Cleaning out the barn

Jan 13, 2020 by

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Politics is kind of like manure. If we tell ourselves we can avoid being political, it piles up in our barns, creates a stink and makes the animals sick. Political interactions are a normal part of everything from family systems to churches to international relations. It’s not whether but how we are political. We are best served to pull on our boots and shovel the manure to where it can compost and produce healthy growth. If we’re not honest about such things, they have a way of piling up and overflowing into the kitchen.

Enlightened engagement with politics — like a well-kept barn — is a vital part of fostering justice and peace from the interpersonal level on up to relations between nations.

A friend spent her early years in Nazi Germany. Her work for peace and justice is partly motivated by that experience. She feels haunting echoes of the rise of Nazism in Germany in what’s happening in the U.S. right now. We have reflected together how people turning a blind eye or avoiding standing up to such trends allows them to metastasize. Silence is complicity.

I have seen the Goshen College Mennonite Church chapel full and overflowing with fellow Mennonites listening to a pastor and theologian whose writing includes encouragement for Christians to disengage from politics. In the same auditorium, only a fraction of that audience was present to listen to a re­nowned environmental scientist who said change on the policy level is indispensable if we want to leave a livable planet to our children.

If our Christian response ­doesn’t include political action, there will be consequences far worse than a festering pile of manure to contend with. Life-generating social structures fostered by political engagement are like a verdant field fertilized by contented animals in a clean barn. Wouldn’t we want our barn to be clean if a refugee couple had to hide out there for their baby to be born today?

Wendell Wiebe-Powell
Elkhart, Ind.


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