Here are five things worth paying attention to this week. These are designed to expose you to a perspective you may not normally come across in your daily lives.
1. Cancel culture. Last week, a letter signed by 150 leading writers and academics was published in Harper’s. Signatories included authors J.K. Rowling and Margaret Atwood, and various other influential figures. While welcoming the current discussion about racial injustice, it condemned “restriction of debate” and “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism.” It was, in effect, about what has come to be known as cancel culture and the strategy of making people who offend instantly “invisible, voiceless.” Silenced is an old word among some Mennonites, and we are asking, “Is canceling persons a part of a haunting legacy? Are there not more redemptive ways of eschewing evil?”
2. In most of our conversations these days—Zoom church, friends calling, family Zoom each weekend—the issue of risk comes up for thoughtful consideration. “How do you get your groceries?” “Who have you talked with while masked and social distanced?” “Will you keep your routine medical appointment?” “What about flying to see family across the country?” The occasions for risk evaluation are many, and the answers are neither clear nor simple for our peers. In a family of educators and precious grandchildren facing the fall term options, it is risk that is factored into plans, work, hopes and fears. Our family Zoom this week was all about school. It was about risk.
3. “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.” The three guiding principles of Stone’s Rules offer a canary in the coal mine of political climate. We are reading the public debate on the pardon of a man called “a political trickster” to learn his take on morality, amorality and immorality in this decade. “It is better to be infamous than not to be famous at all,” and “Nothing is on the level, what’s right is what you can get away with.” Are we moving even beyond the value-free age common in the dominant culture? Is the respect for just law reaching a new low? Dare we hope that the pendulum of truth will swing from self-justification to justice?
4. Culture is “People like us do things like this.” Sue Park-Hur quoted Seth Godin’s clear definition in the Mennonite Church USA webinar on race, church and change (available for viewing and reviewing.) What Glen Guyton called our practices of “cultural supremacy” are based on our hidden assumptions that “what we consider good is godly.” The late anthropologist Paul Hiebert taught us that all cultures are equa-distant from God. We are thinking about that as we see slow change in our state, city, ourselves in willingness to embrace all. Suggestion: Read Seth Godin’s Culture and our Mimetic DNA.
5. Sharing and gifts. Our daughter rides up on her bike with a loaf of our favorite jalapeno cheese bread from Some Crust Bakery; a friend calls to tell us a half bushel of peaches and plums from Central Valley is awaiting us on his front porch; we distribute blocks of blue cheese from our bounty from one doorstep to another, along with cookies, sections of cake, the list of kindly actions made incandescent by COVID seclusion and love for people missed is growing long—a long, long list of gifts and graces. “The ability to receive a gift graciously is a high measure of maturity.”
David and Leann Augsburger are two semiretired people who co-lead a home-based church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.