Because I am conservative Mennonite who dresses and lives somewhat differently than the average American, I get a lot of questions about how we do things and what we believe. I do not mind questions at all. Honest. Feel free to ask any question, any time.
Here are the three most frequently asked:
1. Why do you wear that little white cap on your head?
The shape of my netted white cap is a historical carryover from early Europeans. But the meaning of it is not at all historical; it’s very much a part of the way I live. The teaching comes from 1 Corinthians 11, and the basic reasons for wearing a covering are these:
• Simple obedience to a command.
• Acknowledgement of God’s headship order, which is God, Christ, man, woman.
• Honorable for a woman when praying or prophesying. These verses are also the basis for the age-old but little understood practice of men taking off their hats for prayer.
• Because of the angels. What does this mean? I don’t know. What do I think it means? I think part of its meaning may be that the angels take note of those women who choose to put themselves under the umbrella of God’s authority in this way, and there is added protection (both spiritual and physical) for these women.
2. Do you ever wear pants?
Hardly ever, unless pajamas count.
I wear home-sewn dresses specially made with an extra layer of fabric over the bodice. These cape dresses are a standard in my church, intended to ensure modesty and simplicity and to maintain a sense of separation from general society. For more on modesty and simplicity, read 1 Peter 3:3-4 and 1 Timothy 2: 9-10. For more on separation, see below.
We also like our dresses because they are feminine, and pretty, and we grew up that way.
2. Would you be allowed to marry a non-Mennonite?
The way most people ask this question makes it a difficult one to answer. Would I be allowed to marry a non-Mennonite? Seriously, people, I’m over twenty-five. I don’t see how anyone could stop me.
Would I want to marry a non-Mennonite? Probably not. I am not averse to non-Mennonites, but mostly there are too many differences of belief.
I do want a guy who is serious about following Jesus. I do want a guy who is committed and kind and separated¹ and nonresistant.²
Would my parents and my church family be disappointed and sorrowful if I chose to marry a non-Anabaptist³? Yes, they would.
Notes and Definitions
¹ Separation: This term comes from 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 (HCSB): “Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.”
A twin term to separated is nonconformed. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB): “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
That’s a radical lifestyle, folks.
² Nonresistant: Nonresistant people will not participate in war or violence of any kind, even in self defense. This comes from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5, as well as other passages in the Bible. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”
³ Anabaptist: The Anabaptists were a movement of Christians during the Reformation who believed Reformation leaders (Luther in Germany and Zwingli in Switzerland) did not go far enough with their reforms. As a result of their beliefs and practice, they were heavily persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants.
A chief tenet of their beliefs was believer’s conversion and baptism, as opposed to infant baptism. This is where they got their name, which means “re-baptizer.” At the time, it was considered a derogatory term.
Menno Simons was an influential Anabaptist leader who bequeathed his name on the Mennonites of today. Anabaptists of today range from the ultra-restrictive Swartzentruber Amish to the modern and forward-thinking Mennonite Church USA. In my conservative Mennonite circles, when we say Anabaptist, this is what we really mean:
• Someone who believes in personal salvation through Christ, symbolized by believer’s baptism.
• Someone who lives a life of difference from the rest of the world, in lifestyle, dress, and pursuits.
• Someone who is nonresistant.
• Someone who chooses to remain separate from government, as part of a different kingdom.
• Someone (if a lady) who wears some form of covering on her head, whether a cap-type or a hanging veil.
Notice that these classifications do not include all Anabaptists of today; they are only what we conservative Mennonites tend to mean when we talk about Anabaptists.
Labels are pathetic and largely deficient. That is all I have to say on the subject.