Christian Citizenship Seminar

By Jenna Walmer

On April 18th, Brethren Youth from around the United States gathered in New York City. That Saturday was the start to Christian Citizenship Seminar (CCS), a conference that allows Brethren youth to explore the connections between a specific topic (this year was immigration) and our faith and culminates with congressional visits in Washington D.C.  Throughout the seminar, we discussed the importance of our faith’s connection with citizenship and how immigration impacts our lives. It is a busy week filled with learning, fun, and spiritual growth. Following is an abridged version of what goes down at CCS.

Walking through Time Square with luggage in tow is definitely an adventure in itself.  We admire the sites of the city, but we walked many blocks to find our hotel and collapse in the lobby. After we have recuperated from the long walk and everyone has arrived, we go to dinner the same place as last time, eat some delicious food, and reconnect with old friends.  Later that night, we had our first session led by Nate Hosler and Bryan Hanger. Nate discussed the connections of immigration to the Bible. Then, Bryan introduced our talking points for our congressional visits.

The next day, we split up and went to new churches around the city.  I went to Judson Memorial, a church that is affiliated with the Baptist and United Church of Christ denominations. This church was very different and not what I expected, but I could definitely see myself attending that church if I ever end up in New York. The preacher was pretty socialist, and the whole congregation was accepting of everyone: people with AIDS, homosexuals, immigrants. They also promoted being politically and socially active.  What interested me was that the preacher was arrested with Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez.  Later in the evening, we had our next session. The speaker was actually the preacher we listened to that morning at Judson! She told story after story about immigrants that she has helped. This developed an emotional connection to the facts we already started to learn. Putting a story to the facts is important to connect with congressional visits.

On Monday, it rained and rained, and we walked through that rain! We started off the day with the pastor from Riverside Church who discussed the systematic problems of Immigration and the general process.  After this session, many headed to the United Nations for a tour and another educational experience.  At the UN, the groups learned about human rights. I would recommend that everyone visits the United Nations at least once because it opens your eyes to what the world as a whole is working towards.  Instead of going to the United Nations (since I was through that tour multiple times), we were free to explore the city!  We decided to check out Hot Breads, a bakery that was recommended from the coordinators of the trip. The Hot Bread bakery makes homemade bread according to traditional recipes from immigrants. The bread was really good! Later that evening,  my group  decided to venture out and just walk until we found something to eat. We walked 15 blocks until we decided to go to our fourth diner for the trip, and it was only day three!

Finally, the day of travel! This day was probably most exciting of all… after the buses arrived. We waited… and waited… and waited. The buses got stuck in New York City traffic, and we stood outside, all 80 plus of us, waiting for the bus. The bus is always the best because it is one of the first times you get to interact with a larger group of people. Then, we arrived in Washington D.C.! We had a meeting with Julie Chavez Rodriguez, the Deputy Director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement.  Therefore, we had the opportunity to be ON THE WHITE HOUSE CAMPUS! So, you know those black fences that are around the White House? We were INSIDE of those! We were sniffed by a drug dog! I even saw the fountain that you always see on T.V., and I have pictures of the outside of the West Wing and all the Secret Service Cars! Julie Chavez Rodriguez gave us insight on President Obama’s agenda on immigration. She also told us about the internship program at the White House! After that, we split up for dinner throughout the city.  I went to Chicks’, which was really delicious and super environmentally friendly! After dinner, we had our second session for the day. Jerry O’Donnell gave us our first full lesson on how to talk to our representatives.  He told us to use personal experiences, and acknowledge the conditions of the government currently.  Also, he reminded us that we are speaking for those who do not have a voice, the immigrants.  He also told us DO NOT read of your advocacy ask sheet verbatim.  It was a helpful reminder for Do’s and Don’ts from last year’s training.   After this, we headed out to find an ice cream shop!  Today, the group learned that D.C. IS a city that sleeps and stores actually close before ten! Who would have known?  Coming from New York and stores being open all the time, it was a change to adjust too!

Wednesday was the day.  We had another legislative training session in the morning.  This session gave us examples in form of a pretend meeting of what to do and what not to do while in the office.  We also discussed our main points once again, so they were fresh in our memory. The speaker told us to lead with a story of how immigration has impacted our life. She also told us that congressmen act out of fear. They don’t demilitarize the border because they are afraid. They don’t act on Immigration Reform and give them rights because they are afraid. These points stuck with me as we moved toward our own groups and preparation for our Hill visits.

After this, we broke up into our groups and discussed who was going to talk about what in the meeting. Now, we were off to the Hill.  We went to Senator Bob Casey’s office.  He is our easy visit because they always agree with what we are saying.  Our aide agreed with a lot that we said, but he was very eager to get out of the meeting. However, we kept plugging away at our information and asked him about a point that Casey and the Church of the Brethren do not agree, which is the demilitarization of the border. Even though Casey is a Democrat, he votes to keep military at the border because it is one thing that the Republicans want to keep in the Immigration Reform. The aide explained that with this it is “give and take” and that is what Casey “gives” to the Republicans, so he can receive something else in return.   In the evening, we reflected with the larger group on our visits.  After that, we had another ice cream trip!  The next day would be our last and we would have to say our goodbyes.

Our final session is always the best because we discuss the whole trip.  We reflected on the week, and how we’ve grown mentally and spiritually.  We were ready to take back the information of immigration to our home towns and now we were going to spread the word about immigration.  After the session, we took many pictures, exchanged hugs, and said our goodbyes. Our pastor arrived with our van and we were off, ready to be disciples of Christ, now able to spread the word of immigration to our communities to make a difference in the world.

As we become active in politics and discern what issues are near and dear to our hears, remember to keep our connection to faith in mind. Remember to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Finally, remember to act without fear.

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


Living Intentionally: Loving Everyone

By Jenna Walmer

Living Intentionally Focus Scriptures:

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 10: 39

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” – Mark  8:36-37

I hope the lessons in the Sermon on the Mount started to sink in through this break from study, and I hope you have started to apply them to your everyday life!  Throughout our study of the Sermon on the Mount, one lesson stuck out to me that was repeated in many of the different sections or was hidden in each of the messages; do not build your treasures on earth, store up your treasures in heaven. This message is reiterated in more of Jesus’ teachings and even in the Old Testament. Wherever the passage is found, the orator or writer wants to remind us that our earthly days are numbered, so we should live them wisely. We should NOT cling to the rewards we are given on Earth, because they are only temporary. Instead, we should loosen this grasp to follow Jesus more fully. We will make strides to fulfilling God’s purpose, we will inherit eternal life. When you follow Jesus, you will know what it means to live abundantly, without all the extras.

This next series of posts will be centered on living intentionally, following Jesus’ teachings, and its connection to being a Dunker Punk.

Loving Everyone Focus Scripture:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. … If you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?” – Matthew 5: 43-45, 47

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” -Matthew 7:12

Goal Number 1: Intentionally love everyone

Goal Number 2: Consciously think about how you are treating others and reflect on if this is how you want to be treated

Goal Number 3: Once you can accept and change yourself, help others love everyone as well

Jarrod McKenna defined dunkerpunk as “a young person who is a member of a rebellious countercultural tradition that radically commits their life to living God’s Calvary-shaped love in the power of the Spirit, to the glory of the Father.” He suggested that we are to commit our life to radical love. So,what is radical love?

It’s going against the grain in our everyday lives. It’s pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. It’s realizing that we have not loved fully in the past, and we must change our habits to love fully now. It’s loving everyone, no matter their gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, or any other types of identifiers. Because, love does not judge. If God is love and God does not judge, and we want to live our lives like God’s son, then we shall love without judging.

That’s what radical loving is. Loving fully, loving without judgement, and loving everyone.

We must first start to change our hearts. Realize that we should love everyone, instead of judging others on certain characteristics. The first step should always be to change ourselves, instead of to change others.

Second, we need to notice when we are disregarding someone because of a certain aspect of their life. Instead, bring in and invite the outcasts, instead of gossiping about or disregarding them. Also, decide how you would want to be treated and have that reflect in your everyday life.

Finally, once you have changed your heart fully and intentionally love everyone, start help others noticing how to be kind to the outcasts and invite them to love everyone as well.

We are called to love boldly: To step out in faith and show those who don’t believe, believe in and hope for peace and unconditional love. Start a revolution in your area of intentionally loving everyone and treating others the way you would like to be treated.

 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

Breaking it Down: The Sermon on the Mount Week 15

 By Jenna Walmer

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching,  because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew 7: 24-29

We have finished the Sermon on the Mount! Through this long process, we have learned about many topics. In his final section, Jesus suggests that his disciples should build “on the rock” by being hearing and responding disciple, not a fake one. He asks for their obedience, which provides a solid foundation for the disciples.

At the end of the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus compares the lives of these two men. First off, they have several points in common. They both are building houses, they both are listening to Jesus’ teachings, and they both are living under the same set of circumstances, the rain and the wind. However, the difference is the wise man listened to Jesus’ teaching and the foolish man did not. Circumstantially, their lives look similar; but, the structural and eternal differences are revealed through the storm.

Like a tower that is built out of cards, the fool’s life crumbles. Fools don’t realize they are headed for destruction. They just don’t think about life’s purpose. As believers, we are called to help the “fools” think about where they are headed with their life in correspondence with God’s call for them.

When you follow Jesus, you may not recognize the immediate differences, but they will affect your destiny.


How does your life reflect Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount?

Over the past six months, we have studied the entire Sermon on the Mount. We have learned Jesus’ thoughts about anger, lust, revenge, divorce, prayer, fasting, money, worry, and judgement. Jesus gave us insight on the way to heaven and how to be disciples of Jesus. He provided advice on how to love our enemies. He also teaches us how to be salt and the light. As we take Jesus’ teachings and continue to apply theme to our lives, let us be bold, step OUT of the crowd, show and share the light of Christ, explain our beliefs to others, embrace the needs of our brothers and sisters and build relationships with them, be a blessing of compassion to all of humanity, love radically, pray sincerely, live simply, and trust in the Lord. 

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

Breaking it Down: The Sermon on the Mount Week 14

By Jenna Walmer

 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”– Matthew 7:15-23


fruitbad fruit

Look at the two trees. Which tree would you rather take the fruit from? The one on the left or the one on the right?

There is an obvious difference between the two. The tree on the left has vibrant fruit, but the plant on the left has really rotten, unidentifiable fruit. Just by the looks of these two fruit-bearers, we would rather take the products from the tree on the left and disregard anything with the tree on the right.

Jesus tells us that good trees cannot bear bad fruit and bad trees cannot bear good fruit. However, he was not talking about literal trees of fruit. Rather, he was speculating about the character of a person.

Jesus is warning us that we must be aware of false prophets. As Jesus said, false prophets come in sheepskins but are ferocious as wolves, he meant that they look like ordinary teachers; however, they do not have the same intentions. Some teachers only say what the people want to hear, claiming it’s God’s message. These people are motivated by fame, money, and power.

Since every good preacher cannot bears bad news and every bad teacher cannot bears good news, it is our job to differentiate between the two.  We should evaluate teachers’ words by examining their lives. Since trees are consistent in the kind of fruit they produce, teachers are the same. Jesus created this metaphor to teach and warn us about the lessons all around us.

Good teachers consistently exhibit good behavior and high moral character as they attempt to live out the Gospel and the Sermon on the Mount. On the other hand, bad teachers give false lessons, do not try to live out the Gospel, and have a lower character.

This does not mean we should be constantly judging others and going on rampages to kick out teachers in the church. Everyone sins. But, we are to examine the motives of the teachers and the results they are seeking.

As Dunkerpunks, our teachings should be focused on leading a countercultural life of pacifism and love. We should focus on the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. We should be truthful in our speech. We should put an emphasis on our actions.

Jesus also tells us in the scripture that he is more concerned with we do than with what we say. He wants us to do right, rather than speak the right words. Also, our actions should match our speech.

Therefore, we should be wary of teachers whose actions do not match their speech. Bear good fruit through righteous actions and speech. Live by the Sermon on the Mount. Be recognized by the good fruit in your life. 

end of fruit


Jenna Walmer - Palmyra COB, Altantic Northeast District

Jenna 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


What Global Divestment Day Has To Do With Nonviolence

Today is Global Divestment Day, when organizations and activists all over the world shed light on how invested capital (especially the invested capital of organizations with large endowments like universities) fuels the industries that do the most damage to the Earth and environment through activities that fuel climate change.

The idea of divestment is nothing new. Basically, its the idea that investments have a lot to do with the success and failure of large industries, so investors should reward socially responsible companies by investing in them, and compel socially irresponsible companies to change their practices by divesting (un-investing) in them.

If investors invest in a dangerous or destructive industry (for instance, the oil industry) then that industry will have the resources to continue operating and damaging the environment. Conversely, if many large investors divest (remove their invested money) from these industries, then they wont have the resources to continue operating.

It should come as no surprise that in Capitalism, capital is the key to success.

As Christians and as Dunker Punks we have an undeniable, irrefutable call to nonviolence. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says clearly:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” – Matthew 5: 43-48

So what does this have to do with divestment? What does nonviolence have to do with divestment?

Here’s what I think: If Jesus commands us to love our enemies, to take active steps to show them kindness, good grace, and love, and to refrain from hurting them, what does that mean for those who aren’t our enemies but we don’t often really think of as our neighbors? How should we treat someone in Bangladesh or New Orleans that we don’t know and never will know?

Here’s a bit of common sense for you: If Christ says we should love our enemies, that should automatically mean we love everyone else. Everyone, from Bangladesh, to New Orleans, to Syria is our neighbor. In Luke, Jesus explains how to love:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:27-36

When Jesus says “do good to those who hate you” and “do to others what you would have them do to you,” he’s commissioning a structural, preemptive approach to nonviolence. He’s saying treat people well even before as situation has turned violent. It’s not enough to avoid retaliation. You have to dismantle hatred with love before it is allowed to reach violence (of course, if it does reach violence you have to continue with nonviolence). Nonviolence is not simply not being violent, it is altering structures and behaviors that are in-and-of-themselves violent.

In other words, its not enough to avoid hurting people directly. If you are part of a structure, system, or behavior that hurts people, you are being violent. That’s what the Christian call to nonviolence should be most concerned with: altering structures, systems, and behaviors that are violent.

This is where it comes back to divestment. Divestment is one way to look at our economic structure (capitalism) and alter it to be less violent.

The Global Humanitarian Forum and other think tanks estimate that 300,000 people die each year already from events and effects associated with climate change, with the possibility of as many as 500,000 per year by 2030.

More conservative estimates, like those from the World Health Organization place current deaths at about 150,000 per year and estimate that by 2030, the number will be about 400,000 a year.

So right now, by the most conservative estimates, more people die each year than belong to the Church of the Brethren in the United States. This isn’t just a question of maybe people will die in the future because of climate change, but people are already dying right now. And, there are things we can do to curb this that we don’t. To me, that is every bit as violent as war or terrorism or gun violence.

We cannot call ourselves nonviolent if we do nothing to resist climate change.

That’s why divestment is an act of nonviolence. It’s taking steps to change systems and structures and behaviors that right now are violent. So as nonviolent Christians I think divestment is a great way to practice nonviolent social change. It’s not just about resisting the urge to retaliate against our enemies, its much more that that.

So Dunker Punks, encourage the systems that you’re a part of to divest! If your parents have investments that profit from climate change or environmental destruction, challenge that. If you’re in college, organize your classmates to pressure your schools to divest. If you’re an adult and you belong to a trust or retirement plan or you have your own investments that profit from climate change, make the tough decision to divest from that. If you reflect on the teachings of Jesus, ask yourself where your own financial wellbeing ranks next to the call for radical nonviolence.

Encourage the Church of the Brethren and Brethren Benefit Trust to advance and make good on its commitment to socially responsible investing by adopting more restrictive language about investing in companies that profit from climate change. The current guiding langue says that the BBT will avoid investing in, “Companies that are egregious or consistent violators of environmental regulations” (Sec. 1, Subsec. H, Item d). This is good, and I want to make it very clear that I am very proud of how the COB and BBT show leadership with socially responsible investing, but I don’t think our Christian understanding of climate change should be dependent on the US Government’s definition and regulations. If the US Government isn’t doing enough to combat climate change, certainly a historic peace church can show a better effort.

Continue to lovingly help the members of our faith community recognize and understand the scientific reality that humans cause climate change and have the ability to change their behavior to stop climate change. More importantly, help them understand how fighting Climate Change through divestment and other measures relates to nonviolence. This isn’t just an issue of following scientific consensus, this is an issue of following Christ. This isn’t just about protecting the environment, this is about protecting people. It’s an issue of life.

I hope that the Church of the Brethren becomes a leader in mobilizing nonviolent action to combat climate change. This is a topic that should be at the very center of who we are as a denomination and nonviolent faith tradition right now. In 1935, when the continued threat of worldwide violent conflict was the greatest threat of violence in the world, Annual Conference declared “All War is Sin.”

Now, 80 years later, the greatest, most violent threat facing the world isn’t global conflict, isn’t war, isn’t terrorism, but is climate change. It’s time to say, “Climate Change is Sin.”

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

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

Breaking it Down: The Sermon on the Mount Week 13

By Jenna Walmer

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

We are almost done with The Sermon on the Mount! Only two more sections left, and this one was fairly short. Have you attempted to memorize sections?

For the short Bible verse and poem, both Jesus and Frost point to taking the road less traveled.

Frost’s description of his first path reflects Jesus’ description of the wide gate. These two teachers address the problems with the broader road and the path that many take. Jesus warns of destruction if one takes the wide gate, for Jesus does not want us to follow the crowd.

Then, the two suggested the better path to take. In Frost’s poem, the traveler took “the one less traveled by.” Jesus tells us that this path leads to “life.” The “life” that we are receiving by taking the road less traveled is eternal life. Believing in Jesus, following his guidelines, and taking the narrow road is a way to heaven. Living His way may not be popular, but it is right.

As Dunkerpunks, we are called to take the path less traveled. We are called to live against the grain of the standard culture. We are called to take the path less traveled.

In the upcoming weeks, start consciously taking the path less traveled. Stand up for your peers. Spread the word about injustices. Be strong about your radical beliefs. You are a part of the few who find the narrow path and you will make all the difference.

Jenna Walmer - Palmyra COB, Altantic Northeast District

Jenna 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

Breaking it Down: The Sermon on the Mount Week 12

By Jenna Walmer

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:7-12

Sports. Music. Art. Games. Pretty much anything that requires skill requires practice. You have heard it been said, practice makes perfect. But what is key to becoming better? Just practicing once on and off and just when you’re having a good day? Of course not! People don’t become champions by practicing when it feels right. Michael Phelps didn’t win 8 gold medals by showing up to one swim practice only when he was feeling good. I’ve read a few books about this stellar athlete- he didn’t miss practice, and he practiced through whatever wrench was thrown at him. His goggles may have broke…He kept going. He was made a champion through practicing and persisting through difficult situations.

Now, how can I draw a parallel between a swimmer who is not the best role model and the Sermon on the Mount? Hmm… When Jesus talked about asking, seeking, and knocking, he was asking us to hold onto our relationship with God through everything, thick and thin. Because persistence is what strengthens our relationship. If you think about it, the opposite of persisting is giving up, and we don’t want to “give up” on God, do we?

In Matthew 7, Jesus tells us to persist in pursuing God. We know that building a strong relationship with God takes time. Jesus assures us that if we have faith and focus, we will be rewarded. When the going gets tough and you feel like you cannot hear or talk to God, continue to ask him for more. Keep an open door. Don’t shut it!

God wants us to continue to ask him for more knowledge, patience, wisdom, love, and understanding. He wants us to come to Him when we are troubled. He doesn’t want us to go away or give up on Him. Through persistence, one will find a stronger connection with God.

However, we must understand that God will not give us “stones” or “snakes.” He will only give us what He thinks we need at the right time. God will not harm us, even if we ask for it and think it’s in our best nature. How reassuring! As we grow closer to God and know Him as a caring father, we will learn what is good for us, in His eyes, and he will grant it when we are persistent.

Jesus also discusses the Golden Rule at the end of this passage: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” This saying has been used in elementary schools for years. It’s easy to tell a child not to bully someone on the playground or not to tease a peer because he or she wouldn’t want to be treated like that. However, if you pull this statement to a larger context, like conflicts overseas that involve mass killing machines, would people react the same way? How would the military or terrorists group’s attitudes change if someone told them: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” Would this change their perspective on the weaponry they hold in their hands on a daily basis?

As Michael Phelps persisted with his workout schedule and his dream of becoming a champion, many others persisted to achieve their dreams. In the wake of his birthday, Martin Luther King Jr. persisted through many marches and boycotts leading the Civil Rights Movement. The Nigerians persist daily by not giving in to responding with violence.

Jesus wants us to ask, seek, knock, and persist in our faith. Ask God for strength to be a witness for people who are being persecuted for their beliefs. Seek for wisdom on how to end violence and other atrocities in the world. Knock on the door that leads to your dreams. Persist in your faith and be patient.  God will answer. Wisdom will be found. The door will be opened. Ask. Seek. Knock. Persist. 

Jenna Walmer - Palmyra COB, Altantic Northeast District

Jenna 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


Thoughts on “Selma” for MLK Day

A few days ago, I saw the Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic Selma and I want to share my thoughts about what we should take away from the movie and from MLK’s legacy.

Selma is about the 1965 voting rights march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital Montgomery, AL fifty miles away. It’s about the nonviolent struggle for the right of southern African Americans to vote, which was finally enshrined in the 1965 Voting Rights Act. (Southern African Americans had the right on paper since the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870, but practices like poll taxes, impossible literacy and citizenship tests, grandfather clauses, other obstructionist rules, and physical intimidation made voting impossible for virtually al Southern African Americans.)

At the center of that struggle was Martin Luther King, Jr., but I think Selma does a nice job of demonstrating that this particular march, the struggle for voting rights, and the entire Civil Rights movement involved far more people. Though MLK might have been the face of the movement, he was only one of millions who fought for justice as part of this movement. In fact, I don’t really like referring to Selma as a biopic, because it’s about much more than Martin Luther King Jr.

I think that’s an important point to remember, because it reminds us that while MLK is rightly remembered as a hero, he wasn’t superhuman. As Selma’s director Ava Marie DuVernay said on the Daily Show: “He just a brother from Atlanta who got swept up in history and was able to step into that greatness. But truly he was just a human being.” There was nothing that MLK did that we are not capable of doing, and I believe there’s nothing that MLK did that we have an excuse to not do.

I think the danger in how we remember MLK today (as a hero of mythological proportions) is that we believe he set a commendable standard that is impossible to meet. We think we should honor him by remembering and being amazed by what he accomplished, when really we should honor him by stepping into his shoes, learning from his successes and shortcomings, and carrying forward his legacy.

That’s why I liked Selma. It doesn’t show him as a giant, it shows him as a human being. He sinned, he made mistakes, he had doubts, and he needed support from the people around him. He was just like you or me. Or, rather, he was just like who you and I can be, and should be. When we remember MLK, let’s not put him on a pedestal and in so doing take ourselves out of the hot seat. MLK doesn’t only belong on a pedestal, he belongs in the streets, marching for justice. So we have to take him there.

Here’s a few more takeaways that I have from Selma:

  • DuVernay also pointed out during her interview with Jon Stewart that when MLK won the nobel prize, commentators used that evidence to say that racism was over in America. It’s a similar claim to what we hear nowadays, that racism is over because we elected a black President. The myth of a post-racial society is pervasive and nothing new, but it’s very dangerous, because it gives us the opportunity to excuse ourselves from continuing to fight against racism. Obviously, racism was not over in 1964 when MLK was awarded the nobel prize, and it still isn’t today. In his iconic “I Have A Dream Speech” MLK lists a series of grievances towards the end, and the first that he lists is police brutality, which is obviously a huge civil rights struggle today.
  • Other modern civil rights struggles faced by black Americans include severe economic inequality, poverty, and (like in Selma) the right to vote. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that systemic, government sponsored racism was no longer a factor in American society, and it struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act, the very act that the marchers in Selma fought so hard to pass. Today, voter ID laws disproportionately bar black citizens from voting, and congressional redistricting (called gerrymandering) minimizes the voices and votes of black Americans by squeezing as many minorities into as few congressional districts as possible. Remember that “post-racial” America is a myth, and always fight nonviolently on the side and for the cause of justice.
  • In the kingdom of heaven, civil rights does not stop at the borders of the United States. Black people across the world are marginalized and exploited, through force, through economic exploitation, and through our obsession and love for western culture. One example I can think of is the terrorist attack in Paris, which received an enormous amount of media attention. The terrorist attack in Paris was of course horrendous and horrible and deserving of media attention, but at around the same time, Boko Haram massacred as many as 2000 Nigerians in the village of Baga. Another example is trades that exploit African goods like coffee, oil, cocoa, and diamonds. Buy fair trade items. Demand that workers around the world be treated with dignity, respect, compassion, and humanity. And of course many more examples abound.
  • Nor does civil rights only apply to black people, or just to race. In the United States, many minorities (in terms of ethnicity, gender identity, and religion) are marginalized. Unfortunately, much of this marginalization comes at the hands of Christians. My biggest prayer for the Dunker Punks movement is that we be the Christians who fight for justice, not the Christians who stand for oppression. Across the world, people are marginalized and even killed for the same reasons. Just because we live in the 21st century, doesn’t mean we live in a society or world free from injustice. If anything, the interconnectedness, opportunity, and technology of the world make injustice all the more visible, all the more potent, and all the more our responsibility to combat. In MLK’s “I Have a Dream Speech” he said, “We will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.'” When I look at the world, I am not satisfied, and if you aren’t either, let’s do something about it.
  • MLK spoke most harshly not of those who did evil, but of those who saw evil and did nothing. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and we should have no other allegiance other than to stand with God on the side of love, justice, and mercy. If we see something wrong with the world, it is our responsibility to stand up, step forward, say something, pray something, and take action.
  • In Selma, MLK pointed out that the Johnson administration was spending billions of dollars to fight the Vietnam War, but was doing nothing to protect the black citizens of the United States from racial violence, poverty, and oppression. It was a hypocritical war, ostensibly fought to certify the ideals of democracy in Vietnam, when those same ideals weren’t being played out in the United States. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? How does war and military spending today interfere with the domestic and global cause of civil rights? Not only does it directly lead to suffering, death, and destruction worldwide, but it also draws money, time, effort, and attention away from standing up for peace, justice, mercy, and righteousness. Not only do we betray our Christian ideals by waging war, but by waging war we suffocate the cause justice.

I’ll conclude with this thought. Selma is an inspirational movie. It should be. MLK was an inspirational figure. But the point of inspiration is not to feel good about what we have accomplished. The point of inspiration is to feel empowered to finish what still needs to be done. This MLK Day, let’s remember that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has not yet been realized. Let’s remember that he was guided by the words, teachings, and commandments of Jesus Christ, and so should we. When I look around, I am not satisfied, and I hope you aren’t either. So let’s step up and step forward. Let’s talk about it. Let’s pray about it. And let’s do something about it.

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.

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Breaking It Down: The Sermon on the Mount Week 11

By Jenna Walmer

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” –Matthew 7:1-6

“The thing I don’t get about Christianity is that, as I grow up, I realize more and more how judgmental a lot of them are.” When talking to some friends about religious beliefs, I have heard comments such as this thrown around, even from believers themselves. I don’t necessarily disagree with them. I hear my strong Christian friends ridiculing others on what they wear and how they talk. Not to remiss disregarding people who have different beliefs or ideas then they do. We have all probably did something along these lines.

However, this is not beneficial. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to not judge others in a hypocritical way. Judgmental attitudes tear others down in order to build oneself up. We are called to discern carefully in order to help others but not in a negative way. It is a fine line that Jesus gives us. But we are NOT called to tear down others based upon their choices.

First, we are supposed to examine our own motives. The traits in others that are bothersome to us are typically resembled in our own personalities. Instead of judging others, judge yourself first and clean your own impurities. You may not see a problem with what others are doing then.

Our untamed habits, such as judging political identities or religious beliefs or criticizing ones choices, may be a reflection of what we see wrong with others. Instead of scorning another for their differences, look at the problems in yourself first. Do you find it easy to illuminate others’ faults while excusing your own? Before criticizing someone, check to see if you deserve the same.

A different way of going about this whole judgment idea is to let it go completely. I have been trying to do this for a few months now, slipping up a couple times because of the imperfections of humanity. Humans are humans, we all have flaws, and we all were created differently to be unique individuals that have our own ideas, our own set of beliefs, and our own personality. We also do not know the back story of every single human being that walks the face of the earth and why they choose what they choose. It’s perfectly acceptable for your best friend to have polar opposite points of view than you. I know my very vocal cousins and I do, but we still love each other.

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Jesus tells us to first look at ourselves, clear ourselves of our own impurities, and then “judge” others, but once we clean ourselves, others wrongdoings will probably not be there. He calls us to build people up (not ourselves), instead of tear people down. Lastly, he wants us to examine our motives for judging others. Why do we judge others? Is it to build ourselves up? Or, is it to help the other person? He wants us to forgive, love, and help our neighbor. Let us love and not judge.

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