How can we live well together? What gives life purpose? What about technology, education, faith, capitalism, work, family? Is another life possible? Plough editor Peter Mommsen and senior editor Susannah Black dig deeper into perspectives from a wide variety of writers and thinkers appearing in the pages of Plough.
#5 The Violence of Love, Part 5: From Zurich to Somaliland
Felix Manz was the first martyr of the Radical Reformation, drowned by his fellow Christians for performing adult baptisms. His story is a story of a world on fire with commitment to Christ, with friends who became enemies wrestling over nonviolence, justice for the poor, and the meaning of the gospel. Pete and Susannah discuss what his time has to say to ours.
Then, they catch up with Rachel Pieh Jones, whose eighteen years living among Somali Muslims has taught her more than she could have imagined about her own Christian faith. Her book, Pillars, released recently with Plough Books, describes this journey of friendship and discovery.
Pete and Susannah also talk about Bruderhof Easter Gardens, and almost-post-vaccination life in New York City.
I. Pioneer of the Radical Reformation: Why the story of 16th century martyr Felix Manz still has resonance today (1:19)
II. Intermezzo: The Plough social world (25:00)
III. Learning from Muslims to be Christian: We talk with Plough author Rachel Pieh Jones about her new book Pillars (28:50)
IV. Recommendations (49:10)
Rachel Pieh Jones, Pillars
Rachel Pieh Jones, Stronger Than Death
Rachel Pieh Jones, Call to Prayer, Call to Bread
Susannah Black & Jason Landsel, Felix Manz
Samuel Kimbriel and Osita Nwanevu, The Democracy Essays
Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, The Gospels, translated by Sarah Ruden for Modern Library
#4 The Violence of Love, Part 4: Unplanned Pregnancy and Rap as Escape
This time last year, Plough contributing editor Gracy Olmstead, unexpectedly, found that she was pregnant. With two toddler daughters and the Covid pandemic picking up steam, what does it take to welcome a child you did not plan for – or even want? What does radical hospitality look like, and how do the demands of carrying a child open our hearts? Pete and Susannah discuss Gracy’s piece exploring a different way of being pro-life, as well as her new book, Uprooted.
Then they have a conversation with Plough regular contributor Zito Madu about the violence that poverty visits on the marginalized. Zito discusses his piece focusing on rap as a survivor’s art form, focusing on Styles P, whose songs give voice to the difficulty of simple survival in a culture of poverty. The essay discusses the ways in which poverty itself is a kind of violence – and how this violence is both similar and dissimilar to the kind familiar to Greek legendary hero Oedipus as imagined by André Gide.
I. Welcoming an Unplanned Baby: Gracy Olmstead’s gentle way of being pro-life (00:39)
II. Intermezzo: The Plough social world (20:59)
III. Rap and Oedipus: An interview with Zito Madu (25:24)
IV. Recommendations (40:20)
Zito Madu, The Great Escape
Styles P, Good Times
André Gide, The Legend of Oedipus, in Two Legends
Gracy Olmstead, The Risk of Gentleness
Philip Britts, Water at the Roots
Gracy Olmstead, Uprooted
#3 The Violence of Love, Part 3: The ScottCast & Rhina Espaillat
An excerpt from Scott Beauchamp’s memoir of his time in the military, Did You Kill Anyone? highlights what it was that he found in his service: meaning, the sense of a non-trivial life, a life that was not just about his own curated experience. Meanwhile, Scott Button’s account of his own grandfather’s commitment to pacifism, and the adventures on which his conscientious objection sent him reminds us of the risk and demanding commitment to be found in the service of Christ, as our commanding officer.
Peter and Susannah discuss the nature of the Christian life as a kind of military service, and the need that we have to live a life of commitment to something beyond ourselves.
Then they welcome Rhina Espaillat, Dominican-American poet, in whose name the annual Plough poetry contest has been founded; she reads several of her poems and talks about the nature of poetry and her inspirations; Rhina and Susannah get into a debate about martyrdom.
I. The ScottCast: War, conscientious objection, and the quest for meaning. (00:39)
II. The Plough social world (20:00)
III. A Conversation with Rhina Espaillat: Fathers and daughters, devotional poetry, and the problem of martyrdom. (23:27)
IV. Recommendations (48:34)
Scott Button, A Life That Answers War
Scott Beauchamp, Did You Kill Anyone?
A. M. Juster’s interview with Rhina P. Espaillat
Poetry by Rhina P. Espaillat: Annuals, The Widow Offers Herself to Life, Mary Magdalen Responds to the Harsh Judge, In Retrospect, A Backward Look and Where Nectar Was
Stanley Donen, Charade
Daniel Larison’s Substack
Richard Adams, Watership Down
#2 The Violence of Love, Part 2: Beyond Pacifism and Debating Antifa
In 1920, Eberhard Arnold founded both the Bruderhof and the magazine and publishing house that are now called Plough. From the beginning, Christian nonviolence was a core part of his understanding of what it was to be a Christian and a witness to the Gospel. But this peaceful living was in no way passive, safe, or milquetoast. Learn more about Eberhard Arnold’s understanding of what he was up to. Is there such a thing as Nietzschean Anabaptism? Probably not, but this was nonviolence with a backbone – and he practiced it, and led others, in what was surely one of the most dangerous places and times to insist on that way of life in the past several hundred years.
And what does it mean to oppose, or practice, political violence today? Should one punch Nazis? And if so, who is a Nazi? What is Antifa, what are the Proud Boys, and how and why did they make Portland their battleground this summer? Patrick Tomassi, a native Portlander, did the unthinkable: he actually talked with all of those involved. Hear about his interviews with Antifa, with Proud Boys, with BLM activists and with local business owners and police. Learn about the way that these groups use each other, and the media, to create narratives, which reinforce their own understanding of the conflict, and learn about how they understand what they are aiming at.
I. Beyond Pacifism: What can we make of the tradition of Christian nonviolence? (1:25)
II. Intermezzo: We share news from the Plough network. (24:59)
III. Beyond the Black Umbrellas: Patrick Tomassi reports on his reporting about Portland’s Antifa. (27:45)
IV. Recommendations: Joseph Margulies “Who Deserves to Be Forgiven,” Alfred Hitchcock “To Catch a Thief,” and Daryl Davis “TED Talk: Why I As A Black Man Attend KKK Rallies.” (37:55)
Eberhard Arnold Beyond Pacifism
Eberhard Arnold Inner Land: A Guide into the Heart of the Gospel
Patrick Tomassi Behind the Black Umbrellas
Joseph Margulies Who Deserves to Be Forgiven
Alfred Hitchcock To Catch a Thief
Daryl Davis TED Talk: Why I As A Black Man Attend KKK Rallies
#1 The Violence of Love, Part 1: Political Violence and the White Rose
This time last year, almost everyone was convinced that, here in the USA, we don’t do political violence: we solve our political problems without blood in the street. But since then, on both left and right, “it’s not real violence if the good guys are doing it” has become a common argument. How did this happen, is it wrong to see parallels between the BLM-related riots and the Capitol riot on January 6th, and how can we come back from that? Is it naive to seek to maintain Martin Luther King's nonviolence? Has his stance been overtaken by the seriousness of current problems?
And what about other kinds of political violence? Can we condemn riots and still, in principle, be open to the idea of a just war? Can a Christian ever kill?
Peter and Susannah get into these questions, and then turn to discussing the White Rose, a student movement of German Christians whose leaders were executed in 1943. The White Rose was a nonviolent movement passionately opposed to the Nazi regime, arguably the ancestor of today's antifa movements. But their philosophy and approach were very different. Drawing from the heights of German culture and the political philosophy of Aristotle and Aquinas, these young people articulated a vision of opposition to the Nazis based on an embrace of the best of traditional Western, and human, thought. They accused Hitler of being a tyrant, by which they meant something very specific: that he had rejected the values they argued for, which had characterized Germany and the West – learning, discourse, indeed Christianity and “traditional values” – and embraced pure power and barbarism. To be a humanist, for these young people, and to be a Christian, and to be an antifascist: these were all different aspects of the same calling. And they ultimately gave their lives to answer that call. What would it look like to pattern our activism on their lives?
I. Political violence: Can violence be good? (1:04)
II. Intermezzo: We share news from the Plough network. (17:14)
III. The White Rose: Were they the original antifa? (21:42)
IV. Recommendations: We offer an antifascist reading, and Lenten Dvořák. (29:50)
Plough Quarterly No. 27: The Violence of Love
Peter Mommsen, The Case for Meekness
Jon Baskin, The Unbearable: Toward an Antifascist Aesthetic
Antonín Dvořák, Stabat Mater (Op. 58)
Andrea Grosso Ciponte, Freiheit!: The White Rose Graphic Novel
Holding Our Own by Shadi Hamid
For American Muslims, embracing their role as a creative minority may prove their greatest source of strength, allowing them to carve out a small space of their own in a secular world.