Seeking Peace in Trump’s America

I’ll cut right to the chase: the world has seldom needed the peace witness of the Church of the Brethren more than it does right now. In two months, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President of the United States. The commander-in-chief of the world’s largest, most well-funded, and most-powerful military will be a man who has shown himself to be erratic and impulsive, especially when provoked.

During the Presidential campaign, the president-elect was not subtle about his disposition towards military force. He said that he “loves war,” and promised to be “the most militaristic” president ever. He campaigned on a promise to reinstate torture and has advocated for killing not just suspected terrorists, but their entire families as well. He has promised to “bomb the shit” out of middle eastern villages. He proposed sending ground troops into Iraq and Syria. He has advocated for nuclear proliferation in Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Japan. He has refused to “rule out” using nuclear weapons himself, even questioning repeatedly why we can’t use them.

This is to say nothing of Trump’s policies on refugees, on immigrants, on Muslims, on LGBT people, on people of color, on climate change, on police use of force, on healthcare, and a whole suite of positions that endanger people in the US and around the world. It’s to say nothing of his divisive and inflammatory campaign tactics, which inflamed racial and religious divisions, emboldened bigotry, and inspired hate crimes.

We must be clear: the world’s greatest threat to peace isn’t ISIS, or Russia, or North Korea, or Iran, or China. It is the United States under a President Trump.

Throughout our history, the Church of the Brethren has stood up to violence and been a voice calling from the wilderness for peace, diplomacy, and nonviolence. We follow a God of love and the Prince of Peace. We worship and disciple ourselves to a man who taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who hate us. For as long as Donald Trump occupies the Oval Office, it is on each of us in the Church of the Brethren to mobilize and organize against his dangerous, reckless, and violent approach to public policy. Christ said, “blessed are the peacemakers.” It is time to get us some blessing.

This is not to say that we should not pray for Mr. Trump. We should. It is certainly not to say that we should attack, demonize, and mistreat his supporters. We should not. But the world is watching the United States with fear and anxiety in their hearts. And they’re watching the church, too. What we do matters. The stands we choose to take matter. Will we be a voice for the powerless and seekers of peace? Will we continue to be one of the world’s historic peace denominations? I hope so. I plan to show up, and I hope you do too.

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, 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.


Syrian Refugees: Let Them In

I’ll be honest: It’s not often that I think the Bible gives crystal clear, uncontradictory, wholly consistent guidance. On just about any topic. As such, it is perfectly possible for people on both sides of most debates to defend their viewpoints using scripture and to make the case that they are acting out of genuine faith principles.

The current debate about Syrian Refugees, and whether the United States and other Western, Christian-majority nations should let them in, is not one of those debates. As I’m about to lay out, from start to finish, the Bible gives clear guidance, time and again, that we are to welcome and love refugees.

I must caution you that what follows is an often sarcastic, satirical look at the way Christians have ignored scripture’s clear guidance on refugees. That said, here’s a list of scriptural references that I’ve borrowed from a United Church of Christ resource page about refugees:

Genesis 12:10 – “Now there was a famine in the land.  So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land.” Abraham, considered the father of the Judeo-Christian tradition, was once a refugee.

Genesis 19 – Lot takes his family and flees Sodom.

Genesis 23 – Abraham is a stranger and an alien in the land of Canaan.

Genesis 46:1-7 – Jacob moves his family to Egypt to escape the famine and reunite with Joseph.

Genesis 47: 1-6 – Joseph brings his brothers to Pharaoh and they are welcomed and given jobs

Just in the book of Genesis, we have ample examples of how our spiritual ancestors welcomed refugees, and how many of spiritual ancestors were refugees themselves. At the end of Genesis, several of our refugee ancestors have been welcomed into Egypt.

However, it’s not long before xenophobia sets in:

Exodus 1:8-14 – Joseph’s generation is gone, and the Egyptians oppress the Israelites.  “Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor.”

It seems like we’re confused on this point. We have a lot more in common with the xenophobic Egypt seen in Exodus than the welcoming one seen in Genesis.

Exodus 12:37-39 – Here again, the Israelites become refugees, running away from persecution in Egypt. It seems that the forerunners of our own faith are Middle Eastern refugees. That’s… inconvenient for those of us who wish to denigrate Middle Eastern refugees today.

Exodus 12:49 and Leviticus 24:22 – “There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.”

Wait, what? We’re not supposed to treat refugees like second-class humans? We’re supposed to treat refugees like they could be… members of our own family? Members of our own communities? How am I supposed to treat all refugees like one massive terrorist cell if I have to acknowledge that they’re image-bearers of God just like me?

Exodus 22:21 – “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that turning away tens of thousands of refugees and forcing them back into a brutal dictatorship, civil war, and terrorist insurgency would qualify as “wronging and oppressing” them.

Leviticus 19:9-10 and 23:22 – “You shall not strip your vineyards bare…leave them for the poor and the alien.”

For those of us that think we shouldn’t let in refugees because they’ll take our jobs, and government benefits, and houses from homeless veterans: sorry, this whole notion of “us” and “them” doesn’t really fly in the Kingdom of Heaven. In this, the wealthiest country in human history, we have more than enough to care for our homeless veterans AND show compassion to Syrian refugees.

Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 – When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”

Man, God just loves to remind us about how we were refugees once, too. It’s almost like we should show gratitude for our relative peace and security not by jealously hoarding the blessings of freedom and prosperity for ourselves, but by widening that circle to more people who desperately need a little peace and security.

Leviticus 24:23 – “With me you are but aliens and tenants.”

It’s a good thing that God isn’t a xenophobe. We’re all refugees in his kingdom, and if he treated refugees like we treat refugees, we’d be in big trouble.

Numbers 9:14 and 15:15-16 – “…you shall have one statute for both the resident alien and the native.”

Again with the treating refugees like equal human beings!? What do you think we are, God? Christians? Cut us some slack.

Deuteronomy 6: 12 – “Take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

When we forget refugees, we forget the Lord.

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 – “For the Lord your God…loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

But… but… but God, I don’t want to love the stranger! I’m scared of the stranger. Why did you give food and clothing to the scary strangers, God? How can we justify denying the stranger when you’re always going about loving everyone?

Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and 26:12-13 – These verses describe how tithing exists, in part, to care for refugees. Something tells me a refugee tax wouldn’t go over well here in America. It’s probably just because God doesn’t understand economics, though. Yeah, let’s just go with that.

Deuteronomy 24:17-18 – “You shall not deprive a resident alien…of justice.”

Does sending tens of thousands of refugees back into imminent danger count as justice? I hope so, or we’re going to have to reevaluate our priorities.

Deuteronomy 24:19-22 – Leave sheaf, olives, grapes for the alien.

But there are 50,000 homeless veterans that need the sheaf, olives, and grapes! Nevermind that we didn’t really care too much about sticking up for homeless veterans until it was a convenient excuse to hate Syrian Refugees. Or that we’re not actually going to use the funding we would have used to resettle refugees to care for the homeless.

We’re just going off of the Bible: Rhetorics 14: 23 – “Thou shalt use homeless veterans as a political prop to cast a red herring that distracts you from your own xenophobia and callous hearts.” What can we do but follow the Bible? Our hands are tied.

Deuteronomy 27:19 – “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien…of justice.”

Ouch. Cursed? No need to be so judgemental, God. We’re just trying to keep our homeland safe.

Psalm 137:1-6 – “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept…How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”

Yeah, but we were singing songs for Lord. Clearly, God only wants us to care about Christian refugees. Right?

Psalm 146:9 – “The Lord watches over the strangers…”

To make sure they’re not plotting anything fishy, amiright? We’re with you on this one, God. Increase surveillance on Muslims. That’s what this verse means, right? I can’t think of any other way that God might be watching over refugees. Surely not with eyes of concern and compassion.

Ecclesiastes 4:1 – “Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them.”

But who’s going to comfort us? That’s the real question! We’re really scared. We’re the victims, here. I didn’t read the bible to be challenged to comfort others, I only read the Bible to see how it can comfort me.

Isaiah 16:4 – “Be a refuge to the outcasts of Moab.”

Ok, but too be fair, Moab was in present day Jordan, which is like, hundreds of miles from Syria. Plus, it’s not like the Moabites and the Israelites often warred with one another, so welcoming the Moabites wouldn’t be a national security risk. Oh, wait, it was exactly like that?

Jeremiah 22:3-5 – “Do no wrong or violence to the alien.”

Right, but we’re not directly doing any violence to the Syrian refugees. We’re just casting them back to Syria, where  many of them will undoubtedly be subjected to violence. Loophole! We’re off the hook. That’s how you’re supposed to read the Bible, right? Ever vigilant of loopholes that absolve you of responsibility?

Ezekiel 47:21-22 – “The aliens shall be to you as citizens, and shall also be allotted an inheritance.”

Sigh. Ok, but can’t they at least be like second-class citizens? They are scary, after all.

Malachi 3:5 – “The messenger will bear witness against those who thrust aside the alien.”

Something to look forward to in the December issue of the Messanger, apparently.

Ok, ok, ok. I get it. God cares about refugees and show should we. Blah, blah, blah. But all that crap was from the Old Testament. Conveniently for us, we don’t have to worry about the Old Testament at all, right? Everyone knows that God portrayed in the Old Testament is just a big old softy. Thankfully, God gets a whole lot less forgiving and merciful and grace-giving in the new testament, right?

Matthew 2:13-15 – Jesus and parents flee to Egypt as Herod tries to murder their child.

Oh, right. I forgot about that whole Jesus fella. You’re telling me that Jesus was a refugee? That when we put little porcelain nativity scenes on our altars, we welcoming a Middle Eastern refugee family into our home? How well vetted are these nativity scenes?

Matthew 5:10-11 –“Blessed are those who are persecuted.”

Something tells me Jesus isn’t talking about Christians being persecuted by red Starbucks cups.

Matthew 25:35-40 – “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'”

I chose to quote this whole passage because I think these words from Christ, the refugee that we worship, are so vital to understanding what we Christians should be doing in regards to Syrian Refugees. Jesus isn’t just speaking figuratively. He really was a stranger. He really was a hungry baby lying in a manger. He and his family really were in need of love, and compassion, and mercy, and grace, and generosity. There really were people who showed that measure of care to him and his family. When we encounter “the least of these” in our lives: in our communities, in our churches, in our schools, in our political discussions, we would do well to remember that the same nativist, know-nothing rhetoric coming from some people in the United States today would have delivered the baby Jesus straight to the genocidal tyrant seeking his death.

Romans 12:13 – “Mark of the true Christian: “…Extend hospitality to strangers…”

Silly Paul, always using that no-true-Scotsman fallacy. You’re saying that if Christians don’t welcome refugees, they’re not really acting like Christians at all?

II Corinthians 8:13-15 – “It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need…”

Ok, but to be fair, who really has the abundance, and who really has the need? We’re the richest country in human history, true. But doesn’t anyone consider our needs? Like how we need to be coddled about our irrational fears?

Ephesians 2:11-22 – “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.”

Hmm. Until we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we too are refugees. It’s such as shame that 31 of the Governors in God’s Kingdom decided that they don’t want to bring in refugees anymore.

Hebrews 13:1-2 – “…show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels…”

You mean, not every Syrian refugee is a terrorist? Some of them might be good people? Some of them might go on to do great things? No! Surely not.

James 2:14-17 – “What good is it…if you say you have faith but do not have works?”

If we say we’re Christians, but we don’t act like Christ, what good is that?

I John 4:7-21 – “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God…”  We love because God first loved us.”

And this is really the point. Our spiritual ancestry is full of refugees. Abraham was a refugee. The Israelites were refugees coming out of Egypt. Jesus was a refugee. Yet, through God’s mercy and blessing, we have found peace and security, prosperity and joy. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love Syrian Refugees because they haven’t been blessed like we have. To the contrary, God is desperately seeking to use us to bless the Syrian refugees that need our help. Just as God has shown us mercy, so must we be merciful.

And remember, we’re all refugees of a broken world seeking asylum in God’s Kingdom. What if there were nativists and racists and xenophobes there, who didn’t want to let us in? What if there were people there who were concerned about national security and the vetting process who didn’t want to let us in? What if there were people there jealous of their own prosperity and fearful that we might dilute the wealth and security that they had grown to love?

Luckily for us, it doesn’t seem like the Kingdom of Heaven would act that way. Why, then, should Christians here in the United States act any different? Let them in. It’s what we were made to do.


Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a sophomore 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, 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.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at

From Murderer to Patron Saint of Nonviolence

By Nolan McBride

Hello, and welcome to the first post in what I am currently calling Dunker Punks in History. If you have any better ideas for what to call this, please comment below. In my personal walk with Christ, I have found that reading about and studying the lives of those who have gone before us and learning from their example has strengthened my own faith. In this column, I hope to share the stories of Dunker Punks, whether members of the Church of the Brethren or the larger Church, with all of you. Some of these figures will be well known while others you may have never heard of before. All are known for their love for God and their desire to live as he would have them live.

st moses the ethiopianAs I write this article on August 28, our Orthodox brothers and sisters around the world are celebrating the feast day of the fourth century monk St. Moses the Black, also known as St. Moses the Ethiopian. Originally the slave of an Egyptian master, as a young man St. Moses was the last person you would expect to become a saint. His master dismissed him for theft and suspected murder. He eventually came to lead a band of seventy thieves who roamed the Nile river valley spreading fear and violence in their wake.

On one occasion, a barking dog kept him from completing a robbery. Seeking revenge on the dog’s owner, he swam across the Nile to attack the man, a shepherd. He was seen crossing the river with a sword in his teeth, and the shepherd hid himself in the sand. Angry about being unable to find his intended target, Moses killed some of the best animals, swam with them back across the Nile, butchered his stolen livestock, and feasted. After selling the extra meat and skins to buy wine, he walked fifty miles to rejoin his band.

Accounts differ as to what caused Moses to repent and become a monk. My personal favorite version says that while of the run from local authorities, Moses sought refuge among a community of monks in the desert of Scete, nearby Alexandria. Deeply moved after witnessing their dedication, peace, and contentment, Moses gave up his old ways and joined the community.

It is said that group of thieves attacked Moses’s monastic cell, not knowing who he was and intending to rob him. The former robber overpowered his attackers and slung them across his back. Taking them to the church and dumping them on the sanctuary floor, he told his fellow monks he did not think it would be Christian to harm them and asked their advice for what to do. Discovering just who it was they had tried to rob, the thieves repented and became monks themselves.

Moses’s transition into a Christian life did not happen overnight. He struggled with the demands of monastic life, and he became discouraged by the fact that he could not live up to his ideal of the perfect monk. He met with the abbot of his monastery, St. Isidore, who took him to the roof to watch the sunrise together. As the watched, Isidore told Moses “Only slowly do the rays of the sun drive away the night and usher in a new day, and thus, only slowly does one become a perfect contemplative.”

Later on, Abba Moses (as he was then known, Abba being an intimate term meaning father or daddy) was called upon to settle a dispute about an offense committed by one of the monks. He refused but was prodded into coming. So he tied, depending on the version of the story, either a basket of sand or a jug of water with a hole in it, letting its contents trail out behind him. When asked why he did this he replied “My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” At his words, the monk was forgiven and restored to the community.

At the end of his life, another group of bandits came to attack Moses’s community. He advised his brothers to flee, but refused to leave himself, saying, “I have been expecting this day to come for many years past, so that might be fulfilled the command of our Redeemer, who said, ‘Those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” He and the seven monks who stayed with him welcomed the bandits with open arms to their community and were murdered for it. Because of this, in the modern day he has come to be seen as the patron saint of nonviolence. Even today his witness lives on, both in his homeland and around the world.

Nolan_McBrideNolan McBride is a History and Religion major at Manchester University. He loves music, theater, and learning about Christian traditions around the world. He enjoys swimming and singing and is still sore about his family’s namesake, St. Brigid of Kildare, losing to St. Francis of Assisi in the last Lent Madness competition. You can follow him on twitter at @nmcbride35, and find him on Facebook.

Ferguson, One Year Later

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO. Michael, a young unarmed Black man, was shot by a police officer. Michael Brown’s death brought a new level of awareness to a serious epidemic in the United States: the abuse of deadly force by police officers in even routine community policing scenarios, particularly against unarmed Black men and women.

If there is one thing that we have witnessed since Michael Brown’s death, it is indelible proof that the justice system in the United States is deeply broken, and it has been broken along racial lines. There is a justice system that white Americans experience, and there is a profoundly different, decidedly more harsh justice system that Black Americans experience.

What we’ve known all along but are only now beginning to fully admit is that virtually every structure in our society, not just our justice system, aches to be healed of racial inequality. Our economy, our political system, our education system, our industry, our social lives, all afford advantages to white people and disadvantages to Black people.

This is the situation that the #BlackLivesMatters movement seeks to transform.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers on transforming our racist system or on any other aspect of the #BlackLivesMatters movement and the issues it seeks to address and overcome. What I do have is the willingness to listen to the organizers of the movement. I feel the prodding of Jesus through the Gospel to be an agent of inclusive peace. I ache to listen to the stories of deep pain and injustice that the Black community has been telling for generations, but that I have only now begun to hear in earnest. I seek now to understand, more than I seek to be understood.

I will add a disclaimer before I reach the main section of this article. The Dunker Punks movement values racial diversity and aims to be racially diverse. However, as a movement within the Church of the Brethren, it is a sad reality that we, like the COB are mostly white. This article reflects that reality by speaking specifically to what white Dunker Punks can do to be partners in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It is my hope that regardless of your racial identity, you may be enriched and energized by this article, as it reflects our dream of justice and our commitment to seek peace and pursue it.

So, humbly, I present just one step that we Dunker Punks (specifically white Dunker Punks) must take to continue to work for true racial justice and reconciliation, one year after Michael Brown’s death.

We must admit our sin. 

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1: 7-10

It’s easy and natural for someone like me, a socially-conscious, Jesus-loving, justice-seeking, white person to try to absolve myself from the sin of racism. I bet a lot of you reading this blog fit into all of those categories as well, so I think you can relate. We correct even the subtlest of racial bias in ourselves in others, we actively strive to create an environment of inclusive language and attitudes, and we are quick to admonish phrases or actions that cut against those goals. We attend protests for racial justice, we wag our fingers at Confederate flags. We say all the right things, do all the right things.

So I can’t possibly be a racist, right?


I think the first step that I have to take to be a more active and genuine advocate for racial justice is to admit my sin to myself, to my brothers and sisters in Christ, and to God: I am a racist.

And you probably are one too.

I know that that is a highly controversial statement.
I know that you are flooding to the comment section and to Twitter and to Facebook to say mean things about me.
Please, let me explain.

In our modern political discussions about racism, we have backed racism into a dark corner where we can stand a safe distance from it, point our finger at it, and feel morally superior because it doesn’t apply to us.

In the United States, we easily understand our history of racism. Slavery was racist. The confederacy was racist. Jim Crow was racist. Segregation was racist. But that was yesterday! Those days are in the past! Right?

Wrong. There are still structures within our society that are racist. I believe that the first step to overcoming my own racism is to better understand what racism looks like in the 21st century. We’ve conflated racism with racial bias and racial hatred. They are not the same thing.

Racism is a system of advantage (and disadvantage) based on race. On Earth Peace often explains it this way on social media: “racism = racial bias + the misuse of systemic power.” Racism is when some people have advantages, and others disadvantages, based on their race.

Understanding it this way, it becomes pretty obvious that we in the United States live in a racist system. By just about any social marker, the average white person experiences major advantages over the average Black person, in terms of wealth, income, social status, education, environment, as well as social perceptions. And of course, the justice system.

That’s a racist system. And since I benefit from it because of my race, doesn’t that, at least in some sense, make me a racist? I think so. An unintentional racist, to be sure. An unwilling racist. But a racist.

So, when I say that you might be a racist, too, I’m not accusing you of harboring racial bias or racial hatred. I’m inviting you to admit that if you are white, you have benefited from our racist system. This doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, nor does it diminish the struggles that you face in life or the hard work you’ve put into your successes. But it is a reality we must oppose and for which we must repent.

You might say that it’s fine to admit our role in racial injustice, but what does that actually solve vis-a-vis Michael Brown and #BlackLivesMatter? How does admitting our racism progress us towards the goal of racial justice?

We might remember Jesus’ words from Matthew 7: 3-5:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

As white partners in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we need to call out racism in our society and in others, but we must first and continuously call out racism in ourselves. Otherwise, our efforts will be undone by hypocrisy and a lack of perspective.

If we fail to address our own racism, we haven’t identified racism wherever it exists, and we can’t fully eradicate it. It’s like when you count all the people in your group, but you forget to count yourself. It’s not complete.

1 John 1: 9 says that if we confess our sins, not only are we forgiven, but we have the chance to be cleansed from our unrighteousness. When we confess our sin, it becomes possible for us to move past that sin and sin no more. If we can summon the courage to admit that we are racist, we can begin the work of racial reconciliation until we are no longer racist because racism no longer exists.

In practical terms, I’m repeating that old addict’s adage: the first step to solving a problem is admitting that we have one. I am admitting that I am a racist, in hopes that I can be some small part in solving the problem of racism.

It is time to stop being defensive. It is time to stop voicing support for racial justice in one breath, while hedging our own culpability for racial injustice with the next breath. I believe that peace, justice, and reconciliation can blossom and thrive. And let it begin with me.

To quote Amos:

“Let justice roll down like a river, and righteousness like a mighty stream!”

And let it begin with me. Amen.

Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a junior 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, 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.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at

Views expressed on the Dunker Punks blog do not necessarily reflect the views of everyone within the Dunker Punks movement. We are a diverse group united by Christ, not uniform in agreement. 

A Loving Dissent to the Southeastern District’s Resolution on Same-Sex Marriage

This week, the Southeastern District of the Church of the Brethren adopted the following resolution about same-sex marriage at their district conference:

We affirm that for the church scriptures provide the final authority for defining practices for followers of Christ and for His church. Timothy 3:16 states that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Therefore, it is our attempt as a body of Christian believers to follow the teachings and commandments in this holy book.  

In regards to marriage Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” And he went on to say in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Marriage is set forth as the bond between a man and a woman. Jesus re-affirms this scripture in Mark 10:6-8.

In the Old Testament in Leviticus 18:22 says “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. The New Testament in Romans 1 likewise speaks against such practices as does I Corinthians 6:9-11)

In addition, Annual Conference in 1983 stated that same sex covenants are not acceptable to the Church of the Brethren.

We therefore affirm that
1. All are invited and welcomed to come and worship the Lord.
2. Marriage is a God ordained covenant that should be entered into by one man and one woman.
3. The Southeastern District will not accept performance of same-sex covenants or marriages by its licensed or ordained ministers.
4. The Southeastern District will not accept the performance of those ceremonies on any property that is a part of the Southeastern District. 
5. In addition we will not support any materials or anyone promoting the acceptance of the practice of homosexuality as a lifestyle that is approved by God.

I am deeply saddened by the Southeastern Districts decision. On their website about District conference, the Southeastern District says this about their conference theme, which was “Walk in the Light:”

“It seems that we can follow Christ, the Light of the world, or stumble in the darkness. Let’s walk in the light and seek to reflect the light to others as we go.”

How sad that they’ve forgotten their own words about following Christ, and instead have stumbled into the darkness.

I hope the rest of us in the COB can reach out with love but also with firmness to the Southeastern District, to tell them that this is not acceptable and that hate is the real abomination. Of course, we must also acknowledge that the SE district’s statement is not outside of the Church of the Brethren’s own policy regarding human sexuality. While it is important to denounce the Southeastern District’s resolution, it is far more important to resist and change this policy within our entire denomination.

Still, it is my hope that by offering a loving dissent to the Southeastern District’s resolution, we can begin to resist the arguments used to wage spiritual violence on the LGBTQ+ people within our denomination. For my part, here is a biblical response to each point raised in the Southeastern resolution.

Point 1: “We affirm that for the church scriptures provide the final authority for defining practices for followers of Christ and for His church.”

That the Bible offers clarity on the issue of same-sex marriage is not true. It would be nice and convenient if it did, but it doesn’t. At least not explicitly. Instead, Biblical law is full of nuance and complication, buried under layers of different commandments enacted at different times that, when read holistically, would be impossible to follow entirely.

However, the Bible does provide some helpful summaries of what the law is trying to achieve. When it becomes impossible to know if we are in accordance with the law, we can at least look to these helpful verses, to see if we are in accordance with what the law is trying to accomplish. Here a few of those verses:

Micah 6:8 – “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Matthew 7:12 – “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law.”

Galatians 5:22-23 – “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

I’ve added emphasis to these verses to highlight why they can be helpful in understanding God’s law. While we can’t hope to be in accordance with every facet of the law, we can look to these verses to understand why the law exists and what the law is trying to accomplish.

It seems pretty obvious that the intent behind the law is to build a community of people who actively love one another. People should practice kindness and mercy, they should treat others as they would want to be treated themselves. They should pursue justice. They should be loving, patient, generous, and gentle. I don’t think any of these things apply to the Southeastern District’s resolution, nor any other attempt to inflict spiritual harm on LGBTQ+ people.

Point 2: “Marriage is set forth as the bond between a man and a woman.”

I think the scriptures referenced in Genesis reflect the biological reality that when the Bible was written, only men and women could reproduce. These scriptures never say that this arrangement is the only permissible arrangement.

The SE District’s whole argument for this point is reminiscent of the “Biblical marriage” argument, that “one man and one women” is the Biblical standard for marriage. I would point to the many examples, from Abraham to Jacob to Solomon, of men with multiple wives to assert that the notion of “biblical marriage” is an invention of 20th and 21st century thought, not an arrangement of marriage backed up by scripture.

Today, our culture views marriage differently. Just as we view polygamy as unacceptable because of legal complications and because of its exploitative nature, so have our entire standards for marriage shifted. While marriage in ancient society had more to do with property, power, and patriarchy, marriage in our culture has much more to do with love between committed adults and a family structure that is good for the economy and good for society. As a Church community, we should affirm marriage as a healthy arrangement for spiritual growth and for the nurturing of adults and children. There is no reason to believe that same-sex marriage would be any different.

As for Mark 10:6-8, I would caution the SE district to examine the entire context of this quote by Jesus, because it reveals the hypocrisy and hateful agenda behind singling out same-sex couples for discrimination. In Mark 10:2, the Pharisees approach Jesus and ask him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus replies by quoting Genesis in Mark 10:6-8, and then he continues in verse nine to say, “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”

In Mark 10: 6-8, Jesus isn’t talking about same-sex relations, nor is reaffirming a particular arrangement for couples. Instead, he is condemning divorce. I would like to see a statement from the SE District concerning divorce and remarriage. Why have we chosen instead to single out LGBTQ+ couples for shame and condemnation?

As for me, I choose to stand by Jesus in Mark 10:9: “What God has joined together, let no one separate.” I know enough same-sex couples to have witnessed God moving in those relationships. What God has joined together, I think the SE District nor anyone else ought to separate.

Point 3: “In the Old Testament in Leviticus 18:22 says “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. The New Testament in Romans 1 likewise speaks against such practices as does I Corinthians 6:9-11)”

There are several ways to approach Leviticus 18:22 in a way that affirms same-sex relations. One such way is with proper understanding of cultural context. Just as ancient marriage had more to do with power than with love, so often did all sexual acts. I’ll exemplify the point I’m trying to make with another scripture often used to condemn same-sex relations: Genesis 19, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the beginning of Genesis 19, two angels of the Lord come in male form to Lot’s house in Sodom. At night, the men of Sodom surround Lot’s house, and demand that he send the angels out into the streets so that they can rape them.

Such was a common practice in ancient culture, to exercise violent sexual dominance over strangers. Which does the Lord have a problem with? Same-sex attraction? Or sexual violence? I think it’s the latter. In Leviticus 18:22, is it possible that the scripture forbids this same expression of sexual violence and dominance? I believe so. The rest of the sexual taboos in Leviticus 18 have to do with the same themes: sexual violence, exploitation, and humiliation. Do I believe the Lord is against sexual violence against others? Yes. Do I believe the Lord is against same-sex attraction built on a foundation of love, respect, and consent? No, I don’t.

Romans 1 is another one of those scriptures that when read in full context speaks a very different story about how Christians should respond to LGBTQ+ people. Romans 1 lays out a laundry list of sinful behavior, among which is that same violent form of sexuality, as well as other sins like envy, violence, deceit, faithlessness, heartlessness, and ruthlessness. Then, just when you expect Paul to affirm to those of us who refrain from sinful behavior, he turns the other way and says, at the beginning of Romans 2: “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”

How ironic that the SE District should use Romans 1 as a justification to judg eothers, when the point of Romans 1 is to set up Paul’s instruction in Romans 2 that we not judge one another. I’m reminded of Jesus in John 8:7, who said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” Of course, Jesus, who was without sin, had every right to cast that stone, but he didn’t, because he envisioned an arrangement of God’s kingdom here on earth that prioritized love over legalism, and restorative justice over punishment, and Grace and mercy over condemnation.

Here is the NRSV text for 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 – ”

“Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

I’m not sure exactly which part of this scripture is taken to be a direct condemnation of same-sex relations, but I assume it is either the term “male prostitutes” or “sodomites.” Both of these terms are once again best understood within the ancient cultural understanding of these terms.

I don’t think Paul’s gripe with male prostitutes had as much to do with the same-sex encounters with which they were a part, as much as his gripe is with the commodification of sex, of turning sex into an act that valued economic power. Just like the scripture in Leviticus condemns the use of sex to express power, so does Paul’s commentary here seem to condemn those who view sex as an expression of power or economic might.

Aside from my earlier commentary on what the actual sexual sin of Sodom was, it’s important to understand what the bible describes as the sin of Sodom. You might be surprised. The sin of Sodom is same-sex relations, right? Even if we take my understanding of sexual violence to heart, it’s still mostly about sex, right? Wrong.

The bible references “the sin of Sodom” several times. Here’s a typical example from Ezekiel 16:49-50:

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me.”

The sin of Sodom had a lot more to do, once again, with exploitation and ruthlessness. They were unconcerned. They did not help the poor and needy. I do not think it is fair to say that Paul’s intent behind writing about “Sodomites” was to condemn LGBTQ+ people. Once again, this is a projection of our culture, which uses the term “sodomite” as a slur for LGBTQ+ people.

Once again, I want to emphasize that the biggest problem with the SE District’s resolution on Same-Sex marriage is that this resolution is fully within denominal policy. While we should resist expressions of hate whether they occur at the individual, congregational, district, or denominational level, those of us working for full equality in the Church of the Brethren should focus our energy into changing the denominational policy.

I also want to urge those of you who are upset with the SE District to voice your anger with love and grace. It can start by accepting that while the SE District’s resolution is hateful, that does not mean that the people of the SE district are hateful or bad people. I genuinely believe that those who affirmed this resolution believed that they were acting as their understanding of scripture indicates that they should. They were trying to honor God. To be clear, they are wrong. But we change minds by pushing back with the firm, prophetic, and gentle voice of justice, not by disparaging or belittling.

Here’s hoping that we continue our work as gentle servants of Christ, building his Kingdom brick by brick, one act of love at a time. For our work, hear again the words of Micah 6:8 – “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Let us do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. May it be so.

Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a junior 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, 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.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at

Views expressed on the Dunker Punks blog do not necessarily reflect the views of everyone within the Dunker Punks movement. We are a diverse group united by Christ, not uniform in agreement. 

Celebrating the Fourth of July in the Kingdom

This 4th of July, it’s important for Dunker Punks to remember what we mean when we call ourselves “Punks.”

The “Punks” in Dunker Punks refers to Jesus’ call to live lives that are radically transformed in his image. We are Punks because we are counter-cultural. Whenever we see an aspect of our culture that diverges from the message of Jesus, we always choose to follow Jesus instead.

The culture I’m talking about doesn’t have much to do with popular culture. It’s not about wearing different clothing or listening to different music. I think a problem with using the language of culture is that when we hear the word “culture,” our minds immediately jump to Beyonce and Modern Family. Thus, even when Christians accept that they must counter culture, they wage culture wars against Beyonce and Modern Family, and not the substantive aspects of culture in which Christians tend to diverge from the message of Jesus, often doing great harm to their communities in the process.

When I talk about the culture that we must counter, I’m talking about American Culture. I’m talking about the ways that American Christians have ignored or subverted the message of Jesus. And I’m talking about listening to Jesus earnestly and obediently, and choosing his way, rather than the American way.

Here are some aspects of American Culture that American Christians must learn to counter, but usually do not:

1. Nationalism

Christians proclaim that Jesus is Lord, but we don’t often acknowledge the implication of that statement. If Jesus is Lord, nobody else is Lord. When Jesus called himself Lord during Roman occupation, it was a radical political statement, because the Roman Emperor, or Caesar, was the only person whom Roman society labeled Lord. To say “Jesus is Lord” was to say, “Caesar is not.”

Today, Christians in the United States don’t express allegiance to the country in terms of Lordship, but they tacitly express this type of allegiance to the country on a regular basis. Which should Christians recite: The Pledge of Allegiance or the Lord’s Prayer? To whom do we give our sole allegiance? The Flag? The Country for Which it Stands? Or to Jesus?

When we pray the words “Thy Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven,” we acknowledge, endorse, and should seek to create a world without borders. God’s vision for humanity is a brotherhood and sisterhood of men and women living on the Earth in harmony. A diverse Kingdom joyously united under one Lord. In the Kingdom that is God’s vision for the Earth, there is no room for the American flag. It’s past time that we stop worshiping it, and past time that we consider ourselves citizens of any nation other than God’s kingdom.

2. Militarism

Like every other American holiday, the 4th of July has become a time when special reverence is devoted the men and women who serve in the United States military. Nothing is more politically incorrect than speaking an ill word about the military. While I respect the bravery and devotion that it takes to join the military, and while I acknowledge that virtually all who enter the military do so with noble intentions, I am calling this Fourth of July for Christians to accept Christ’s message of nonviolence and mobilize to manifest his desire for peace.

And that means that we must reject an American culture that glorifies the military. We must transform our definition of Heroism to honor those who prevent wars, not those who start them. We must expect from our elected officials the boldness to stay out of global conflict, not engage in it. If we want to call ourselves Christians, we must vote for a budget that reflects Christ’s priorities, including an eventual end to military spending, with those billions of dollars instead going to heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, lift up the downtrodden, and promote mercy and justice for all. And of course, in the borderless world of God’s Kingdom, that means extending those measures of grace and dignity to all of God’s people, not just Americans.

No doubt, I will receive criticism for daring to say that Christians should have a radically different attitude towards the military. But when I say, “Jesus is Lord,” that means I’m prepared to say, “the military is not.”

3. Violence

Of course, American culture is far more infatuated with violence than just the violence of the military.

The police patrol the streets decked out in military garb.

In many places, it’s easier to buy a gun than to buy fresh, affordable produce. On top of that, “God and Guns” is somehow a thing.

Most Christians support the death penalty and usually defend it with the “eye for an eye” logic that Jesus rebuked over 2000 years ago.

LGBTQ+ people are the constant victims of hate crimes. Still others feel so oppressed that they resort to suicide.

Our entire justice system is one violent mess, where nonviolent criminals are hardened in jail, where they are subjected to abuse and neglect, and introduced to a life of recidivism.

Unarmed Black people are killed every week by police, then they are blamed for their own deaths by the news media.

A white supremacist walks into a historic Black church and kills nine people, and a dozen Black churches burn down in the following two weeks, and people respond by holding a pro-Confederate flag rally outside the state Capital building.

Somehow, Christians in the United States, among the main perpetrators of all this violence, have completely lost sight of the Jesus who they claim is Lord. The gentle Lord who taught us to turn the other cheek and who healed the ear of his attacker rather than benefit from the violence of the sword. This Fourth of July, instead of celebrating the bombs bursting in air, what if we resolved to turn away from the wide path of violence in America, and instead chose to walk the narrow path of peace, justice, and nonviolence, where we find Jesus’ footprints?

4. Consumerism

While we worship a Lord who taught the rich man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor, many middle-class Americans spend more each week than one of the world’s poor makes in a year. Jesus taught us not to horde possessions, but instead to live and love generously, taking stock not in what we own, but in the fruits of God’s spirit.

Countering America’s culture of consumerism is not just Biblical in its own right, but it is necessary to live up to the principles of Christian nonviolence.

When we satisfy our thirst for low-cost goods, we support big-box institutions that pay starvation wages to their own workers and seek to skirt as many worker protections as possible. Of course, the labor conditions of a Walmart employee in the United States are downright kingly compared to the labor conditions of the workers in Bangladesh and Taiwan and China and Vietnam and Guatemala etc. who make the products we consume.

In consumerist America, we benefit from the labor of a child worker working twelve hour days to make our clothing and electronics, or a sweatshop worker making a dollar a day with no breaks, or a plantation worker harvesting cocoa or coffee beans in what can only be called slavery unless we squint really hard. Nonviolence doesn’t just mean being not violent directly. It means using our political, economic, social, and spiritual power to transform the world to look more like the just, joyous, and peaceful Kingdom.

This is to say nothing about the way consumer culture fuels global climate change, which is the greatest moral crisis of the twenty-first century. Thousands of people die every year from climate change already, and by the end of the century, the number will be millions every year. As sea levels rise, low-lying countries like Bangladesh, one of the most populous in the world, and island nations will completely vanish, killing or displacing all of their residents. As temperatures rise, droughts and heat waves like the one that just killed thousands in India will become commonplace. So will catastrophic weather events like hurricanes and floods.

While we Christians in the United States are as much to blame for the continuing momentum of Climate Change as any other group of people, the harshest impacts of Climate Change will fall unrelentingly on the world’s poor who lack the political and economic power to prepare for its effects, adapt to its conditions, or rebuild in its wakes.

We’ve drifted far from the Lord who taught us to live compassion for the poor. The problem of Climate Change demands more than just recycling. We need to substantially alter the way we live our lives to consume less resources, and we need structural, societal changes to shift our eery supply from fossil fuel to renewables. We need to stop worshiping the idol of Industry, and begin to worship Jesus. Only by following God’s commands to live simply and love justice can we hope to mitigate and reverse global climate change.

This post isn’t intended to be written from a place of judgement, but from a place of meekness and confession. I am guilty of following American culture rather than Jesus. I visit Walmart to take advantage of their low-prices, without regard to the victims of my purchases. I’m typing this post on an overpriced Apple computer, built in part by sweat shop labor. How appropriate that it would be brandished with the forbidden fruit. While writing this post, I consumed gas by driving to not one but two Fourth of July celebrations. I don’t always remember to recycle, and I frequently catch myself being less generous than I should be. I constantly fall short of mobilizing for the radical transformation of the Earth that Jesus desires.

But this Fourth of July, it’s time for us to ask God to transform ourselves to better reflect his vision, rather than our own. It’s time we stop celebrating our nationality, and time we start celebrating the joyous Kingdom that we can have a hand in building. It’s time we refuse to grow complacent in our lives of power, stability, and privilege, and time we embrace the radical implications of declaring that Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not.

Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a junior 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, 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.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at

ROYGBrethren Online Forum for LGBTQ Youth and Young Aduts

A group of COB LGBTQ activists has announced ROYGBrethren, an online forum that provides a safe space and community for LGBTQ Youth and Young Adults in the Church of the Brethren.

The purpose of the forum is to provide a confidential space for LGBTQ youth and young adults to share stories, offer one another support, and discuss collective nonviolent action that builds a more just and affirming community in the Church of the Brethren. ROYGBrethren is a safe space for LGBTQ youth, as well as youth who are still discovering their sexuality and gender identity. While denominational discussions determine whether to let us openly sit in pews, speak from pulpits, and co-create resources that serve our community, ROYGBrethren is a space where the humanity of LGBTQ youth and young adults is fully affirmed now.

ROYGBrethren is created by Brethren young adults who have experienced or witnessed the difficulty and isolation that many youth and young adults face in embracing their LGBTQ identity. They know first hand how alone and threatened an LGBTQ youth in the Church of the Brethren can feel when they can’t count on the love, affirmation, and support of their church community. Many LGBTQ youth grow up not knowing any LGBTQ members of the Church of the Brethren their age, and given the environment in which most Church of the Brethren congregations are located, they might not know any other LGBTQ youth in their community at all.

That’s why this resource is so important, so that LGBTQ youth and young adults can experience the love, acceptance, affirmation, and community that straight people in the Church of the Brethren take for granted. I’m thankful for the leadership of these activists who have discovered a hole in the Church of the Brethren and are determined to fill it, while so many in the COB still refuse to fully embrace the absolute and inherent humanity of all LGBTQ people.

This is an issue I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time, and like many who feel the same way as I do, I have made excuses to not talk about it. I’ve avoided talking about it because I don’t have the theological knowledge to back up what I believe to be true and just. I’ve avoided talking about it because I didn’t want to say anything too controversial. But I’m making a commitment here and know to talk about it. Instead of using my deficiencies to avoid standing up for justice, I’ll take the example of the creators of ROYGBrethren, and fill in the holes in myself so I can be a better ambassador of the Kingdom of Heaven, and a better advocate for justice.

I may lack the theological knowledge at this moment to pull together a well reasoned and scriptural argument to back up my beliefs, but here’s what I do know: I know that Jesus spoke a lot more about justice than about sexuality, so to deny someone justice based on their sexuality isn’t Christlike. I know that the Bible is written from the perspective of the oppressed, so to use the Bible to oppress is to not take the Bible seriously. I know that Jesus boiled down all of God’s commandments simply to love God, and love others. So if we are anything but loving to LGBTQ people, we are being sinful.

I’m very proud of my Brethren identity. You can ask my non-Brethren friends, I talk about it all the time. I’m so proud, because in so many instances throughout our history, the Brethren have been a peculiar people set aside in their Christ-centered work for peace and justice. On issues like slavery, poverty, civil rights, and war, the Church of the Brethren has showed tremendous leadership. We’ve read the bible and understood its radical call for love and justice.

On the issue of homosexuality, we have failed. By refusing to fully and lovingly acknowledge the humanity of LGBTQ people, we have betrayed our history. We have betrayed our own humanity, especially the most basic human part of ourselves that is agape love. And we have betrayed God, who loved LGBTQ people so much that he sent his only begotten son to die on the cross for them.

Click here to read the full text of the ROYGBrethren Press Release.

Please share the news about ROYGBrethren with LGBTQ or questioning youth and young adults in your circle who would benefit from being a part of this space. Please direct interested individuals to 

Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA District

Emmett Eldred is a sophomore 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, 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.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at

A Mighty Girl

Yesterday I was scrolling through Facebook, and I saw this photo:

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 4.29.58 AM

This photo is of six-year-old Ruby Bridges, the first African American child to desegregate an all-white elementary school in the south.

The photo was posted on the Facebook page of “A Mighty Girl,” an organization dedicated to raising smart, confident, and courageous girls. But I don’t think there can be a better caption for this photo.

A Mighty Girl.

I think our culture has the wrong idea of what it means to be mighty. And as a bunch of enemy-loving, Jesus-following, culture-defying Dunker Punks, I think that’s something that we should tackle.

So here’s what I think: Ruby Bridges, at six years old, was more mighty than the five big men seen protecting her in this picture.
She was more mighty than the crowds of vitriolic adults who those men were protecting her from.
She was more mighty than vicious, violent racists of the Jim Crow south like Bull Connor.
More mighty than a United States government that for its first two hundred years refused to acknowledge her full humanity, much less her right to go to the same school as everyone else, and in some respects still fails to do that today.
More mighty than the Church, which far too many times in American history and in world history has stood on the wrong side of justice and human rights.
More mighty than our modern American heroes: our superheroes like Batman and Superman, our war heroes like Chris Kyle and George Patton, our manly men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris.

Yes, I said it. This little six year old girl was even mightier than the great Chuck Norris. Far mightier.

Dunker Punks, let’s be counter-cultural. When you hear someone say that something is mighty, challenge that. Mighty of strength, or mighty of heart? Mighty as in dominant, or mighty as in fearless? Mighty as in violent, or mighty as in defiant?

The mightiness of a culture that collectively told Ruby Bridges that she wasn’t fully human, that she didn’t deserve full human rights, or the mightiness of Ruby Bridges, who told her culture that she didn’t care what they thought?

We have to have the mightiness of children like Ruby Bridges, children so mighty that they didn’t fight with violence, but with determination. Children so mighty that they didn’t stand tall or strong, but firm and sure. Children so mighty that they did not accept the world as it was, but were wise enough to see and create the world as it should be, through courage, and creativity, and imagination.

Here’s the proof:

Matthew 18: 2-6: “Jesus called a little child and had her stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles themselves like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.'”

This verse tells me that Jesus had the same idea of mightiness that the Dunker Punks should have. So here’s my last thought for you.

We say that our God is mighty. But what does that mean? To me, that means the mightiness of Ruby Bridges. To me, that means the mightiness of justice, of peace, of fierce love for our enemies, of tireless grace.

The mightiness of God can be seen on the determined face of Ruby Bridges. When we think about God, lets not forget what true might looks like, what true love looks like, what true power and courage looks like.

Dunker Punks, as we go out into the world to bring love, to bring change, to look like Jesus to the world, let’s not forget that Ruby Bridges looks more like God, and God looks more like Ruby Bridges, than any image of God our culture would like us to believe.

Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA DistrictEmmett Eldred is a sophomore 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, 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.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email

Ebola Fighters Provide an Important Alternate Definition of Heroism

Like many in the Church of the Brethren, I was pulling for the kidnapped Nigerian girls to be named Time’s Person of the Year. If you don’t know, many of those girls are members of the EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria. The EYN has been particularly devastated by the terrorist organization Boko Haram, which operates in Northern Nigeria. To learn more about what Dunker Punks are doing for those girls and the EYN, and how you can get involved, you can click here. Even though they didn’t win, just the fact that they were in the running means people are still hearing about them and learning about what’s going on in Nigeria, so I’m thankful that they were at least considered.

However, one of my next top choices was the Ebola Fighters, and I am beyond thrilled that they were named Time’s 2014 Person of the Year. My reason is simple: I think there are few people who are more heroic than the Ebola Fighters. My other top choice, by the way, was Malala Yousafzai, another example of true heroism.

Christians in the United States live in fear. We’re afraid of a lot things. We’re afraid of terrorism. We’re afraid of people who don’t look like us, speak like us, or practice the same religion as us. We’re afraid of the boogey man. We’re afraid of our shadow. We’re afraid of being struck by lightening, while being attacked by a clown, who is riding a great white shark, who is wishing us “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” We’re a timid bunch.

But more than anything, in 2014 we were afraid of Ebola. Ebola was everywhere. In our streets, in our schools, in our water, in our churches, in our homes. Hide your kids, hide your wives, hide your husbands, because everybody was getting Ebola in 2014.

If you can’t tell, I’m being sarcastic. To be clear, I am glad that we took the threat of Ebola seriously in the United States. The worst thing that we could have done would have been to not take proper precautions against the spread of Ebola. And even though we only had four cases of Ebola in the United States and one death, even one death is a tragedy and should be viewed as such. However, there is a huge difference between taking something seriously and being absolutely terrified of something. To the point that living in fear takes Ebola less seriously than dealing with it calmly and courageously.

The problem with living in fear of Ebola in the United States is that Ebola is a gravely serious and deeply tragic issue in other parts of the world. It is a genuine threat, not a manicured threat like it was here. There are countries in Africa that have been crippled by Ebola, and continue to face grave projections for the coming months. These countries do not have the resources, technology, personnel, or medical infrastructure needed to effectively deal with Ebola like the United States did. In the three most affected countries, there have been nearly 12,000 deaths and over 18,000 cases of Ebola, and some projections have indicated that hundreds of thousands or even millions may eventually be affected.

Living in fear of Ebola in the United States draws crucial attention away from countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea that badly need the help of the international community, especially the United States. If we choose to worry irrationally, unnecessarily, and excessively about our own safety, we will be less willing to do what it takes to provide for their safety.

How do I know? Because a legitimately considered response to Ebola, supported by many influential people in the United States, was to restrict all travel between the affected countries and the United States. Many people who feared Ebola thought the proper response was to shut out those who so badly needed our help. Additionally, now that Ebola is no longer a threat to the United States, we hear less and less about it each day, though it continues to ravage parts of Africa.

When we make things about ourselves, people suffer. When we live in fear, we turn a blind eye to those who are in great need. And Christians in the United States are at least as guilty of this as the rest of the country, thought I suspect we are far more guilty.

That’s why the Ebola Fighters are heroes. They saw a terrible disease, and instead of fearing it, they chose to do something about it. Instead of making it about themselves, they made it about the people who actually needed help. They left their homes, families, and livelihoods to do what was right. They risked their lives to heal people. And I shouldn’t put this in the past tense. They continue to do these things.

Not all of the Ebola Fighters are Christians, I’m sure. But they all model Christ better than we Christians in the United States do. Jesus showed us how we are to lead. He was unafraid yet gentle. He didn’t compromise his values, yet he treated others with love, dignity, and respect. He didn’t consider his safety or social conventions when he brought others healing. He didn’t give people what they deserved, but what they needed. He had the courage to speak out against power and speak up for the powerless. He brought a message of hope, not fear. He was willing to die to bring life to everyone, but he was not willing to kill anyone.

Christians need to observe a new definition of heroism modeled after Christ, not empire. If it is “heroic” to pick up a gun and risk your life to fight for your country, how much more heroic is it to put down that gun and risk your life to heal others? If it is “courageous” to stand your ground as a police officer against an unarmed black teenager, how much more courageous is it to stand your ground as a young Pakistani girl against the Taliban for your right to an education? If it takes “leadership” to make the tough decision to use torture, how much more leadership does it take to make the right decision not to use torture?

Paul wrote to Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” In Christ, we have tremendous power. It is the power to heal, not to kill. It is the power to create, not to destroy. It is the power to love, not to hate. It is the power to build God’s kingdom, not Earth’s empires.

The Ebola Fighters fill me with tremendous hope for the world. It is the same hope found in Christ. When I see headlines that read “Ebola in America” I see a society that has lost the imagination it takes to live outside of fear. But when I see a group of doctors willing to risk everything to save the lives of people they’ve never met in a country they never thought they’d visit, I catch a glimpse of the Kingdom.

Everyday, as I learn more about the EYN and their tremendous courage and leadership in Nigeria, I have an example of who I must strive to be as a Christian. Sadly, Christians in the United States have lost sight of what the word Christian means. We worship a version of Jesus who would be unrecognizable to the twelve disciples.

I hope we take a lesson from the Ebola Fighters. I hope we stop living in fear. I hope we stop succumbing to fear by choosing hatred and violence, but choose instead to overcome fear with hope and compassion.

Dunker Punks, let’s be leaders. Let’s be courageous. Let’s fight diseases, and poverty, and hunger, and racism, not wars. Let’s learn from the Ebola Fighters. Let’s show the world what Jesus really looks like.

Emmett Eldred - Hollidaysburg COB, Middle PA DistrictEmmett Eldred is a sophomore 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, 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. Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email

Breaking it Down: The Sermon on the Mount Week 8

By Jenna Walmer

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debt, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil on. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:5-15

It has been almost five months now since NYC. Have you been living up to the challenge of saying the Lord’s Prayer every day? I know I do not say it every single day, but it’s become almost routine. However, it is important that this unique prayer Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t lose its meaning. My youth group began writing our own Lord’s Prayer and we have also looked into other versions of the Lord’s Prayer. As the original version may become monotonous to you, try researching new versions of the prayer, in other languages, in other versions of the Bible, or write your own to see what the Lord’s Prayer means to you.

Prayer is more than just reciting one single prayer daily, or multiple times a day. It’s having a conversation with our Heavenly Father about our fears, about our thanksgivings, and about whatever you really want to say.

The Lord’s Prayer was given to us to use as a model for prayer. When we pray, we should remember to pray to praise God, for his work in the world, for our needs, and for our help with struggles. In your daily prayers, do you incorporate all of these parts that Jesus provides? Which one do you use this most?

The Lord’s Prayer can be broken down even further to understand individual parts of it. This is handy to develop your own version and to understand praying more thoroughly. Throughout the prayer, Jesus indicates that God is holy, yet personal and loving. He then notes that His “kingdom” refers to his spiritual reign. By asking that his will be done, we are praying for God’s purpose to be accomplished in this world. We then acknowledge that God is our provider. He also leads us away from our tempters and helps us forgive others. This prayer is the formula that helps Christians live a life with God as their center.

Jesus also tells us not to draw attention by our prayers. When praying publically, make sure your prayers are heartfelt and focus on addressing God. Before praying, either publically or privately, make sure your intentions are pure and you mean what you say to the Lord. As we pray remember to keep sincerity in mind and your thoughts clear.

So in the upcoming weeks, look into the Lord’s Prayer and write yours down own. Make sure your public prayer is sincere, and not for show. Pray for those who persecute you and for God’s will to be done in this world. May the power of prayer help you live your Dunker Punk lives.

Jenna Walmer - Palmyra COB, Altantic Northeast DistrictJenna Walmer is from Lancaster County and is currently in 12th grade. In school, she loves to research historical events. If she were to live in a specific time period, she would want to be a hippie and live in the 60s or 70s. Her favorite past times are swimming and playing her trombone. If you want to know more about her random life, follow her on twitter: @jaymarie2100

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