Over the past 30 years or so, since the end of the draft and the decline in the risk of nuclear war, the primary peace and justice concern of churches of Mennonite persuasion has been equity between genders, among races and between sexual orientations.
Our congregations and church institutions have invested huge amounts of energy in monitoring and tinkering with the allocation of churchly rewards: jobs, board positions, agenda time, microphone time, column inches, dollars, etc. During this era, each minute distinction is a sign of approval or disapproval, of favor or disfavor, of value or disregard. Of justice or injustice, in other words.
Of course, equity in the allocation of these “goods” should be one of our values. But like many families, the concern for equity tends to become a preoccupation. Allocations are never entirely fair. And the more closely we examine the unfairness, the more of it we see. Ensuring equity can consume our energy, eclipsing any time and attention we might have invested elsewhere.
Certainly the leaders of Mennonite Church USA know this. In part, the emphasis on being “missional” reflects a concern that we get beyond ourselves and connect to a larger purpose. But the call to be missional has remained too abstract. It has failed to divert our attention from ourselves because it has failed to engage us in the epic struggle for peace and justice unfolding right outside our doors.
That epic struggle concerns global warming and the control of resources, including water and livable habitat. By 2050 – only 36 years from now – the competition for the simple necessities of life will be acute and pervasively violent. The lives of a billion people will be at risk. “Equity” in that setting will be a matter of life and death.
Of course, it already is that way, although not on the scale we expect in 2050. We have managed to focus on internal equity until now and perhaps still will then.
Moreover, just as we say now that we have nothing to offer the world that we have not managed to live ourselves, so we may say then that we are still fixing ourselves before we bear witness to the world.
The only way out of this perpetual chasing of our tails is to become missional about peace and justice. On that score, the Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA has a special responsibility to provide leadership. Where to begin? Here are three possibilities.
- Call for church-wide discussion of whether our concerns for peace and justice have become too small and inwardly focused.
- Arrange for a regular column in each issue of The Mennonite on peace and justice as missional activity; focus on specific signposts showing engagement beyond our own membership.
- Seek Executive Board appointment of a working group to discern how the church can engage with the US public around the convergence of military force, financial power and technology to serve the global elite in a competition to the death with the vast majority of humankind.