Pro-Life Ethics: New Book by EMU Seminary Graduate

Consistently Pro-Life by Rob Arner.

“This is a book about killing.”  That’s the opening descriptive line in Eastern Mennonite Seminary graduate Rob Arner’s new book.

Arner, of Holland, a village in Bucks County, Pa., is a 2007 master of arts in religion graduate of the seminary.  His recently-published Consistently Pro-Life: The Ethics of Bloodshed in Ancient Christianity is an extension of his master of arts in religion thesis at EMS.  The book was chosen for publication by Pickwick Publications, a division of Wipf and Stock.

Arner, who grew up United Methodist, came to EMS hoping to better understand pacifism.  Says, Arner: Continue reading “Pro-Life Ethics: New Book by EMU Seminary Graduate” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

EMU Seminary Alums Launch Blog for Young Adults

Laura Lehman Amstutz is an editor of Work & Hope.

Where do young adults go to discuss what’s right with the church, not just what’s wrong with it?

Two Eastern Mennonite Seminary alumni have created a blog and web magazine to provide a forum for young adults who are committed to staying in the institutional church but want to discuss what that means.

Work and Hope: Finding Christ in the Church was created by Jeremy Yoder, a 2010 graduate currently living in Baltimore, Md., and Laura Lehman Amstutz, a 2006 alumna, a Harrisonburg resident.   Continue reading “EMU Seminary Alums Launch Blog for Young Adults” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

Interfaith Peace Camp Starts at EMU

Today, over 40 children are beginning a week-long day camp at Eastern Mennonite University designed to build friendships and understanding between children of different Abrahamic faith traditions.

Interfaith Peace Camp, offered to rising 1st through 6th graders, is planned and staffed by an interfaith team of community members with the desire to provide low-cost, high-quality learning experiences for campers.   Continue reading “Interfaith Peace Camp Starts at EMU” »

The Preacher’s Paradox

The Rev. Franklin Graham recently reaffirmed his 2001 comment that Islam “is a very evil and wicked religion.” For this, he was excluded from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer. Many fundamentalist Christians believe his being banned is unfair. Most others do not.

Graham was expressing a deeply held belief, similar to the belief that some hold about the superiority of their own race. The notion that we are God’s chosen and everyone else is living in sin and ignorance creates a serious paradox in a society that prides itself on freedoms of speech, assembly and religion. How do we accommodate different belief systems when those systems tend to be non-accommodating and antithetical to freedom and tolerance?

Religion in America is probably unlike any other. Because we are composed of peoples from every part of the globe, and because our Founding Fathers were well aware of the blood shed over conflicting religious doctrines in the 16th Century, we have decided to be a nation that tolerates and accommodates. Still, there are those among us who only begrudgingly tolerate other religions because the one they practice teaches that theirs and theirs alone is the true faith. To say that the core belief of their religion is wrong denies the reality that there is no possible way to prove the truth or falsity of any religion. Therein lies the dilemma.

We want to be open and accommodating but we also want to be true to our faith. For some of us, that is a conundrum not easily solved. At what point do we exclude those who exclude us? What would have been the reaction of the Christian community if an Islamic cleric had stood up and called Christianity “wicked and sinful”? We all remember the Iranian slurs against Judaism a few years back, that it was a “gutter religion.” That set back progress for peace in the Middle East decades. Those of us who are passionate about our own brand of faith sometimes forget how easy passion can sometimes step over the line to zealotry. Passionate people can still talk to each other, zealots rarely negotiate with anyone, even divisions among their own.

I do not share Rev. Graham’s religious views. Whether or not his passion has crossed the line of zealotry is a close call.  However, just as our parents taught us, “if you can’t say something nice about someone, it’s better to say nothing at all,” perhaps Graham would have been better off to practice Christian charity and kept his mouth shut.  Another old saw teaches us, “the less we say, the more we listen, and the more we listen, the more we learn.”  To all who are absolutely convinced they alone know the “truth,” this is very good advice.

This post was submitted by David Rood.

Alternative Health: One Mother Balances Through Belly Dance

Healing is the tendency of any system to return to equilibrium when equilibrium is disturbed. — Andrew Weil

In 2005, Rose Shenk was a happy, fulfilled stay-at-home mother of four boys living in Charlottesville. But her equilibrium was about to be disturbed. That spring, her husband was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Soon after, he was killed in a head-on car collision. Her father, whom she also relied on, died a week later from injuries sustained after being hit by a truck in Kenya. Shenk attended two funerals in two consecutive weekends: One for her husband and the next for her father.

“It was so painful,” she said. “I had to do what was best for my sons. I had to remain grounded.”

Shenk began to heal her grief using the traditional methods of journaling and talking to a therapist. But she needed another method. “I became super self aware of the extraordinary circumstances that were happening to me. I needed to get out of my head and find a physical outlet.”

While in a Charlottesville pizzeria, Shenk found a flyer for a belly dancing class held on Monday nights when the children were visiting with their paternal family. She was afraid to attend and considered not going. “When I went, I found that it was lots of single moms and women in their 40’s and 50’s. I wasn’t the the only widow,” she said. “I was stepping out of what I was comfortable with and realized that I can do it. It was feminine, beautiful, strengthening — and you didn’t need a partner.”

“My first teacher taught belly dance from a New Age, mystical point of view, stressing the sacred energy of the feminine. It was foreign to me but it stretched me,” she said. “Emotions, the body and sexuality are all part of the dance and those are part of a whole and balanced person. It didn’t fully connect with my Christian faith, but I could understand the attempt to balance yourself. Also, at this time, I did not have a sexual partnership. Belly dance was a sensual experience that was not damaging for me or anyone else.”

Shenk said that the basic belly dance stance is a lot like the martial art “horse stance”: feet apart, knees bent. “There is a lot of balance in that position. You are flexible. To be flexible and balanced allows you to do a lot in life that you did not know you were capable of. I am surprised at my own resilience.”

Shenk has been studying belly dancing for four years and teaching for a year and a half. “It took me about three years to get back my equilibrium,” she said.

Author Tracey Brown is a Harrisonburg resident and a Massage Therapist at the Beauty Spa, Harrisonburg, VA.

“There is a student in my class experiencing the slow death of her husband from cancer. We performed a dance at church on Good Friday. We used the imagery of healing in the dance. This was expressed through candles that showed light in darkness. We also used veils in the dance to express the things within death that are hidden from us. For me it was a prayer and an expression of sisterhood and community.”

Shenk now lives in Harrisonburg, and recently re-married. “It’s amazing how much we can bear,” she says of her experience. “You can get hit so hard like I was that summer. And you can still be okay, happy, survive–and sometimes even help carry other people.”

Shenk will be teaching a five-week fitness belly dance class at EMU beginning Tuesday, May 11. For more information contact the Fitness Center at (540) 432-4341, or email

This post was submitted by Tracey Brown.