Yet another outspoken white man

November 9, 2011 | Viewpoints | Number 22
Aiden Enns |

I wonder if it’s enough to be an outspoken white man.

In my early years of Christian zeal, I learned from radio host and author James Dobson that men and women were different but equal, and that it was actually gracious of me to recognize them as the weaker sex. (I still strive to be gracious—to James Dobson and the people who introduced me to him.)

Tony Campolo, my hero when I was a church youth worker, taught Christian discipleship and selflessness through cassette tapes and youth conventions.

Ron Sider, in Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, talked about “God’s identification with the weak, oppressed and poor.” With phrases such as “structural evil and world hunger,” he introduced me to a social dimension of the gospel.

John Howard Yoder added intellectual rigour to my Bible study. His Politics of Jesus and other ecumenical writings gave me confidence in confidence. I learned that leaders can be articulate and highly regarded, even elevated. Along with this, I also discovered, came the risk of abuse of power.

After some disillusionment, I found Matthew Fox and his Original Blessing. With his “creation-centred spirituality,” he outlined a credible alternative to the fall-redemption paradigm.

Thomas Merton, with his writing in Contemplative Prayer and elsewhere, gave me permission to embrace a new and more barren experience of God.

Brian McLaren, and other Christian writers on postmodernity such as Brian Walsh and Stanley Grenz, put into words my discomfort with traditional frameworks of interpretation.

Paul Kivel, in his book Men’s Work: How to Stop the Violence that Tears our Lives Apart, encouraged me to be a softer male and to speak out against violence against women.

Shane Claiborne, a youth by comparison to the others, brought together an evangelical zeal and social justice fervour that still inspires me. His writing, in The Irresistible Revolution, for example, has had a tremendous impact for Bible-oriented young people looking for fresh ways to implement the radical call of the gospel. And “radical” here often means living in community or shunning the pursuit of wealth.

Richard Rohr, through his recordings, books and Center for Action and Contemplation, helped my spirit find peace in the practices of the Christian mystics.

Ched Myers, in his activist reading of the Gospel of Mark (Binding the Strong Man), and Walter Brueggemann, in his depiction of Jesus as one who inspired the downtrodden, re-animated my youthful zeal for following in the way of Christ, challenging empire and crossing boundaries set by the establishment.

And significantly, Arthur Boers and Albert Borgmann have helped me see a positive way out of our entanglement with technology. In the elevation of “focal things and practices,” which are very loaded terms, we can rediscover a new sense of vitality, fortitude, community and hope.

I could mention others—Walter Wink, Jean Vanier, Marcus Borg, Darrin Barney, Douglas Coupland and Wade Davis come to mind, all for different reasons—who have shared many valuable words with the wider community.

Many valuable words from many important men. I wonder, is it enough for me to be another outspoken white man? It seems something is missing. As a columnist for Canadian Mennonite, what more can I contribute without reinforcing our tendency to favour the words of whites and males? I’m not sure. Fortunately, I have another two months to think about it.

Aiden Enns welcomes your feedback and ideas. He is a member of Hope Mennonite Church, Winnipeg, Man., and the editor of Geez magazine. He can be reached at

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