot point. Hopefully by 2013, this law will be off the books, or even better, unnecessary. Maybe true immigration reform (and the necessary economic reform to back it up) will have happened. Hey, I can dream, right?

It’s also important to note that this isn’t just a thought exercise. This will affect members of the Mennonite Church who are illegal immigrants. These members already have difficulty attending, and I think convention would suffer without their presence.

Mandela’s Failures

Posted on May 11th, 2010 by James

How far does a person need to go to be a successful revolutionary? How much must they accomplish?

These are the questions at the heart of a purported interview with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the second wife of Nelson Mandela. Madikizela-Mandela has said she never gave this interview, and didn’t say these things, so take that into account.

The article (wrongly?) quoted Madikizela-Mandela as saying, “Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside. The economy is very much ‘white’. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded.”

Whether or not Madikizela-Mandela actually said this, this quote does hold at least some truth. The economy is still mainly in the hands of the minority whites. This is the reality I saw and heard about in my (very short) time in South Africa several years back.

One pastor I talked to mentioned the places that whites go often, and the blacks can only afford to go once a year, maybe. He spoke of an economic apartheid.

I visited a sheep ranch, where colored workers lived in little shacks, while the white ranch owner lived in a beautiful home. The owner talked of how great it was that apartheid was over, but was nervous that there might be a restructuring of the economy that would take his family’s home for generations away.

Did Mandela not go far enough? Should he have pushed for further equality, pushed for economic reform and reparations? Because while great steps have been made, there is not yet equality or justice in South Africa.

And if he had pushed for more, how would the world view him? Would he have received the Nobel Peace Prize? Or would he be dismissed as a radical figure?

You have to remember that Mandela entered prison a revolutionary who was readying a guerrilla war against the government. He was a radical. But 27 years later, he left prison a changed person. He was more willing to compromise, and wanted to end apartheid peacefully.

In betting terms, he went from going for broke, to playing it safe. And while he didn’t make the gains he could have, he did make some remarkable improvements.

Should he have gone for broke? Or is a safer approach better? Do his successes make up for his failures, and how do you draw that line?

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