In this issue of Mennonite Life, we offer two major groupings of articles.
First, Mel Gibson's controversial film, "The Passion of the Christ," shaped the meaning of the Lenten season in the spring of 2004. It was, as Heidi Regier Kreider says in her sermon in this issue, a "quasi-liturgical event." The film prompted a blizzard of passionate MennoLink comments, letters to editors and short articles in Mennonite publications. For this issue we invited scholars to reflect in more depth about the impact and meaning of the film, with special attention to issues of violence and the atonement. The essays reveal creative ferment in pacifist Mennonite thinking about what J. Denny Weaver calls the current "hot button" topic of atonement. The essays also reflect current events. Phil Stoltzfus and Phyllis Bixler both juxtapose Gibson's Jesus on the cross with the black-hooded Iraqi prisoner from Abu Ghraib prison. People who ponder these images necessarily confront central issues of the Christian gospel.
In our literary offerings this month, we are pleased to present a collection of comments on and reviews of A Cappella: Mennonite Voices in Poetry, a major anthology positing the broad development of a Mennonite literary tradition and culture, published in 2003 by the University of Iowa press and edited by Ann Hostetler of Goshen College. The editors of Mennonite Life wished to gather as many responses as possible because of the scope of the anthology: it presents and traces twenty-four poets; it includes significant historical and theoretical reflections by Hostetler on the definability of Mennonite literary tradition and thus invites further reflections; and the titular trope of a poetic community of voices in the a cappella church music tradition emphasizes multiple voicing. The anthology editor and various contributors begin the colloquy, followed by reviewers from Mennonite contexts. One article in this appropriately multi-vocalic series responds to a previous review musing about the strengths and weaknesses of anthologies of poetry. Other articles raise a broad range of issues, including hybridity of identity and the multiple locations of self via a community of writings, faith, gender, and geography.
The final literary work in this issue offers the next segment in the serial publication of "The Sayings of Abraham Nofziger," a work emerging as part of a particularly literary form of archeology of Mennonite knowledge and theology by Dallas Wiebe. Of special interest is that more than one literary piece in this issue develops the list as a literary form, with much humorous and moving play upon the expectations of logic, order, pace, and a sense of syllogistic, authoritative outcome set in motion by the list form.
In contrast to the use of the list as a playful literary form, we also include in this issue our annual large-scale listing of the Mennonite bibliography, deployed in its fullest, detailed, most functional bibliographic form, now even fuller because of the expansive, virtual spatial capacity of online publication.
Additionally, book reviews by Susan Fisher Miller, Duane K. Friesen, Rachel Waltner Goosen, Leland Harder, and Sarah J. Keckeisen offer in-depth examinations of recent publications related to peace history, Anabaptist theology, and autobiographical writing of relationship to history.