Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called “The Anabaptist Vision“…
[Part 10 of a 12-part series]
Gary Bryson: Jarrod McKenna is a young Christian activist involved in peace and social justice issues. He is one of the founders of the Peace Tree Christian Commune in Perth, and also the founder and creative director of ‘Empowering Peacemakers in Your Community’, or EPYC, an organisation which runs non-violence training programs for young people. For his work with EPYC, Jarrod was awarded last year’s Donald Groom Peace Prize.
He’s inspired, he says, by Anabaptist ideals.
Jarrod McKenna: Out of that has come lots of crazy adventures. I’ve been at Pine Gap, the US military base 20 kilometres outside of Alice Springs to being roughed up by police on national TV to my mum’s horror at Baxter Detention Centre, to being part of the catalyst for a Christian community in one of my neighbourhood’s lowest socioeconomic areas, to doing the work I do with young people.
Gary Bryson: It’s fair to say that you’re part of a group of very radicalised young Christians who are taking on issues of peace and non-violence in the much more engaged ways than perhaps we’ve seen in the last few years.
Jarrod McKenna: Yes, I think for us that has come out of not thinking of these things in terms of issues but thinking about it narratively in terms of what is it for us to be submerged, or baptised, as the Anabaptists would talk of in this narrative of this Jesus, this Jesus who turns over tables, this Jesus who preaches love of enemies, not bombing our enemies. And out of that has come this life; we’re daring to imagine a world transformed.
Gary Bryson: How do you understand the notion of discipleship today?
Jarrod McKenna: Discipleship for the early Christians and discipleship I think for this emerging church movement, which is drawing on Anabaptism, is about what it is to follow Jesus in ways that are empowering and life-giving, ways that speak of a world transformed, where we see in our lives as communities, what a world would look like turned upside down, what would a world look like where instead of power being understood as something which we lorded over them, as Jesus put it, but again, I think the Spirit is speaking a word to the church, in the world that this time in history that says, ‘Not so with you”, not so in terms of power being simply about oppressing others in terms of manipulating others, in terms of coercion, but this power that we see revealed in the resurrection of Jesus, this non-violent power that this new world has actually, this new creation has begun.
Gary Bryson: So what does an Anabaptist-inspired community look like to you?
Jarrod McKenna: For us, an Anabaptist-inspired community is a community that is drawing on the Anabaptist tradition, looks like living in communities together where no-one is in need, where we’re able to provide an economic alternative to the economics of greed and scarcity that surround us and the rest of society, and out of that, a generosity that with experience from God can actually provide for others as well in housing the homeless, in providing a place to stay for people who otherwise wouldn’t have a place to stay. In terms of growing our own food, in terms of living on the land in such a way where eco-spirituality no longer becomes an abstract but becomes a daily practice, of no longer simply trusting on the empire to provide our daily bread but what is it to seek our daily bread in ways that don’t participate in the oppression of other people around the world. So linking together, seeking alternatives, just very, very ordinary and yet very rare and special.