This past Saturday morning, just ten days before the election, our family headed to Nicholasville. We enjoyed maple bacon donuts and breakfast burritos at CNC Bakery, stopped at the skate park at Lake Mingo, and tooled around town in our maroon minivan looking for interesting signs. Here’s what we found:
Signs are popping up all over Wilmore, Kentucky. This past Saturday morning, Lisa Weaver Swartz, who is a photographer and visual sociologist of religion, and I spent an hour driving around our small Kentucky town taking photographs of them. We want the images to speak for themselves, but just a few prefatory comments:
- Wilmore is by far the most religious place I have lived. It nurtured a strong Presbyterian identity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it became the home of Wesleyan holiness institutions Asbury University and Asbury Theological Seminary. To my Anabaptist horror, a glowing cross now sits on top of the town’s water tower.
- A passer-by, who wondered why we were taking photographs in the neighborhood, told us that political advertising seemed relatively new in town. “Back in the 1980s it was just assumed that everybody voted Republican,” she said. There was no need to put up signs.
- Even compared to just four years ago, there are exponentially more signs. There is a much clearer integration of Trumpism and holiness culture in 2020 than in 2016. Simultaneously, Black Lives Matters has captured the imagination of a different—and growing—segment of evangelical Christians here. The political intensity has ratcheted up on both sides.
- Perhaps this argument of accelerating polarization can be taken too far. Far more houses had no political signs compared to those that did. And if a fall decoration design that reads “THANKFUL” could be a candidate, it would certainly defeat both Trump and Biden in an election. There appears to be a much bigger middle (whether truly moderate or apolitical or apathetic) than what makes the news.
- We tried to publish the images below in rough proportion to the political orientations we observed on Saturday morning.
We’re excited to launch the seventh year of Plowshares Peace Talks! For those of you new to the area, this is a gathering that focuses on issues of peace and justice. We’ve participated in prayer vigils, marched for racial justice, and held conversations on topics as varied as Congolese refugees, Christian participation in war, interpersonal communication, Old Testament violence, environmental sustainability, overcoming anxiety, peaceful business practices, and more.
Our first event this year—scheduled for Monday, September 16, at 7 p.m.—is a special participatory learning exercise called “The Loss of Turtle Island.” It depicts the historic relationship between European settlers and the First Nations—the original inhabitants of the land we now call the United States of America. Quilts will represent the land and participants will represent distinct indigenous nations who experienced colonization, genocide, broken treaties, forced removal, assimilation, and termination. Two Mennonite Central Committee – MCC staffers will be leading tomorrow’s exercise.As usual, our gathering will be held at the Weaver-Swartz home at 510 Talbott Dr. in Wilmore. Please come and bring a friend!
You’re invited to the next Plowshares Peace Talk on Monday (November 12) at 7 p.m. As usual, we’ll meet at the Weaver-Swartz home at 510 Talbott Dr. in Wilmore. The topic is “Israel-Palestine and the Pursuit of Peace: Stories, History, and Reflections on a Year Lived in Jerusalem.”
Our guest will be Aaron Woods, a doctoral student studying the Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. Aaron spent a year teaching history and peace at a Christian school primarily attended by Palestinian Muslims in an Israeli-controlled area of Jerusalem. He recently sent a short survey to his former colleagues to in turn give to their high school students about their life, goals, what they like to do outside school, but also what they want Americans to know, what they think peace looks like, and how the conflict has directly impacted them. He’s collected 172 responses and will share them with us next Monday. Please come hear Aaron share the voices of young Palestinian Muslims and describe ways we can listen and learn more. I think you’ll find this fascinating.
You’re invited to a Plowshares peace talk next Tuesday, October 23, at 7 p.m. Our speaker, Kevin Bellew, associate dean of wellness at Asbury University, will be speaking on “Peace Within: Nonviolent Communication with Ourselves.” More specifically, he’ll lead us in some experiential exercises and address how critical, aggressive, and even violent thinking can lead us to places of insecurity—as well as limit our ability to be truly present with others.
As usual, we’ll meet at the Weaver Swartz home (510 Talbott Dr. in Wilmore). We’ll have lots of room and plenty of hot drinks; hope to see you next Tuesday!
We had a nice showing of about 25 people for Plowshares on Monday night. For those who want to learn more about techniques of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), Joel Klepac recommends the following resources:
- Center for Nonviolent communication website: www.cnvc.org
- A ten-minutes introduction to Marshall Rosenburg: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgaeHeIL39Y&t=3s
- A three-hour workshop by Marshall Rosenburg (it begins with a folk song on NVC!): https://youtu.be/UEqmZ2E1o64
- 10-15-minute podcasts: https://workcollaboratively.com/category/podcast/
Stay tuned for more events . . .
You’re invited to the next Plowshares peace club event at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Monday, October 30). Our guest is Joel Klepac, who will be speaking on how to use principles of nonviolent communication to empower people to engage in difficult conversations with empathy and honesty. You will learn how to increase agility in conflict, enhance ability to engage in authentic encounters with others, and engage in relationships involving power differentials. These techniques have been developed by Marshall Rosenberg and were inspired by principles of nonviolence developed by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.
Joel is a licensed marriage and family therapist. He spent nine years with Word Made Flesh working with marginalized youth in Romania and three years working in community mental health in Kentucky. He now works at Centre College in student counseling services.
As usual, come to the Swartz residence at 510 Talbott Dr. in Wilmore. We’ll have hot drinks and apple cake on hand as we learn more about how to pursue peace in a violent world.
Our first meeting of the semester, held in conjunction with Asbury University, will be held next Monday, September 25, at 5:30 p.m. in the Kinlaw Library board room (that’s on the second floor). Our speaker will be Tony Hall, a former congressperson from Ohio who holds a longtime passion for and expertise on the issue of global hunger. He is the author of Changing the Face of Hunger: One Man’s Story of How Liberals, Conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, and People of Faith Are Joining Forces to Help the Hungry, the Poor, and the Oppressed (2007) and has served as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.
Philip Jenkins writes, “If you want to think of the average Christian in the world today, then think of, perhaps, a woman living in a village in Nigeria or in a favela [in Brazil].”
Consider, then, the following blog post that highlights “18 Latin American Female Theologians You Should Know About.”
See especially the paragraph on Ruth Padilla DeBorst, a terrific person we’ve had the privilege of hosting in our home:
Ruth Padilla DeBorst is a Colombian Protestant theologian serving as provost of the Centro de Estudios Teológicos Interdisciplinarios (CETI) in Costa Rica. She holds a B.Ed. from Lenguas Vivas “Juan Ramón Fernández” in Buenos Aires, Argentina; a MA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Wheaton College Graduate School; and a Ph.D. in Missiology and Social Ethics from Boston University. She is a leading voice on misión integral, and for several years, she has been involved with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students and the Latin American Theological Fellowship. Dr. Padilla DeBorst has authored various articles and book chapters, including “An Integral Transformation Approach,” in The Mission of the Church: Five Views in Conversation (2016), and “Songs of Hope Out of a Crying Land: An Overview of Contemporary Latin American Theology,” in Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective: Exploring the Contextual Nature of Theology and Mission (2012). She also co-authored Mission as Transformation: Learning from Catalysts (2013), with David Cranston.