Mennonot: Pleasure with Pain for Leaven, Issue #4

Ross L. Bender

Mennonot, Issue #4

Resacralizing Our Relationship to the Bovine

Recently I’ve been receiving email from the Church of Euthanasia urging me to kill myself. The sermons tend to arrive on Sunday evenings, which is the time of week I am at my gloomiest and most morose anyway, having had one sermon already that day. The gist of the C of E sermons is that the earth is overpopulated and is being destroyed by the toxic effects of civilization, so the only principled thing to do is to do yourself in. Their slogan is SAVE THE PLANET! KILL YOURSELF!

The official Zine of the Church of Euthanasia is called Snuffit, and you can check it out at gopher.etext.org under Zines/Snuffit. Their Web site is http://paranoia.com/other/, but I have never succeeded in accessing it, and every time I try I keep wondering if there’s something wrong with my equipment. This week’s sermon was by Jeremy Rifkin, who was introduced as "one of our most distinguished members," but I have a sneaking suspicion the piece was plundered from one of his books. The sermon waxes lyrical about the "ecological renaissance" that will accompany the elimination of beef and "the cattle complex," which damage the planet by sacrificing the rain forests for grazing land and which squander grain by force feeding it to beef cattle, thus robbing the poor of their minimum protein needs.

"Moving beyond the beef culture is a revolutionary act, a sign of our willingness to reconstitute ourselves, to make ourselves whole. Restoring nature, resacralizing our relationship to the bovine, and renewing our own being are inseparably linked," says Rifkin.

Now there’s nothing here that’s any more looneytoon than what you will find in the More With Less cookbook, except maybe the business about our sacred relationship to the bovine and besides, knowing MCC and its predilection for the mysterious and mystical East, there are probably Mennos out there right now who believe that cows are sacred. But that is precisely what I find so disturbing in the Church of Euthanasia -- that the same logic obtains as in much of our down-home Mennonite thinking, except that it is taken remorselessly to its logical conclusion, i.e."Save the Planet! Kill Yourself!"

I mean, a gaggle of religious fanatics who go around saying that their aim in life is to imitate as precisely as possible the behavior of a homeless first-century fanatic bereft of appurtenance or asset who went around saying that he was the Son of God and predicting not only that he would be killed to get him to shut up but that his followers, if they were at all diligent, would likewise be slaughtered for their troubles, has, if they’re even halfway serious about what they’re saying, got to be either stark raving mad or shameless baldfaced hypocrites or both.

I mean, the logic of following Christ in life leads you beyond giving away all your property to the poor and your underwear to any crazy dude on the street who asks for it to living on the street naked and in rags, covered with scabs, surviving for months on end without a shower or Ren and Stimpy, and trancing out like a fucking sadhu. Look at all the early desert fathers, like St. Anthony or Simeon Stylites. Even more recently dear sweet St. Francis licking the scabs off lepers. That’s what radical discipleship looks like -- and worse! How strange that most Mennonites, far from babbling in the gutters and pusholes of New York City, live in a sort of restrained and fastidious splendor out in the suburbs. This is not to try to point the finger or generate guilt trips or lead into the endless debate about whether our earthly portion is more or less of more and more or what percent of our paycheck goes to MCC and what percentage to the devil. The point is that when you push these things too far and you and your faith get wrapped too tight, something, somewhere, is going to snap.

EITHER YOU TAKE THE ANABAPTIST VISION seriously enough, i.e. to the point of insanity and snuff yourself to save the planet, or you live with some mighty powerful psychic contradictions. If you’re trained from childhood in the art of worrying what people are gonna think and in considering yourself a humble piece of dung and always putting others before self, you’re gonna come up with a self image which is, in a word, bizarre. And if you truly believe the New Testament logic that the least among you will be the greatest and push yourself to the point of being the humblest piece of dung of all, you will wake up one morning believing that you are Jesus Christ himself. And then you’ve really got some problems -- this is what is known as the "I’m impotent/omnipotent" syndrome. The New Testament is riddled with Zen-like koans that are designed to drive you totally bonkers if you let your mind dwell upon them for any time at all. "He who would save his life must lose it." "He who would be greatest must be the least.”" "He who does not hate his mother cannot be my disciple." "Be perfect as my Father in heaven is perfect."

Oops, I see that my time is up. We’ll continue unpacking the fascinating Mennonite psyche next time.

Volume 5

Table of Contents