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 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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Breaking it Down: The Sermon on the Mount Part 4

By Jenna Walmer

 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” – Matthew 5: 21-26

This passage about being angry towards another person is hard to swallow. As I digested this section of The Sermon on the Mount, I realized that so far in my readings, this may be what I struggle with the most.  You see, there are people that come along that are so mean, vile in their words and actions, which makes you think, can’t I just not love one person? We think, “I love everyone else. I show unconditional love, but this particular person is downright disrespectful.”

However, Jesus tells us to love everyone.  Anger, in this passage, refers to the bitterness that is shown toward someone.  This kind of anger is dangerous to society. It can cause emotional and mental stress, spiritual impairment, and even violence.  Anger gets in the way of loving our neighbors; therefore, we should avoid our angry thoughts and replace them with loving thoughts.

Clarence Jordan brings up a provocative point about this passage.  In his book, The Sermon on the Mount, he suggests, “If people convince themselves that the lives of others aren’t worth much, the inference is drawn that it does not matter particularly what happens to them.  They may be shot, they may be exploited or bombed, or they may be used as cannon fodder, and it’s perfectly all right.  Nations do it, of course, on the wholesale and not just one at a time. Thus, contempt, leads to a justification of murder and this makes one a murderer at heart.”  As Jordan proposes, when the value of a person is lost, ‘murder’ has essentially begun. Jesus enlightens us to the fact that it is not just enough to avoid murder, we must also avoid anger and contempt towards others as well.

Jesus also warns us that our attitude towards others reflects our relationship with God. If we love others, we love God.  If we hate others that means we probably show hatred towards God.  Broken relationships impede our relationship with God. That is why reconciling relationships is so crucial. By settling disputes in relationships, you become closer to God.

To deepen your spiritual life, start by reconciling unstable relationships instead of hiding from the problem.  Then, consciously rid your mind of angry thoughts.  Have you ever heard of the saying, “Kill people with kindness?”  Instead of ‘killing’ them, because we are pacifists, I would recommend that we start practicing kindness towards everyone, every single day. So go out into the world, and be a blessing of compassion to all of humanity.


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

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

What Dunker Punks can learn from Malala

Today, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi for their work in standing up for the rights of children and young people, especially for their right to education.

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Prize. She was in Chemistry class when she learned that she had won.

What does this mean for Dunker Punks? Well, I’m sorry to tell you, it doesn’t mean that being a Dunker Punk will get you the Nobel Prize. But here’s what it does mean: We live in a world that is paying attention. We live in a denomination that is paying attention. We go to churches that are paying attention. At least they should be.

Knowing that we live in a world where a 17 year old Pakistani girl can win the Nobel Prize encourages me that I have a right to speak up and put my beliefs into practice. And I want to speak up and say that you have that right, too. In the Church of the Brethren we recognize something called the “Priesthood of All Believers.” And yes, that even includes youth. How Dunker Punk is that? It’s pretty counter cultural, and its pretty radical.

And I would argue that it’s not just a right, but a responsibility.

In her statement after learning that she had won the Prize, Malala said that children around the world should stand up for their rights and not wait for someone else. In the United States, not many of us have our basic human rights violated. We have access to clear water and fresh air, shelter and food, health and safety, education and opportunity. But there are people in our communities and across the world who do not have these things.

Jesus advocated for a world that cares for one another, that stands up for each other’s rights. On earth as it is in heaven.

For Dunker Punks, Malala’s words and Jesus’ teachings mean that we have to stand up for others’ rights and not wait for someone else to do it. So don’t. But remember, we don’t have to do something worthy of the Nobel prize. All we have to do is listen to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, talk to Jesus with the Lord’s prayer, and listen when Jesus inspires our creativity.

Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and tell the Dunker Punks community what you are doing to follow Jesus and practice his love. Email me, and let me know how I can help you speak out and stand up.


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 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.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

Happy International Day of Nonviolence!

Today, October 2nd, is Gandhi’s birthday.

In honor of Gandhi, October 2nd is the International Day of Nonviolence!

You may be wondering, “Why do we need an International Day of Nonviolence? Wasn’t the International Day of Peace like less than two weeks ago?”

It’s a good question. And I’m glad you hypothetically asked it.

We need both because we need to be able to see the big and small picture. The International Day of Peace is a great day to come together and join in collective prayer and work with shared dreams of a world where there is no fighting between tribes and nations. It’s an important reminder that, especially in our globalized, interconnected world, it is very much our business what happens to our neighbors in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Nigeria, and across the world.

The International Day of Nonviolence is a reminder that it has to start with us. Gandhi did amazing things, and his work continues to effect billions of people, but it all started with him. You might think that Gandhi was born a humble peacemaker, unifying the people of India and marching to sea since the moment he could walk and talk. This isn’t the case. Gandhi was born and raised in privilege, and for the first twenty years of his life, he didn’t question the organization of Indian society very much. It wasn’t until Gandhi spent time as a lawyer in South Africa, where he witnessed and experienced various expressions of prejudice that he began to question his own place of privilege and who might be negatively effected by his own high status.

It wasn’t until Gandhi experienced the disadvantage of prejudice that he began to address his own prejudice and the systemic prejudices that advantaged him.

Gandhi went on to touch millions of people in his life of work, but it all started with him changing himself. His change effected a nation, but it was very personal. You and I will probably never touch millions of people with our expressions of nonviolence, but we can learn from Gandhi’s life that changing millions of people isn’t the goal. The goal is changing ourselves. And whether an entire nation is watching, or just our friends and family, changing ourselves begins to change others as well.

So today, in honor of Gandhi’s birthday, think of how you can change yourself to be less violent in your personal interactions. This may mean physical violence. No more driving aggressively, solving problems with use or threats of force, or beating up your brother (sorry Ethan).

It may also mean no more emotional violence. No more using cruel words or hurtful humor. No more saying you hate your enemies, and speaking to them in that way.

Or, it could be spiritual violence. No more using your religious beliefs or the bible as a weapon against those who don’t believe the same thing as you. Evangelize through Christ-shaped love. Make disciples by being disciples.

Solve problems with creativity and meekness. Answer hate with love. Answer violence with nonviolence.

Whatever you do, use October 2nd as a day to change yourself to be less violent, and as always, remember to continue that change on Oct 3rd and beyond.

Happy International Day of Nonviolence, everybody! Happy birthday, Gandhi!

Think Big. Be Small.


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 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.

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email Emmett at dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

DunkerPunks: Changing the World, One Smelly Foot at a Time

The way that we change the world is not through power but by washing feet.

– Greg Boyd

Greg Boyd was the first plenary session speaker at the Missio Alliance conference that I’ve mentioned before. He said a lot of great things that stuck with me for various reasons, but nothing that he said stuck with me as much as the quote above.

The way that we change the world is not through power, but by washing feet.

I like this for a number of reasons.

First, the Obvious Reason:

We talk a lot on DunkerPunks.com and in the Church of the Brethren about peace and nonviolence. We study the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings and accounts of Jesus, and it’s clear to us that Jesus preached and practiced nonviolence, so we must do the same. Building peace and practicing nonviolence fit into the larger picture of following Jesus.

Second, I Love the Humility of It:

There’s something about humility and the practice of mutual submission that is incredible at diffusing power. Something to remember about Jesus: yes, he came from humble beginnings, but as an adult he was a rabbi. As far as Jewish society goes, this is about as good as you can get. To be a rabbi meant you were the best of the best of the best. You were the smartest of the smartest of the smart. And if you were a good, inspiring rabbi (like Jesus), you could develop a large and loyal following. As a rabbi, Jesus could have been incredibly powerful.

Also, keep in mind what the people of Jesus time were looking for when it came to a Messiah: They imagined a warrior king, a politically powerful revolutionary, someone mighty. And they got Jesus.

Jesus had a way of turning power on it’s head. He was in every position to be incredibly powerful. He could have led a violent revolution against the Roman Empire. He could have incited his followers to pick up weapons and attack. They would have done it. Peter did do it. He attacked a Roman soldier, cutting off his ear, and what did Jesus do? He put the ear back on the soldier’s head.

Jesus could have used his power, but instead he girded himself and washed his disciple’s feet. Including the feet of those who would betray him and reject him. I love the humility of it.

Third, I Love the Smallness of It:

I realize that Boyd was speaking metaphorically, but let’s think literally for a second.

A question for those of you who have ever washed feet before: How many people’s feet can you wash at once?

The answer is obvious: one. Often, people frame nonviolence as simply not being violent. That’s not the case. That’s not was Jesus preached. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”

This is so eloquent and so packed that you can expand it in a number of directions to demonstrate how nonviolence is active. I’m sure I will in the future, but for now I’ll just expand in one direction.

All three of the actions Jesus describes are interactions between two people. The formula is the same for each: a person in power abuses a person with less power. The person with less power submits to the abuse nonviolently, and then responds not with violence or with inaction, but by subverting the power by actively submitting even further. No longer does the abuser feel powerful, but cruel. No longer does the less powerful person appear inferior, but gracious and human. No longer does the power dynamic seem righteous, but unjust.

And it all happens on the tiny plane between two people. When we practice nonviolence, we get caught up in imagining that we’ll be nonviolent one day, and the world will be saved the next day. It doesn’t work that way. The kingdom of heaven doesn’t expand from the top down, reaching from heaven and enveloping the whole world. It spreads from the bottom out, like a mustard plant.

Every time you look someone in the eye and show them the love of Christ, you are planting the mustard seeds of the Kingdom.

Every time you wash someone’s feet, you are showing them what it means to worship a God of love.

And that’s how we change the world. One smelly foot at a time.


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 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.

Promoting Our Faith, One Cookie at a Time

By Jenna Walmer

“Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. But I will come to you very soon, if the Lord is willing, and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” 

– 1 Corinthians 4:18-20

It has been said, “mean what you say and say what you do.” We have most likely heard something likethis phrase in our childhood. The question is, do we actually follow through with its meaning?  Do our actions match our speech and vice versa? Sometimes, I catch myself contradicting my actions and my speech, and I consciously fix it. But other times when I reflect on conversations, I realize how I could have changed what I said to mirror my true beliefs and actions. I see this in many of my peers as they are “shooting the breeze.” It happens to all of us; we overhear conversations when someone says one thing, and they turn around and say another. It is really annoying, is it not?  We all fall victim to it, and we all probably do it.  However, we are called to be truthful in our actions and speech.

Once we can overcome “shooting the breeze”, we can move into the next phase of life. Once we mature past this stage of insecurity, we discover who we truly are and what we believe. In this stage of life, we are asked to show our faith. God asks us to display our love for Him not only through our words but through our actions. In 1 Corinthians 4:20, Paul tells the people of Corinth that showing faith does not come through just our speech. During that era, many people would just talk a lot about their faith and what to do to be faithful to God. Does that sound familiar in today’s epoch too? However, we are told to show our faith through our actions as well.

In the Church of the Brethren, this is where our heavily beloved service aspect comes into play. Through service opportunities, we can show our love for humanity by helping one another. Also, during these work projects, we may have the opportunity to discuss differing opinions, giving us the opportunity to show our faith through speech and action. We can also illustrate our faith by sending letters to our leaders about current events that hit close to home. Other opportunities include peace runs and other events related to our peace heritage, helping at a homeless shelter, and any opportunity that allows you to act upon your individual faith-based beliefs.

Personally, the biggest concept that bothers me in the world is violence, so naturally I love peace. Maybe it’s because I’m Brethren, maybe because I’m called, only God knows. Anyways, the past two years for International Day of Peace, September 21st, has fallen on a weekend (last year it was a Saturday; this year it was a Sunday). Both years, my mom has happened to be in charge of desserts for marching band that weekend. So, I asked her last year to make cookies with peace signs on them and I made sure everyone in band knew it was International Day of Peace, whether they were Pro-Peace or Pro-War (many people in my band are looking to go into ROTC post high school; there are few people I know of who are peace lovers like myself). It was pretty funny that her turn for desserts fell on September 20th this year; so, for the second year in a row the marching band had cookies with a peace sign emblazoned on them. I guess that is my roundabout way of promoting peace in my small group of friends.

Recently, Dunker Punks has asked for your support in sending letters to officials about the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls. Whether it is doing something small like making cookies or sending a bunch of letters to officials about an incident that really makes you tick, we are all a part of this revolution and are called to make a difference in this world. Through our actions AND our speech, let us show our faith by starting something creative, unique, and personal today.


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

Want to contribute? Fill out a Dunker Punks profile, and/or email dunkerpunks2014@gmail.com.

“Jesus is (Not) Stupid.” A Challenge to Build Peace on #PeaceDay and Every Day

Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren’s Pastor Marlys Hershberger delivered a sermon today about Peace Day that was so good and so challenging, that I can’t help but share her thoughts in my own words.

She began by saying, “Jesus is Stupid.” It’s the church version of a well crafted “click-bait” title. The thought “Jesus is Stupid” is inflammatory, but it makes you listen, doesn’t it? Of course, neither Marlys nor I nor most Christians think Jesus is stupid. Quite the opposite. But oftentimes our actions tell a different story. Marlys says that another way she’ll say this is: “Do you think Jesus is stupid? No? Then why act like what he says is stupid?”

As Christians, we claim that we follow Jesus. We claim that we love Jesus. We claim that Jesus is the core of our faith.

Then why don’t we actually listen to what he tells us to do? Why don’t we listen to him when he says to be generous with our material self and with our love? Why don’t we listen when he says to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and visit the imprisoned? Why don’t we listen when he says to love our enemies, and to overcome evil with good? Wy don’t we don’t we listen when he says to bring the kingdom to earth as it is in heaven? Why do we act like Jesus is stupid?

At every stage of our relationships with people – interpersonal, communal, national, global, and everywhere in between – Jesus says to treat one another with grace and love, and to overcome conflict with humility, meekness, and nonviolence, not domination.

It reminds me of the way we treat children. Has a child ever come up to you with something they were excited about, and you dismissed them by saying, “That’s nice,” with a pat on the head, and maybe pinning something to the fridge. The unspoken implication to “That’s nice,” is “but the world is complicated in ways that you simply can’t understand.”

Don’t pin the cross to the fridge. Don’t pat Jesus on the head and say, “That’s nice.” Don’t patronize Jesus.

Listen to him. And follow him.

Jesus was asked “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and he replied: ““Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18: 3-5)

When we talk about peace, the impulse is to say, “That’s nice, but the world is more complicated than that.”

Do you think Jesus is stupid? Or do you think Jesus is wise in a way that our complications of the world fail to understand.

Happy Peace Day everyone! Follow Jesus.


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 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