***Three notes: 1) I write this from my experience as a Cisgender, Straight, Middle-Class, Transracial Adoptee, Non-Disabled, Christian, Black Woman living in the United States. 2) I am trying to be more specific in my writing by explicitly stating my audience instead of using pronouns. To that end, when I speak about white folks, I will say white folks, Black people, etc., 3) I write this piece with the hope to invite more accountability, so that we can, as adrienne maree brown states in her piece “unthinkable thoughts,” “take each moment of conflict and harm as practice ground for abolition.” ***
Inspired by adrienne maree brown’s “unthinkable thoughts” post.
What is your biggest dream for the Mennonite church?
What prompted your dream?
Have you ever shared it?
What does it feel like to imagine it?
One of my biggest dreams for the Mennonite Church is this: that the Mennonite Church would be so firmly rooted and invested in doing the upside-down, kin-dom, radical, and revolutionary love work of God that it would no longer would be rocked by national headlines.
A pretty big dream, huh? Absolutely, especially considering it’s a dream that I have been holding ever since I watched Mennonite churches split from everything from the color of the carpet, to padding on pews, to what Hymnal version to buy, to women leaders, to parking lots, to human rights.
Maybe you can relate.
This summer, I learned the term “freedom dreaming” for the first time after attending a keynote by Abolitionist Founder, Dr. Bettina Love. And, her book, “We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom,” has helped me learn how to reimagine and express how rooted dreaming can provide a path toward transformation.
Because I have dreamed in the past. Dreamed about anti-racism work. Dreamed about anti-capitalism programs. Dreamed about refusing to pay my taxes to the war machine. Dreamed about churches participating in land reparations and thinking more inclusively about how they accept tithes. I had a lot of ideas, but no real vision that pushed those dreams into action.
So, often, my dreams stayed just that: dreams.
Maybe you know what that feels like too.
As I watch churches, corporations, and institutions from around the nation respond to racism, I have been troubled by the lack of sustainable action. It was easy to track people’s initial interest in June AND their lack of sustainable action in October.
I wonder what it is like to be part of a space that has both a deeply rooted belief in the power of transformational dreaming and the commitment to doing the courageous work of dreaming in tandem with sustainable action.
Choosing to dream means choosing to tell the truth about what has been done and to hope. And, not everyone has the privilege to dream or to hope. And not everyone has the privilege to lie about what has been done. I think it is the responsibility of those who are dreamers to ensure that everyone can dream. And, I think it is the responsibility of truth tellers to tell the truth. I think every person is all called to do this work.
I’m not always sure that the Mennonite Church has chosen to dream in ways that hope for all of us. And *itchy thought* I’m not always sure that the Mennonite Church has chosen to tell the truth about what has been done.
I wonder if that is why we split so easily. Because appearance and important but appearance never really deals with the real shit.
Maybe splits in the Mennonite Church have never really been about carpets or parking lots or hymnals.
Maybe the splits have been because we are afraid. Afraid that not all of us are (peace) doves. Afraid that not all of us define peace in the same way. Afraid that we don’t know how to discern between our fear and our dreams.
What does it mean to dream from a place of deep rootedness?
Do we know how to do it? If we haven’t learned to do it individually, can we even begin to think about doing it collectively?
Learning how to identify that my dreams were not deeply rooted was a critical turning point for me because it then propelled me into changing my actions into something more transformative. Actions like telling myself the truth about my investment levels and commitment to change, and actions to hold space for grace for myself as I committed to doing new work and walking in accountability.
The new information became data that I could use to assess my past behaviors. And, as a Type-A, you already know that this was pretty exciting for me.
What dreams do you have that perhaps aren’t as rooted as you would like? What dreams do you think the Mennonite Church has that aren’t rooted very well? The good news is that we have the opportunity to root them.
Personally, I wish that the Mennonite Church would move from a harm reduction model to a trauma-informed model when creating curriculum about divesting from systems of oppression and sexual violence. I think this shift is critical because it begins by acknowledging that harm has already occurred and then reimagines a path forward.
I wish that the Mennonite Church would immediately cancel all poverty and trauma porn mission trips and curriculum. When I was a freshman in college, the Mennonite college I attended provided a required ‘poverty simulation’ game which ended up essentially being a bunch of rowdy college students running around in a gymnasium pretending to be poor. There was a talkback at the end. The optics were horrible, and a few of my friends that grew up under the poverty line were outraged. The ‘game’ caused fundamental harm. And, I think we do ourselves a horrible disservice to allow programs like Mennonite Voluntary Service to continue because these programs also perpetuate harm in the way it shows that (often times white) people can afford to be poor for a year. And, to me, it seems like a disturbing and violent ‘zoo’ experience.
I wish that the Mennonite Church would practice dreaming into reality what we are living into. For me, this looks like equipping all congregants to do the courageous work of working towards liberation and practicing abolition every day. This looks like owning our complexities. It looks like walking in accountability. It looks like practicing truth telling. It looks like divesting from all systems of oppression. It looks like shared education and language. It looks like fostering curiosity and grace and love. It looks like cultivating environments of transformation. It looks like honestly owning when we don’t have enough information to form a thoughtful opinion and to hold space and allow the opportunity for paradigm shifts. It looks genuine care for our neighbor.
I wish that the Mennonite Church would pay attention to loneliness and isolation and notice how it shows up in communities.
I wish that the Mennonite Church would be an uncompromising force for justice and peacemaking. I wish that it would participate in reparations, center the protection of BIPOC people, refuse to participate in the war machine and be the first ones to protect those that are persecuted.
I wish that the Mennonite Church would transform second hour or Sunday school to an intergenerational hour committed to community care and education. I’m dreaming about mechanics teaching others how to care for their cars, and cooking classes and language classes and lots of laughter.
I wish that the Mennonite Church would foster and cultivate dreamers because I think we our dreams can point us towards liberation.
I think this is our work. I think this must be our work. & I think we must do this work together.
Upward & Onward.