A Dunker Punks Agenda for 2017

With the end of one divisive and tumultuous year comes the specter of another. 2016 may be over, but its partisan divides and humanitarian crises linger. In our own denomination, divisions surrounding same-sex marriage, climate change, and other topics rage on.

Dunker Punks have an important role to play, whether in response to national and international events, struggles in our own communities, or policy debates in the Church of the Brethren. We are committed to carrying the light of Jesus, meaning we will study his life and instruction, dedicate ourselves to him, and reflect his love and wisdom to the world.

With a New Year comes time for reflection, rededication, and inspiration. Though it is not intended to be exhaustive, here is a list of five priorities that I suggest for Dunker Punks for the next year.

1. Read the Sermon on the Mount

This is a bread and butter issue for the Dunker Punks. We can’t meet 2017 as disciples of Christ without continuing to study his wisdom. In the Sermon on the Mount, we are blessed with three straight chapters of Jesus giving precise instruction of how we ought to live our lives. And if we truly want to call ourselves Christ’s disciples, we have no choice but to take his words seriously.

This is a bread and butter issue for the Dunker Punks. We can’t meet 2017 as disciples of Christ without continuing to study his wisdom. In the Sermon on the Mount, we are blessed with three straight chapters of Jesus giving precise instruction of how we ought to live our lives. And if we truly want to call ourselves Christ’s disciples, we have no choice but to take his words seriously.

Maybe 2016 was such fraught year because so many people failed to live up to the Sermon on the Mount. How would foreign affairs have been different if we accepted Christ’s teachings about turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39) or loving our enemies (Matt. 5:44)? How would our politics have differed if we had chosen to be salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13) or a light to the world (Matt. 5:14).

This year, crack open the Sermon on the Mount and even try to commit it to memory. Most importantly, internalize it, and implement it in the way you live.

2. Get to Know Someone Different

There’s no way to deny it: we’re divided. Internationally, we view those from different nations with distrust and fear. Nationally, we vilify those of a different race, national origin, citizenship status, religion, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Within our denomination, we draw battle lines based on who’s progressive and who’s conservative. In our congregations, we stake our territory in the pews, and we divide ourselves based on age and preferred worship style.

The Gospel scriptures overflow with examples of Jesus breaking down such boundaries. He healed lepers (Matt. 8, Luke 17) despite Jewish taboos that ostracized them. In John 4, he speaks intimately with the Samaritan woman at the well, even though cultural attitudes vilified Samaritans and forbade men and women to interact like this. He also reached out to those in power, healing a Roman soldier’s servant (Luke 7) and interacting with tax collectors like Zacchaeus (Luke 19) and his disciple Mattew.

We should follow Jesus’ example, striving especially to personally know the oppressed: the poor, racial and ethnic minorities, religious minorities, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. There is no better way to break down our own prejudices than by getting to know those different from us. And there is no better way to become an advocate for justice than by understanding and witnessing injustice.

And we strive also to get to know those who think differently to overcome ideological divisions. Social media has made it easier than ever to curate our friends, associates, and information to suit our ideological beliefs. But we can’t see the humanity and goodness in our ideological opposites unless we strive to get to know them as people, not just vessels of ideas we oppose.

3. Hold Our Leaders Accountable (And Pray For Them)

After a fraught politics season that lasted nearly two years, it’s tempting to disengage. And it’s important to give ourselves a little time to heal and breathe and breath of fresh air. But as people of faith, the decisions made by our national, statewide, and community leaders are too consequential to ignore. As disciples of Christ, we are sworn to stand with “the least of these” (Matt. 25), who are so often the subject of important political decisions. Therefore, it’s time to dust off our shoulders, stand in solidarity with the oppressed people around us, and get ready to engage.

This is equally true whether we have a Republican or a Democrat in the White House or which party holds the majority of seats in Congress. It’s true whether we voted for or against our state legislature, governor, or mayor. Justice should be a nonpartisan issue, and, for our purposes, it’s a non-political issue as well. It’s simply what we are called to do as Christians.

We’ve heard adages about power and how it corrupts. Like them or not, our leaders are in positions of power, and often their agendas come on the heads and shoulders of the powerless. It’s our duty to soberly, skeptically, and diligently observe them. We are citizens of God’s kingdom and our sole allegiance is to Jesus. When earthly leaders strive to oppress others to meet their own ends, or to wage war, we have to be there to stand in their way.

However, we should also remember to pray for our leaders and wish for them success. We should hope that leaders call an agenda that advances justice, equity, and human rights. And we should work with them to advance those goals, not out of loyalty to them, but to Christ.

2017 will be a momentous political year, as we transition to a new president and a new congress, as we participate in local elections, and as we experience international events. Dunker Punks must be there, must be present, and must be ready to act.

4. Break Out of Politics

On the other hand, we can’t allow politics to define us or constrain our vision. It’s easy to be consumed by politics, to let it drain our time, energy, and emotional fortitude. But in an age of harsh partisan divides and extreme gridlock, politics can also obscure from our vision the humanity of others, and it can be fruitless, wasting our time and dampening our spirits.

To be sure, we must engage in politics because we have to challenge and change systems that create injustice. However, we also have to bring the light of Christ to every other corner of the social landscape. Our role is to be engaged disciples of Christ in culture, education, social movements, our faith institutions, family, and community, just as much as politics. This means reflecting Christ’s love and wisdom in each of these settings. Our role is to serve others in addition to challenging political leaders, just as Jesus performed intimate acts of service like healing, in addition to advocating broader social and political reforms.

In 2017, let’s not allow ourselves to be consumed by politics. After an explosive election season, it’s vital to remember that there is more going on in the world than just Donald Trump. The world is bigger than that, and smaller. We have to fix our eyes on Jesus, allowing him to transform our hearts, so we can go out and transform the world around us, both through small acts of love, and grand gestures of solidarity.

5. Get Involved!

I’ll conclude this by urging you to get involved with Dunker Punks, and also to lean into opportunities to lead and serve in your communities and congregations. As far as Dunker Punks goes, you can click here to join our movement. I also encourage you to contact us about getting involved in new and creative ways, such as writing for our blog or leading a service project. You should also check out our wonderful podcast, which is sponsored and produced by the Arlington Church of the Brethren.

2017 is here, and with it come new challenges as well as new opportunities to transform ourselves to look, think, and act a little bit more like Jesus, so we can transform the world around us to look a little more like the God’s Kingdom. Here’s to a happy, productive, and worshipful new year!

podiumEmmett Eldred is a senior Creative Writing; Professional Writing; and Ethics, History, and Public Policy Major at Carnegie Mellon University. His passions include reading about, writing about, and snuggling with pugs. Emmett is the founder of DunkerPunks.com, and he wants lots more people to contribute! Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and join the conversation! Follow Emmett on twitter @emmetteldred and follow Dunker Punks on Twitter @DunkerPunks and on Facebook.







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