Should Dunker Punks Play Politics?

Dunkers have been nonconformists since 1708, and punks certainly are no fans of politicians, so what do DunkerPunks have to say when it comes to the messy business of politics. Anything? Can we successfully work for social progress in the political arena while faithfully following Christ? Let’s see…

At NYC, Jarrod gave us a working definition of a DunkerPunk:

Jarrod sitting in front of his Dunker Punk Definition

Jarrod sitting in front of his Dunker Punk Definition

 “A young person who is a member of a rebellious countercultural tradition that radically commits their life to living God’s Calvary-shaped love in the power of the Spirit, to the glory of the Father.”

This definition gives us a firm foundation for each of us to root ourselves in, no matter what context we are currently living in. Having this rootedness is key. DunkerPunks must be individually and communally rooted in scripture, Brethren theology and traditions, and the immediate context and community surrounding each of us.

It may sound fun to be countercultural or rebellious, but we can only be authentically and effectively countercultural if we spend time steeping ourselves in scripture and Brethren community. We have to figure out where we fit in to the larger story, so that we can faithfully contribute to the development of that story. If we fail to do that, our efforts will be in vain, or unintelligible, at best.

When applying this to politics (in this instance, specifically immigration reform) we have to be sure we know why are faith is compelling us to enter the realm of politics. Because advocating for immigration reform (or many other political issues) can make sense on many levels (economic, humanitarian, etc.), but why did over 100 religious leaders recently engage in nonviolent protest and get arrested because of their action? Because of faith convictions that have sharpened their moral understanding of how we are called to treat others.

We have scripture instructing us to be kind to the sojourner, and most importantly we have Jesus modeling self-sacrificial love in his life, teachings, death, and resurrection. This ‘calvary-shaped love’ is what this whole movement hangs on. If we take it seriously, people take notice, and the world can actually change.

I recently listened to an OnBeing Podcast with Lutheran Pastor Nadia-Bolz-Weber and her thoughts on how to be both orthodox and creative struck me as words DunkerPunks should heed as we continue this journey. She said:

“I really feel strongly that you have to be deeply rooted in tradition in order to innovate with integrity…So we are taking these traditions and we’re living them out and then we’re tweaking them in ways that are super meaningful or funny or relevant for us. So it’s always both for us.”–Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber

When we apply this thinking to our original query, I think the answer is quite clear that yes we can get involved with politics (just as we can get involved with many other pursuits outside of the traditional church), but we must be deeply rooted in our tradition so that we can innovate with integrity and act faithfully.

How do you think DunkerPunks can innovate with integrity? What Brethren traditions have the potential to be reimagined for transformative purposes? Leave us some comments below about your ideas!

In Christ’s Peace,

Bryan Hanger

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Remember, DunkerPunks travel in a pack, so don’t forget to find a small group of 2 or 3 others to start praying, studying and thinking together about how God can use you in the Mustard Seed Revolution!

ALSO: If you have the gift of design, we want you to design the Dunker Punks logo!


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Pentecost, Climate Change, and God’s Good Earth

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a big step towards combating climate change when it announced that it is implementing the Clean Power Plan, which will cut the amount of carbon that power companies are allowed to release into the atmosphere to 30% below 2005 levels by the year 2030. The EPA and the Obama administration are hoping that this first step will encourage growth in clean and renewable energy sectors while also improving public health and showing consumers and other industries that business can continue successfully while complying with standards that allow us to be better stewards of our climate.

This is the first large public policy action on climate change that has been taken by the United States government under President Obama, but how are we to think of such things from a theological perspective? Why should the church comment on such matters? Well, perhaps the wonky details of the EPA’s plan are not of much immediate interest to many, but these wonky details are some of the biggest concrete steps towards addressing climate change that the US has ever made, and that should be important to us. Because when we talk about climate change, we are talking about God’s good earth that we are commissioned to be stewards of. We are talking about the same planet that the Psalmist praises God for in our lectionary text this week:

“O Lord, how manifold are your works!
 In wisdom you have made them all;
 the earth is full of your creatures.

 Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
 creeping things innumerable are there,
 living things both small and great.”—Psalm 104: 24-25

"The Fifth Day of Creation"--from

“The Fifth Day of Creation”–from

The Psalmist’s song of praise reminds of the goodness of God and all of creation, but we must also remember that this is the same Earth that we so often use and abuse for our own purposes. Ezekiel reminds us of our exploits and their consequences:

As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?”—Ezekiel 34:17-19

We have for too long been like the stubborn, sheep and goats in Ezekiel’s passage who have had their fill of water and food and left nothing but fouled up water for everybody else. We have willfully ignored the global destruction of creation so that we could be comfortable in our little patch of earth.

But, despite this grim picture, the beauty of God is that God is always faithful. Even when we are unfaithful and foul the pasture and the water, God remains with us, pushing and prodding us to realize our sin, repent, and forge a new path. The miracle of Pentecost reminds us that new life is possible, but only with God. As the Psalmist reminds us:

“When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.”—Psalm 104:30

Pentecost is God fulfilling his promise to not abandon us. God sends the “Spirit of Truth” to the whole world and its people and this Spirit comes like a violent wind and shakes us up! God has sent the Spirit to renew us as a church and also to renew the very face of the ground we walk upon. We must never forget that just as all of creation was spoken into being by God, all of creation can and will be redeemed by God.

The way forward in addressing climate change will require many things of us because the EPA, or the United States for that matter, will not be able to protect creation on its own. Adequately addressing climate change will require first and foremost an understanding of our role as stewards of God’s good earth, and our failure up to this point in fulfilling this role. From this humbling position we must seek out ways to personally live so that we honor creation, love our neighbors, and help build up our communities.

If this means changing how and how much we consume, so be it. If this means supporting policies and legislation that protect God’s creation, so be it. If it means we have to change our behavior so that our lifestyles do not negatively affect our neighbors, communities and future generations, thanks be to God. Because ultimately that’s what this is all about, getting back into right relationship with God and the world around us. By consuming without conscience and exploiting the Earth’s resources without thought for the future, we have prevented the shalom God intends for us, our neighbors, and the whole world.

This is part of what the church will be discussing at Annual Conference this summer in Columbus. Our office will help present a statement on Climate Change and its effects on God’s Earth and God’s People. This statement will hopefully generate some constructive conversation about how the church can begin to creatively engage this pressing issue in a way that honors the Creator and Sustainer of all life.

We must never forget that the Spirit is leading us towards the time when the Lord will be called King among all the nations and the very trees of the forest will sing hymns of joy. The Heavens will be glad and the Earth shall rejoice at the coming of the Lord!

May it be so and may we join in this divine work of redeeming and honoring God’s creation.


-Bryan Hanger

#BringBackOurGirls: Zooming Out But Staying Focused

The world has been watching, lamenting, and agitating for over a month now about the 276 kidnapped girls from Chibok. We are still waiting and praying for their release or rescue, and while we wait, the world’s powers have been trying to catch up and see what they can do to help our Nigerian sisters.

Nigerian Girls in Captivity

The #BringBackOurGirls movement has gone from obscurity to oversaturating the media in the span of a couple weeks. It has garnered so much attention that on Thursday May 15th the US Senate convened a hearing with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls in its title. But has all this attention even been helpful or what exactly can the US do that wouldn’t make things worse than they already are?

Our Action Alert called upon Brethren to contact their elected leaders to raise awareness and ask them to encourage the State Department and other government actors to take notice and assess how we could help. But what is it that they’ve determined and how is the US getting involved? That’s what we went to this hearing to find out.

Much of what was discussed by the Subcommittee on African Affairs revolved around Boko Haram’s origins, the contextual situation of Northern/Northeastern Nigeria, and finally how the US and international community is already involved and how it plans to continue its involvement. Speakers from the State Department, USAID, and Pentagon all testified, and by the end of their testimony it was clear that although the concern was great, there are many tangible realities limiting any effective outside response to the kidnapping.

As Brethren are all too aware, life in Northern Nigeria is tough, and it has been that way for a while. This kidnapping did not happen in a vacuum, but rather is a grotesque manifestation of the insecurity that exists there all the time. The lack of good governance, quality education, reliable infrastructure, widespread peacebuilding practices, and stable local policing has created a region in Northern Nigeria where corruption is rife and many Nigerians are left to fend for themselves. Especially children. We heard in a separate Congressional briefing the day before that 10.5 million of the world’s 57.5 million primary school aged children that do not attend school are Nigerian. And of those 10.5 million Nigerians, 9 million are from the North. According to A World At School, these figures mean Nigeria has the largest number of out of school children in the whole world.

I say these things not to distract us from the plight of our girls, but instead to point us to some of the larger issues that this crisis was born out of. We are mistaken if we think that all of a sudden these social problems will be solved if the Nigerian government gets its act together and safely rescues the girls. We cannot allow ourselves to entertain such fantasies or even the idea that the US can solve these issues for the Nigerians. The problems that have presented themselves are much more complex than that. This last point was hammered home at the hearing.

We heard that an inter-agency team had been deployed to Nigeria with representatives from State/USAID/Pentagon “to provide military and law enforcement assistance, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support” (Jackson 2). But all of the panelists testifying would not go any further in speculating what the US would do in response, and although that seems very frustrating, it is probably a good sign.

Too often the United States has jumped head first into conflicts without thinking through what exactly its goals are or what unforeseen consequences could arise. Obviously we want to bring back the girls who have been kidnapped, but we also don’t want to go in and make more of a mess than what is already present. And we definitely don’t want to perpetuate the idea that once these girls are back home safe, that everything will be hunky dory in Nigeria. There is no easy solution, and that’s scary.

What we truly have to do is zoom out and see the big picture while still holding the plight of the girls in our hearts. This is where the final testimony from Nigerian peacebuilder Lantana Adbullahi comes in to play. Ms. Abdullahi, a Muslim peacebuilder who works for Search For Common Ground in Jos, Nigeria, praised the US and other countries for raising up the plight of the girls, but she was quick to add,

“While securing the girls’ release will be a short term gain, ensuring lasting peace in the region requires that the militancy issue be addressed from multiple angles. It also requires the engagement of all stakeholders – communities, civil society, government, and its international partners – to ensure context-specific and sustainable solutions to improve human security, peacebuilding, and the prevention of future atrocities.”

This is the tough pill that we must swallow. Peace does not come instantaneously or with a swift military response, but rather through the consistent embodiment of Christ’s peace through the hard work of reconciliation and empowerment that people like Ms. Abdullahi and our EYN brothers and sisters do each day in their communities. We must continue to pray for God’s great power to save these girls, but we must also pray for the guidance and humility to become faithful disciples that learn how to build and teach peace in our communities and around the world.

In situations like this, the world can feel utterly broken beyond repair, but we must never forget that our savior remains, as Pastor Brian Zahnd recently remarked, a carpenter who is repairing and restoring God’s good world.


-Bryan Hanger


Too Much Armor, Too Little Brain: The Risks of Political Advocacy & the Hope Our God Offers

Working for peace in Washington often feels like a losing battle, but perhaps the problem is that we often view the work of peace through a combative lens. Whether the issue is gun violence, drones, or any other issue of militarism, we often talk of “fighting back” against these issues and eventually building up enough support to “defeat our opposition”. But what if this paradigm is limiting our imagination and holding us back from working for and embodying Christ’s transformative kingdom?

I reflected on this tension after attending a conference held at the United States Institute of Peace that covered the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. There were speakers from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist backgrounds, and their testimonies and stories of the religious community’s advocacy were very compelling and in stark contrast to the message of perhaps the most anticipated speaker at the event, Anita Friedt, who works for the State Department on US Nuclear Policy.

Mrs. Friedt’s speech was a fairly typical DC speech that was short on concrete ideas or promises and chock full of vague legalese that boiled down to an appreciation of the work the religious community does to make the world safe from nuclear weapons, while simultaneously patting us on the head to let us know that the political reality was much more complicated. She even tried to reassure us that the United States would never consider using these weapons except in the most extreme circumstances, but neglected to enlighten us as to what those circumstances might look like.

My friend and colleague, Rev. Michael Neuroth summed up many of our reactions to Mrs. Friedt’s remarks by ending his subsequent presentation with a quote from longtime peace activist Rev. William Sloane Coffin who once said, “We are beginning to resemble extinct dinosaurs who suffered from too much armor and too little brain”.

We all approvingly applauded the succinct remark, but if we are not careful, the Church’s political advocacy and activism can become confined by this same armor employed by Mrs. Friedt. When the real life problems of our communities and world become “issues” we talk about abstractly, we can speak and act on them divorced from their context and the people actually affected. To do this betrays not only the people affected but also our vocation as the Church.

When we engage in this manner, we’ve allowed our own armor to shroud and influence our vision to the point that we cannot even begin to imagine a world that is wildly different and more restorative than the reality we currently inhabit. Scholar and theologian Walter Brueggemann speaks about this tension at length in his book the Prophetic Imagination. In our line of work, we often like to talk about hope and peace in our world, but Brueggemann rightly reminds us that these words mean nothing out of their context:

“Hope expressed only in the present tense will no doubt be co-opted by the managers of this age…Therefore the symbols of hope cannot be general and universal but must be those that have been known concretely in this particular history…The memory of this community begins in God’s promissory address to the darkness of chaos, to barren Sarah, and to oppressed Egyptian slaves. The speech of God is first about an alternative future. (The Prophetic Imagination, pg. 64)

We are not a people without a history and we are not a people without a God. We know and believe that the status quo is not the best we can hope for because we have this unique story of God’s freedom and liberation working in the world. The same spirit in the “Cloud by Day/Fire by Night” that guided the Israelites out of the wilderness continues to pull us forward today into new possibilities of liberation and reconciliation.

Francisco de Goya's "Fire By Night"

Francisco de Goya’s “Fire By Night”

To speak of such things in our society makes us sound strange and unfamiliar, but speaking about them also gives us a clinging hope that feels unwarranted and yet incredibly necessary

Especially necessary when we’re confronted with inexplicable madness like the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls in Chibok. To respond with disembodied calls for peace and hope in Nigeria from a cozy office in Washington feels inadequate at best and totally disingenuous at worst. But when we ground our work in communion and solidarity with our Nigerian sisters and brothers, we can once again plug back into our story and remind ourselves of who we are and whose we are.

Only when grounded in this context can we faithfully speak an energizing word of hope, advocate for a just policy, or pray a prayer for peace. Only when we tap into the imagination and creativity of the Spirit can we begin to embody the reality of God that is here waiting to be shared and lived into.

This is our hope as an office. To witness to the story we’ve been given and grafted into by Christ. To recognize the areas of our country and world where this witness and promise of God’s alternative reality can make a difference, and pray that our work is not in vain.

May we learn to strip off the armor that limits our hope and shrouds our vision. And may we remember that we are clothed in Christ, the one who renews our mind and spirit to be courageous disciples who have no need of any armor but the Spirit of the Lord that goes with us.


-Bryan Hanger