Letter to an Unbeliever

December 8, 2014

Shining Piles of Christmas Gifts

December 8, 2014

NOT Maintaining My Mennonite-ness

December 8, 2014
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What Is Mennonite-ness?

A friend told me recently that I should blog about maintaining Mennonite-ness in an unceasingly wired and media-oriented world.

She is full of fascinated questions about my lifestyle–questions such as: Is it true that you drive only black cars? How does a bald Mennonite woman pin on her cap? Can Mennonites make rum cake?

What I view as normal life, she views as unique and interesting.

Her comments got me thinking. What is Mennonite-ness? Is it merely a set of unusual lifestyle choices, as she believes it to be? And is it something worth maintaining?

The Root of Mennonite-ness

Walking through the Wal-Mart book aisle the other day, I noticed the prominently-displayed inspirational books. Emblazoned across their fronts with pictures of well-known Christian speakers, their slip covers lined with phrases like “face your fears,” “become the person you were meant to be,” “make every dream come true,” and “find abundant happiness,” their message was clear: “What’s in the Christian game for me?”

It is a message that runs contrary to what Jesus taught when he said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple,” and “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”

For those of us who are conservative Anabaptist, we have an idea of the difference between the two messages and an idea that we don’t want to swallow the first one, though our efforts to follow the Jesus-centered message are often woefully inadequate.

We all have family members in mainstream Christian churches. For some of us, we have left the beaten track to join a plain church. For some, we were born this way, and now we are the only ones of our family left.

“You’ve lost the Spirit, and you’re bound by the letter,” they tell us. “Now that we’ve left all that behind, we have freedom. Salvation doesn’t come through good works.”

But, with a picture in our mind of the two kingdoms–one a dazzling thing of beauty and power, the other plain and rather ugly, beset with stark realities of blood, sweat, and tears–we hold grimly to our trivialities. Cape dresses, sober vehicles, no television, no rum.

These are our security in a fast-paced, ever-changing, materialistic society.

Why Maintaining Mennonite-ness Is a Conundrum

We all hold our Anabaptist heritage as precious. We’ve heard the stories. Those early Anabaptists stood–against great pressure–for the things that are cornerstones of our faith.

• Simplicity. They turned away from the complex, organized social strata of the state church of their day to a simple, Christ-centered gospel.

• Personal responsibility. Every man, every woman on equal footing before God. No riding into the kingdom of heaven on the cassock tails of a cleric. No initiation rites for unknowing infants.

• Discipleship. They turned away from state church tradition and died to follow a Man and a Book.

Times have changed. As modern Anabaptists, we are part of an increasingly complex network of churches, split-offs of the churches, and split-offs of the split-off churches. Every church has a set of written standards agreed upon, and every church is guided by a complicated hierarchy of who associates with whom.

The many churches, standards, and guidelines are the result of a people deathly afraid of becoming “worldly.” We’ve seen it happen so often–watched what we believe to be Bible principles of separation, nonconformity, nonresistance, the wearing of the head covering, flung away to the winds of newer, bigger, better and filled with the Spirit.

We work to tighten our security and build walls against the encroaching world. Ironically, the higher we build our walls, the more complex grows our religion, and the more we destroy the simplicity and Biblical adherence we are trying to preserve.

Why We Need to Let Mennonite-ness Go

If we try to maintain Mennonite-ness, we destroy the foundations of our heritage. I am not suggesting we throw away Bible principles. I am suggesting that we would better preserve those principles if we let Mennonite-ness go.

To say “Forget your Mennonite-ness and follow Jesus” feels radical and scary. We know so many people who have said that–and who have dropped, along with their Mennonite-ness, principles of the Bible that we think important.

Nevertheless, Mennonite-ness is not the gospel. One day it will crumble–with every other man-thought religion, institution, and dogma on earth. At the end of time, only the gospel of Christ, pure and simple, drenched in blood and rather ugly, stands.

Should we build on any less?

84 comments

  1. Grandpa Kauffman often said, “You can take the boy out of North Dakota (where he grew up), but you can’t take North Dakota out of the boy”. I’ve been watching this anti-mennonite thing for 20 years. It’s a mistake. It’s like trying to run from your own shadow. How about we focus, not so much on BEING someone or not, as to emulating Jesus minute by minute. Good thoughts, Luci.

  2. One could also ask WHY are people leaving the Mennonites in droves?
    Could it be that perhaps the Mennonite church is lacking some Life-giving truths which they are finding elsewhere? Worth considering… 🙂

    1. Actually, Kay, people are leaving churches in droves. Period. Not just Mennonite churches. Is it the churches’ fault, or is it the fault of the people who leave? Good question–but Jesus did say, “If the salt has lost its savor, it is good for nothing but to be trampled under foot of men.” So as Christians, we need to look to ourselves. Not “What are they doing wrong?” but “What am I doing wrong?” As a Christian. Individual. Before God.

      1. True – we are each responsible to the Lord Jesus for our life. However, incorrect -or incomplete- teaching in any given church can leave people unsatisfied and thirsting for Life.
        (I agree it’s every denomination, but you were talking about Mennonites)
        Most- by far most – of the people I know who’ve left the Mennonites were not leaving to have ‘freedom’, or ‘do what they want’, but instead, seeing that there is more… that there is power to overcome sin and live a victorious life. So they are drawn to that. 🙂

      2. I have to say that people are not leaving churches is droves because the Church IS the people! People were being added to the membership of the Church by the thousands in the book of Acts! This was not the Mennonite Church or any other denomination. It was simply the Church, or the body of Christ. The criteria for membership was and still is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, repent, and be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Could we say that Church members are leaving institutions in droves? This might be more accurate. I believe as was stated by Kay above that these institutions whether they be Mennonite or any other denomination are lacking life giving truths. I’ve known people who have left both for that very reason.

      3. Excellent reply, Lucy. When I start to become negative about our fellowship, I feel God often reminds me to take a good look at myself, my heart, and my lack of fervency.

  3. I disagree- each Mennonite church brotherhood is made up of different folks- some may care more about tradition but others care more about following Christ. My conservative Mennonite church is flowing with life giving truth- all straight from scripture- we drive each other to be the best we can be in Christ! The accountability and brotherhood is amazing and just what I need! You cannot really make generalizations – and just for the record- Christianity in the US is loving people in droves because people simply do not want to die to themselves and love for Christ! Interesting article.

  4. I value and want to preserve my Anabaptist Heritage…but not at the expense of Jesus Christ. I don’t think it needs to be one or the other. Unless some zealous Anabaptist tries force to continue his or her vision of the Anabaptist Heritage.

  5. Appreciate this article!!!! – And while I’m guessing you’d agree w/ what I’m about to say – I’m gonna ‘put it in writing’ just for clarity. What sorta ‘mennonite’ things should we ‘let go’?

    Scripture teaches head covering (perhaps the first thing we think of and most visible). Sadly ‘mennonites’ are one of the few denominations that teach this… Should we let that go? Same goes for loving our enemies even when it comes to the enemies of our ‘country’… – outside of ‘mennonites’ – who upholds this? Same goes for calling all adultery – adultery (remarriages w/ a living former spouse)…. same goes for calling men to leadership and not allowing women to teach over men in the church because scripture says so – best as we can determine.

    Maybe being in other churches and hanging around non-mennonites would be a way to let our ‘mennonite-ness’ go. Well – let’s reconsider. It’s terribly difficult to maintain these beliefs without being w/ like-minded Christians on a regular basis. That’s been proven over and over again. Shouldn’t be perhaps – but it is. So what do we do with that? I want to be far from a ‘dead’ Christian… I want life! I purpose to live abundantly and be on fire for Jesus… But people ARE leaving our churches by the ‘droves’. And we who remain are left trying to make sense of it all and crying out to God for comfort and stability. God help us… it is not easy to walk a ‘mennonite’ way of life in the midst of the many interpretations in current Christianity where total opposting views exist on the same subject. Both can’t be right. God help us! …Come Lord Jesus!

    1. I really value the Bible teaching I’ve received, Joyce. Everything my parents taught me–the basic principles–I go to the Bible and there it is. Sometimes when I get too mixed up and confused about so many different beliefs, I think “God knows.” It helps. God knows, and even if I am wrong in my beliefs God is still right. This gives me such comfort, such a sense of security. I only try the very best I can to follow Him in everything I’ve been taught and that He teaches me, and I know He accepts me–for the sake of Christ–because He is good–and because I trust Him.

  6. For me, a personal, real, love relationship with Christ is essentially the climax of what i strive for in my Christian life. Out of that will flow all other “necessities of life (choices we make).” However, after seeing what the world has to offer, believe me I’m not sheltered, I believe this “Mennonitene-ness” I am a part of makes it the easiest for me to strive towards that relationship with Christ. Again, this is my personal opinion, and I realize it is different for every person, one big reason I am content where I am in being a Mennonite is I find myself at a Church where i see God working and moving, where I see leaders working in harmony and true brotherly love being exhibited among the members, and I love it, I love my heritage, and I love that Jesus that the only way to God is through Jesus, not through being a Mennonite or not being one. I welcome your thoughts =)

    1. I grew up very sheltered, and after seeing a little more of all the heartache and sin that is “out there,” I am only thankful for the security and safeness of where I grew up. I have no desire to leave that. I don’t think we as Mennonites should throw away the guidelines that have worked for us so long–just be careful not to focus on them–and also to be flexible with our Scriptural applications. Application is not principle, and should not be confused. I too love that Jesus is the only way to God. That’s so broad and so beautiful.

      1. I should clarify my not sheltered comment, I am a young college student and in that regard am not sheltered from what the world has to offer. I was still blessed with growing up sheltered, saved me from a lot of things. The family and Church God has placed me in has made my journey through college so much easier, i’m not out searching for something because I’m discontent, I have found peace and joy where I’m at. However, I agree with you, we can focus too much on the guidelines and applications, and begin holding them as “doctrine” or even holding them up with a sense of pride as a “look what we’ve accomplished” banner.

    2. I can relate to what you’re saying about being a part of a group of people who make it easier, or easiEST as you put it to strive towards a relationship with Christ. I don’t know about the group that you’re with, but is your relationship with Christ being bettered or strengthened while you are being required to deny communion and fellowship with other Christians simply because they do not follow a set of rules that your group upholds? I’m asking. You say that the only way to God is through Jesus and not through being a Mennonite, and I have heard that said by lots of Mennonites, but I believe that as long as we are holding something, even an institution called a “church” above the truth in the Word then we are missing out on much of what God has to teach us through other people and much of the blessing He has for us. We may be missing out on a work that God has for us. Are you content in a place where others are not accepted?

      1. Gretchen, I agree – this is one of the glaring problems with Mennonites. The words and actions don’t match. By the words, you’d think any sincere Christian would be welcomed, but in reality it is not so. I have yet to see a Mennonite church that accepts as equal a Christian who does not dress the same, or follow all the little ‘rules’ set up by their leaders’ definition of ‘Godliness’.
        ( I say definition, because that’s what all outward things are. Dress code is NOT a salvation issue, yet in the Mennonite churches it is considered such.)

        1. You should come to our church! We are a Mennonite church (in the Conservative Mennonite Conference) and have a very broad group of people who together focus simply on Christ. I am blessed that our church has realized and shown that individuals can hold to biblical truths (and some of these things that are associated with Mennonites) and welcome and worship with “any sincere Christian.” There are women across all ages who do and do not wear coverings/cape dresses/dresses and/or skirts all the time, there are even a few women who wear pants to church, there is a couple who has a few facial piercings, etc. It hasn’t caused any of the more conservative bunch to go wild, and those with no Mennonite ties appreciate the welcoming atmosphere. And it is a good way to reach out, being welcoming.

          It hasn’t always been this way, for sure. It used to be really hard to invite people; I’ve noticed in the last ten years or so members being more open and realizing there was a discrepancy between all our outreach efforts and how welcoming we were in our building on Sunday. We still have the same membership requirements (our household has several copies of the “Mennonite Confession of Faith” 🙂 ). Our belief statement closes with: “In the non-essentials, we will show charity.” When you focus on Jesus and not the “little rules” you talk about, it is much easier (Isn’t it that way with everything? Focus on the Lord and some of the things we get so riled up about fade away and how we should live becomes clear. NOT that we are perfect, we are a church made up of unique individuals, in a church that is over 120 years old rooted in traditions, after all.).

          The below is from our Statement of Faith and Mission Statement (While our leadership guides, ultimately each person stands alone before God on Judgement Day. So our leadership doesn’t force us on what we have to wear, drive, etc., that is up to each family/person. There are lots of ways to be involved in accountability groups or partners, modesty and self-control are encouraged just because we are striving to focus on Christ, and I don’t think anyone is going crazy on being outrageous or anything.):

          1. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, infallible, authoritative Word of God.

          2. We believe there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

          3. We believe in the full deity of Christ, in His virgin birth, His atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, His ascension to glory, and that He is coming again.

          4. We believe that salvation, the forgiveness of our sins, is a free gift from God that is received by faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

          5. We believe in the work of the Holy Spirit and His role in helping believers live a life that is pleasing to the Lord and to move toward spiritual maturity.

          6. We believe in the resurrection of the saved and the lost: the saved to eternal life and the lost to eternal punishment.

          7. We believe the church universal is a spiritual body of all true believers in Christ. We believe there should be unity among the local church body even though a range of diversity exists.

          In the above seven essentials, we all have unity. In the non-essentials, we will show charity.

          Our mission is to fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission by loving God and depending on Him, loving one another within the body of Christ, and having compassion and concern for the lost world. We exist to worship and glorify God, to reach the lost, to encourage and equip believers to use their spiritual gifts to further the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

  7. I agree we should first fully maintain our Christianity but because I believe mennonites have the best application and security I should be somewhat careful to maintain that also as it give me a buffer zone…

  8. and im not saying that our way is the only way….but that being said because of how I’ve been raised and what I know about the inspired Word of God it wouldn’t be right for me to put off my mennonite-ism, for sure the parts that we do in direct obedience to scripture….and maybe that is exactly what you were saying…it was late last night when I read it.

    1. Geneva, I guess what inspired the post in the first place was my friend wondering how we could maintain Mennonite-ness, and I thought, “No that’s not what we should be working for. We should be working to maintain a living, personal relationship with God.” I do not mean we should discard any teaching in the scripture as too “mennonite.” Scripture is scripture, and doesn’t have to labeled. It stands on its own.

  9. I’m trying to understand, but frankly, this article doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I think I understand your perspective, any good, sincere Mennonite would likely applaud this article. A favorite mantra is “focus on Jesus” among sincere Mennonites. But herein lies my question, my problem with this and your article: you say let’s let go of our Mennonite-ism and focus on Jesus. But what that really means, is only in ways that are acceptable to Mennonites. You can only go so far. And yet, doctrines like the headcovering and plain clothes are Mennonite distinctives. And you definitely cannot let those things go! So basically, this idea makes no sense, it is circular, and seems quite meaningless in this context. I think your intentions are good, but this seems to be an illogical argument. I also see comments about how nice it is to be safe, and to be with people that believe like you do. Why live a safe life? This is exactly a big reason why Mennonites do not have many converts outside of children born into the religion. The focus is on maintaining a specific interpretation of the Bible and playing it as safe as you possibly can. In the meanwhille, I’ve found that while there are many good, sincere Mennonites, the Mennonite institution is just like every other religious institution. Under holy looking guises are ample opportunities for hiding abuse, corruption, and sin. I fear that what Mennonites consider to be holy living and devotion to Christs in keeping their way of interpreting the Bible, has become so much a culture and oft an arrogant one at that. You can make the Bible say anything you want it to say, you really can. You can justify rape, murder, and racism from texts just like you can build a doctrine of headcoverings and so-called non-resistance. I applaud anyone for sharing their sincerely held beliefs. However, a person or religion that insists that their interpretation of scripture is the only way raises a lot of concern in my mind. It is when we think we know everything, that we really know so little. And it is when we think we are on the path that no one else is on, that we are right, and everyone else is wrong, that we should be the most concerned.

    1. Hit the nail on the head, sadly a dilemma in the mennonite and amish groups is the strong tendency of interpreting the scriptures to be modeled according to their ‘standards’ and in that regard the scriptures can be fitted in what ever manner needed to jive with any particular religion. What we as people calling ourselves Christians need to understand first of all is that we can not offer any righteousness of ourselves (Isaiah 64:6). The condition of our heart is what is of Gods interest, not any external matters concerning a particular selection of clothing and the don’t have this and don’t do that according to any religion or tradition of man. Flee/abstain from the appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:21-24, 1Cor 6:13-20, 1Cor 10:1-15, 1Tim 6:1-12, 2 Tim 2: 1-26) we are told by the references given. Sin is sin and it can not be distinguished by any particular religion or tradition of man. Why do we go about trying to make standards or doctrines or traditions by any and or all whims of man? Why do we try to build other foundations?( Rom 15:18-21, 1Cor 3:1-23, Eph 2:13-22, 2Tim 2:15-21) Then there is the issue with other doctrines and traditions after man, (Mat 15:3-9, Mark 7:5-8, Eph 4:3-25, Col 2:1-9, 1Peter 1:17-21) I plead with you people follow the doctrine of God not man. If we are a believer then we have been purchased by the priceless blood of Christ. There is but one way to eternal life, John 10:1-11, that is Jesus. This reference ( Mat 7:13-14) is very concise and to the truth of the matter (sobering to realize the truth). Do not try making your own way, 2Pe 3:16-18, for the end thereof is destruction. People I plead with you those that would hold to this so called heritage, God is no respecter of persons, ( Acts 10:34-35, Rom 2″10-11, Eph 6:1-11, Col 3:24-25, 1Pet 1:14-21). Now for the gift of life eternal by the grace of God, (Rom 5:14-19, Rom 6:16-23. It is impossible to earn a gift is it not? The debt for sin of all those who call on Jesus and repent has been paid in full. It is so much more to claim on the heritage of God. That is what I encourage everyone to do. Lay aside all other things like apostle Paul did, Phi 3;4-8.

      Blessings to all in Christ
      Gene

    2. I just want to say thanks for putting into words so eloquently what many of us who have left the Mennonites feel to be truth. You are spot on with what you’ve said.

      1. Thank you Rose, you are kind. I’m glad you got what im saying. Experience and honesty are the best teachers. Sounds like you know all about that though.

  10. Joyce, the headcovering is a distinguishing characteristic of Mennonites. I didn’t say they are the only people in the world who cover—that would be absurd. However, it is not something that all Christian denominations adhere to. It is a Mennonite distinctive, and it is held tightly by the denomination. I don’t feel that should be a threat, it is simply the fact. However, the degree to which it seems to be defended by Mennonites is concerning. Also, I don’t believe Jesus ever mentioned any of the things you are listing when he talked about entering the kingdom. He said, among other beautiful teachings, that we must be like a child. And being like a child means to have an open heart, trusting, non-prejudiced, and always wanting to learn more.

    1. To clarify – Jesus talked about obedience to be a kingdom Christian. All of his teachings are not in print for us in the 4 gospels – some come out w/ the apostles. I don’t believe we can separate them. I believe coming to Jesus – while He may not show us everything at once (OK – that almost never happens) – means we’ll want to follow what we learn from Him in His Word. When we know about a teaching and daily dismiss it for whatever – even ‘good’ reason…. I have to believe that is serious – in fact – it is called ‘sin’. But believe me – I’m also aware of my own shortcomings and oh how I need His work in my life! But let’s not call a bible teaching a ‘mennonite’ thing. It then has a ‘mennonite’ connotation and non-mennonites get the feeling they don’t need to be concerned with it – a trick of the enemy I believe. Let’s keep seeking! and following!

  11. Wow, I didn’t expect to get so much input on what I thought was a pretty basic post on the one thing (thankfully) that all Christians agree on–that our faith rests on Christ. I know I have a lot to learn and a lot of growing to do and many blind spots. But God hasn’t given me up! He’s still working on me.

  12. You know what you believe and why and that in its self says a lot about you. Coming in from a non Mennonite back ground I agree with my husband that we have something worth holding onto. Sadly many of us have experiences true pain in theses circles but its life and its out there too. My goal would be to sort out that pain/hurt and understand what is Christianity and what is not and to learn from that experience asking God to give me His heart of compassion so I can live a victorious Christian walk allowing that experience to make me a better person. It is sometimes a lonely road but did not Jesus say that this Christian walk would not be easy. I have learned a lot and God was faithful. Blessing as you go forth with torch in hand.

  13. Hi Lucy. You have a good article here. I was not raised in a Mennonite Church, or family. Through a Bible study I became a christian, and joined the Mennonite Church on my own. What I think Lucy is getting at is we can not “make it into heaven” with church membership, or having a good family pedigreed in the Mennonite church or good works. I see there are comments about the Head covering. The Mennonite church is not the only one that requires a covering. Our obstetrician belongs to a church that is not Mennonite, and they require the women that are members to were a covering when they meet for church. We know this to be true because my wife and I have been there. A preacher on a Christian Radio station that I listen to that has given messages about why women should cover. He is a Presbyterian Minister. You will find him on at 7 am on VCY America. His program is called Let the Bible Speak. Go on the internet, and you will find it. Our neighbor who is Catholic told my wife that she remembers when they were required to wear a veil at Mass. A quick study of church history will show it was a requirement for service. Just about all churches have left it, and said it is not in the Bible. But I believe it is. Some people have obviously been hurt by people in the Mennonite Church. We need to remember that Mennonites are human, just like people in other churches. So let’s be sure to not let bitterness settle in our hearts toward the Mennonite Church. Because if we are bitter towards them you most likely will not find peace and contentment in the next church either. Here is a good quote I heard this morning on the radio. “Fear, guilt, and pain make us take out our hurt, and pain on other people.”
    Now for the reason why people are leaving the ” Church in droves”. The reason people are leaving in droves is because we as ” Mainstream Christian” no longer has a reverence for God in our services. The Bible is now a book of mere suggestions. Over the years we have allowed modesty to go by the wayside. Then Divorce and remarriage is okay, because we use the excuse that God was not in my first marriage, or second so he did not recognize either one. This was started in some of the Pentecostal Churches. Now it is widely excepted in many other Churches that claim Christianity. Then the Contemporary Music movement came in. Then Church became a place of entertainment, and a big Pep Rally. We no longer take our Bibles to Church to follow along with Minister to let the Word of God speak to our hearts. Then you have the “Name it and claim it” movement. Where you can have wealth and a host of other blessings if you just claim to God what you want and He will give it to you. Now the final domino has fallen and Homo sexual marriage is okay. Then to top it off you have many Christian Contemporary music groups, and Singers saying they have no problem with Homo Sexual behavior. I feel like asking when is the last time they opened their Bible? As I look at what passes for Christianity. Is their any wonder why people are leaving in droves. I will leave you with this. Do we have anything to offer to a person that does not know Christ? Some Churches do. Unfortunately a great many do not.

  14. Well, let me see, I have left the Pentecostal Holliness denomination and am very drawn to the Mennonites and am attending a conservative Mennonite church at this time. I am not a member, I cannot take part in communion, and I understand and respect why I cannot. Please, do not lay down your Mennonite-ness, PLEASE! The congregation I have found, I love! I am not at the point to lay down some of the things that prevents me from becoming a member but what draws me is the love they are showing to me, my wife and my children! I have never been around such wonderful spirits! It is this love that is drawing me in. PLEASE don’t lay down your Mennonite-ness! I don’t know where else I would go……

    1. Thank you, Danny. After some of the negative input on the “m” word, your kind words make me want to cry. I have experienced so much love from my congregation also. I thank God very much for them.

  15. Mollie:

    I understand what you are saying. I grew up in a conservative Mennonite church and suffered very much under what I now consider misuse and MiS interpretation of scripture. In order to protect my children from what I perceived to be the negative effects of indoctrination within an insular culture I was careful to shield them from any church envirment during their formative years, Today I am happy to say that I have twin daughters who have both graduated from Goshen College and who both attend Mennonite church’s. More important to me than anything is that my daughters are free from what I believe are the controlling beliefs if the insular conservative Mennonite culture. Jimmy Carter said in a book about Muslims and the Taliban that you can judge any group by the way they treat their women. I know what he means and I apply it to Mennonites. And it is not just the men in this culture who crush the spirits of its little girls… If you ask my sister she will tell you that it is often the women who do the dirty work.

    1. Brian, you are spot on with this post! I agree very much with what you say about judging a culture by how it treats its women. Your sister is right. All too often it is the other women doing the dirty work.

  16. Wow, Brian — very interesting. Your story is intriguing. Also I absolutely agree with your thoughts on how women are treated. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Reading down over everyone’s comment, one thing is obvious to me. There are a huge variety of people and a huge variety of experiences and also differences in responses to those experiences. As a young woman in one local church in one county in one state in one corner of the U.S., my experience is not all-expansive. I know there are a huge variety of individuals in the mennonite denomination–as in all denominations–but I sorta think the mennonite title spans a wider diversity than almost any other. I’ll go on record to say that I have experienced much love, respect, and support in my local body of believers, and also in my wider circle of mennonite friends. My experience has not been everybody’s. I think it is important to relate to people as individuals and to remember that denominational titles–like skin color–are a very faulty form of categorization. Thank you all for your comments and input. I truly believe that God doesn’t line us all up and say, “Good, better, best.” We are all so in need of His mercy. “But for the blood shed on Calvary, but for the blood, there’d be no hope for you and me. For all our righteousness is filthy rags and that’s all it’d ever be, but for the blood that cleansed and set me free.” God bless you all.

  18. I am not Mennonite, but I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I live in SC and there is a significant Mennonite population in our county. I have always admired their values, but just like any other denomination there are flaws within the doctrine.
    One of things that has always been nagging question in my mind is we have one Lord but many versions. Denominations are man made just like all religions except for Christianity which has been established by the one true God according to the promise he made in the garden. Christianity. Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship. Jesus accomplishments at the cross repaired the damage to the relationship between humanity and our Father. Sin brought spiritual death to humanity, but Christ has given us Spiritual life, henceforth, born again. The scriptures announce that by one man’s action we all became sinners, and by one man’s obedience we are all made righteous. Thank God for our Lord Jesus. It is not about us. It is about Christ. The religious of the time ask Jesus what was the greatest commandment, and his reply was put God first in your life, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. It is all about love, the scriptures say to come boldly to throne room God. It does say that for no reason. One thing that I think you need to understand is that God sees you through the precious blood of Jesus. Don’t let Satan talk you out of who you are in Christ, and live life in the victory that Christ won at cross. The word that church is translated from in the New Testament means those that have been called. The Church never was a denomination, and our goal should be for others to see Christ in dwelled in our hearts.
    God Bless

  19. You clearly did not intend for this to be a forum oin which folks can debate their own beliefs, so I will not attempt to correct the ideas of others here.
    Many commenters are basing their idea of “Mennonite” on their own experience. Frankly, each of us has a pretty small experience with the Mennonite church as a whole, and while we may all be experts on our own experience, that doesn’t mean what we have to say is true across the broad scope of the Mennonite Church.

    As to the “Mennonite” doctrines (in quotes, because there is really no such thing, only biblical doctrines), the only valid question is whether they follow scripture. Scripture is very unpopular in our world today. Sadly, as its unpopularity grows, it becomes more unpopular among the mainstream churches as well. Teachings of modesty, non-resistance, the prayer veiling, etc, are only dismissible if you look at them through the lens of the world, rather than with eyes only on God and his Word. The Serpent keeps repeating his question over and over, and successive generations ask themselves, “Yea, hath God said?”

    For those who put particular stock in what Jesus said, over the rest of Scripture, remember that HE told us that it is a strait and narrow way that leads to life; few will find it. By contrast, there is a very broad, popular road which will be trod by the vast majority of humanity. But no one wants the end of the road.

    Please don’t think I’m condemning anyone, you have your choices to make, as do I. I will stand before my God one day and give an account for not only what I said, “Lord, Lord,” but also what I did. You will do the same, and so I urge you to be sure of your destiny.

    1. And thank you too for your words. The only valid question is whether any doctrine–however we choose to label it–follows scripture. There really are no “Mennonite” doctrines. Only biblical. Amen to that.

      1. Sadly, there is indeed a Mennonite doctrine… When a preacher is ordained in the Menn. church, one of the things they must promise (in the ordination ceremony) is that they with faithfully uphold the Menninite doctrine.
        Awfully close to heresy, I say.

        1. As I say, we are all experts on our own experience. Clearly you have had an experience which caused bitterness Kay, and I’m sorry about that. Of course one can define “doctrine” as any teaching to which a religious group holds. What I meant (perhaps I was unclear) is that any teaching of any group must be compared to Scripture. So while some may say, for instance, that the prayer veiling is a “Mennonite doctrine”, I would disagree since I believe it is clearly a Scriptural doctrine. When some would say that Non-resistance is a “Mennonite doctrine”, I would say that it is not any such thing, but a teaching of Christ’s that he expected us to put into practice as he did.
          Of course any preacher in any denomination will be expected to uphold the beliefs of the church for whom he serves. This is not unique to Mennonites at all, nor does it Violante Scripture.

          1. Actually, I never once had a bad experience with the Mennonites. 🙂 I wan’t a ‘fence-rider’, never got rebuked, never was ex’ed.
            But since this phrase: “Mennonite doctrine’ appears offensive to Mennonites, suggest taking it out of the ordination ceremony. It was used in a ordination ceremony less than 2 weeks ago, so I know this to be current practice. And no – not all churches require preachers to promise to uphold their beliefs. We say Scriptural doctrine, and we leave it at that. Because we truly have no other requirements.And if that’s what you actually mean, I suggest you leave it at that, also.
            Which brings us back to original point – if it’s not necessary keep your Mennonite-ness, why can’t a Mennonite do some minor things differently?
            We all know this cannot happen, due to the ‘mennonite doctrines’ which are held as highly (or higher than) Scripture.
            For instance – does it say in Scripture to wear a cape dress? No. So would you say a modest dress or skirt/blouse will make you less holy? You would probably agree that it would not. However – in conservative Mennonite churches, this alone with get you kicked out.
            IF you don’t believe me, try it an see! This is “mennonite doctrine’. Modesty is taught by scores of churches – only amish/mennos make you stick with one very particular style.

            1. Kay,
              I’m enjoying this discussion, although I feel a little bad hijacking the thread. I actually agree with you on the cape dress vs modest dress. Our church does not require a dress code other than to ask for modesty. We define that as we choose, and of course there would be some clothing styles which we would consider inappropriate.
              I think that my church is not a typical “Conservative Mennonite Church” in that we don’t have much of a rule book at all.
              I honestly can’t say that we hold any doctrine/teaching above scripture. But all of us commenting here may not agree about what scripture says or means on various points.
              The long and short of this whole discussion is that some of us believe that Scripture gives the church authority to define christian living in practical terms which may even include how we dress or the vehicles we drive. But all Christians draw a line somewhere as to what they believe crosses from “ok” to “not ok”, or “right” to “wrong” in their own lives and families, if not their church. And all Christians (I’m sure) believe that the point at which they draw a line between right and wrong is the point at which Scripture does the same.
              So I think we need to extend grace to others, while realizing that none of us are perfect. Indeed it does take multiple perspectives to round out the church. And it is always easiest to see the inconsistencies of others.

  20. THANK-YOU for this article. Very true and well put. Wow, all these comments about got me going as to tell what I believe and what the Bible spells out…and so on. But maybe it wouldn’t have a lot to do with what you really were saying in the first place in your writings. So I’ll leave off here with….I’m so thankful to have you for my sister. I am so thankful for my upbringing…and thankful most of all for the blood of Jesus. The One who has washed me clean as white as snow!!! I want to be found faithful.

  21. How can anyone who believes in a standard or in the case of Mennonites and Amish, a big set of rules to follow ever really know what it is to fully give oneself up to the Holy Spirit. Even if you’re giving 1% credit to or (faith) into that set of rules, that’s still 1% that you’re not giving to God. And no matter what any Mennonite or Amish person will try to convince you they don’t put their faith in a set of rules, if that really were true, they’d abolish the whole system.

  22. One thing I’ve thought if in the last few days….and maybe somebody already pointed this out…if we are truly following Jests and His Word, I think we will automatically want to do what the bible teaches and not have a problem if our church has a bunch of ‘rules’ to follow…unless they are unbiblical that is….

  23. So back to your original post-you say: “I am suggesting that we would better preserve those principles if we let Mennonite-ness go.”
    I wonder if you would be willing to actually let them go??

    I think not. I know (as you do) what would happen if you actually did. You must stick to every shred of Mennonite-ness lest you lose your standing in the church, your friends, your reputation, perhaps even your job or family.

    And this, my friend, is why you must maintain your Mennonite-ness.

  24. Lucinda,

    Thanks for the article. It is well-written and thought-provoking. I am a student at a Bible college, where I take numerous Bible and theology courses. The more that I study the Bible and our faith the more that I am bothered by how most of us who are Christians are simply following what we were taught as a child. And this is true for many things: someone born republican will likely be so, one born Muslim will likely be Muslim, a farmer is more likely to be a farmer. Yet, there is no real truthfulness in being born into something. Being born something really has nothing to do with whether it is true. Yet, by the time we are old enough to interpret Scripture on our own we already have an inherited world-view which we cannot shake. So as we “read” the Bible we read it through the lens of our inherited world-view. This means that a Mennonite will see commands to wear a covering, a Baptist to defend their country, and a Pentecostal to speak in tongues. All are appealing to Scripture and are confident they are correct. Who is right or wrong? This dilemma is why it is important to be self-aware as we read Scripture, and to realize that discerning right and wrong is not as simple as it may appear.

  25. WOW! great discussion. May the Glory be to the Lord God Almighty. As an individual who is forced to making a choice between letting go of the “ness” in our heritage and following the word here are a couple of observations, questions and scriptures I would like to share.

    If we are trying to preserve our anabaptist heritage by looking back to the way our forefathers did things and not looking where they learned it we will no doubt make a big circle and end up where our forefathers had to break away from. e.g. The jewish system looked to Abraham and couldn’t see Jesus, The Catholics looked to St Peter and lost sight of Jesus. Today Anabaptists look back to the martyrs and people like Jacob Ammon and Mennos Simons and lose sight of the true doctrines of Jesus.
    Many of us are proud of our “Anabaptist Heritage”, Amish, Mennonite or whatever it may be, and we want to be sure to preserve this heritage for generations to come. If the doctrines our forefather left for us are our guide for living a righteous life then we will miss the doctrines of Christ. Jesus himself said “If a man put his hand on the plow and look back he is not fit for the kingdom” (my paraphrase)

    If you want to preserve an apple and you put in a jar and seal it with great care to make sure nothing can harm it you will sadly see that you cannot stop the deterioration. If you plant the seed in that apple you will harvest many more like it for as long as the seed is planted. To preserve our heritage we must do the same thing our forefathers did. Read the word and act upon it. Here is the test of who we are and who we serve.

    Luke 9:23-26 We must be willing to forsake all for him.

    Galatians 5 Please study this chapter thoroughly, in fact I would encourage you to memorize it especially; verse 3, 9, 18-21, 24. We cannot say we are led by the spirit if the works of the flesh are manifest.

    So I don’t have the answers to all the questions but here is somethings Jesus taught, “Love your neighbor as yourself, Crucify yourself if you want to be my follower, be born of the spirit” and here is the real challenge for denominational heritage focused people, “I have another flock that I will call and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd!”

    I ask for prayer as I strive to lead my family in the word of truth and Bless all of you brothers and Sisters, not just the Amish ones, but all who claim Jesus for their Savior and are doing the will of the Father. Press on to the goal and don’t jump out of a hot skillet into the fire or don’t react to offenses and loose sight of your vision.

    PS Just read a very thought provoking, eye opening book ” He Came to Set the Captive Free” by Rebecca Brown

    1. The foundation of the Anabaptist faith is the Holy Scriptures. We should not have to choose either or. It is when we are forced to choose that we have problems…if we don’t choose the Scriptures.

      Far too many are throwing away the baby with the bathwater and have no foundation left at all. They continue to doubt the Scriptures…the very words they claim to embrace. Likewise those who choose the way we have always done it over the Scriptures.

  26. The only safe secure place I have found for me and my family is in the finished (completed) work of Christ. God for bid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world (paraphrased)
    20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;)
    The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Col 2:20–22). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
    20 If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: 21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. 23 Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.

    The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Col 2:20–23). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

  27. I just found this article. It is very good.
    I would say do not let go of anything that is Biblical. Whether you are Mennonite or not.
    I have been a Christian for over 30 years. I have been to different Denominations. I have seen the ones I have attended have Biblical things they hold to, but also some man made things they hold to. (I will add some man made rules are necessary like… what time church starts or organization in seating or the order of the service)
    My husband and I have come to fully embrace the Biblical beliefs of the Anabaptists.
    We have attended a Mennonite church in the past. One thing we found that I do not think is Biblical is the Mennonite/Non Mennonite mentality. The Us and Them feeling that seemed to be there. It came across in different ways. It reminded me of the Jew vs. Gentile divisions that the New Testament believers were faced with (that was not Biblical as Paul states there is no longer Jew or Gentile ) .

    One example would be Communion. If we are part of the Body of Christ we should all be welcome to the Communion table without the obligation to dress a certain way or sign on the dotted line. ( I am not talking about dressing immodestly or not wearing a head covering, but I am talking about wearing a certain style of dress like the cape dress and certain type of nylons or socks or shoes,) . What we read in the Bible those who partook of Communion were Followers of Jesus period . Another place of division is marriage outside of the Mennonite church. A Member would not be allowed to marry someone outside the Mennonite Church no matter how sincere of a Christian the other person is.

    Paul actually was not impressed when some were saying I am of Apollos or I am of Paul.

    I am not trying to cut down Mennonites in any way. I just wonder if there was a way to maintain the good, Biblical things without putting Cultural pressure on those in the Church who are not Mennonite.
    The Mennonite culture is not superior to other Cultures. There are many good things about other cultures too, but it seemed to join the Mennonite Church a person had to join the Mennonite culture and let go of theirs. If I am wrong in these perceptions please forgive me.
    Mennonites have a lot of beautiful things to teach and give to the non Mennonite Churches .
    Your hospitality and love is amazing! Your strong hold to the Word of God when it comes to Head covering and non violence is excellent.

    I would say a good question to ask for any Church that is connected to Culture or man made rules is : would the Church continue on with business as usual if you pulled Christ and the Bible out ? Or would the Church continue following Jesus the same way if you pulled out some of the man made traditions or ideas?
    Where does the Bible end and the Culture or man made ideas begin ?

    Just for record we are going to a different Anabaptist Church at this time, who believe in Head covering , Modesty , etc .non conformity 🙂
    The Lord Jesus bless you!

  28. I was raised atheist and converted to being a Christian by the help of my wife’s meek spirit in not defending her faith. She was raised a Catholic. We spent many years without going to church much as we couldn’t seem to find anyone that took the scriptures seriously. This also gave much time for growing in dependence on the Lord – although I would not recommend not going to church. Eventually we came to all the same points as Mennonites and then found a Mennonite church 1 hour away. Eventually we moved to another location with a conservative Mennonite church. They called us Christians, brother in Christ even. We went through instruction class and conformed as far as we knew. Then each time we would get close they would let us know some ‘hidden’ “Mennonite” doctrine that we also needed to submit to(they would not tell us we could be accepted unless our children would go to the church school – their children told our children this flat out though). Eventually it turned into them lying to us and even threatening and slandering us if we wouldn’t do as they said.
    I believe that a life for Christ is about submission to Him. It is giving up our way and our will. We head-cover because it is certainly Biblical, we believe in non-resistance as Jesus taught and showed by His example, these and all other points in scripture make up basic Biblical doctrine.
    But the persecution was so bad we moved away. I believe in forgiving and not being a respecter of persons. We tried another conservative Mennonite church of similarity but different conference. Surely there are some Mennonites that are honest. They were much nicer at this church and did nothing unkind besides telling us we could homeschool and then later when we were getting closer to moving closer to the church they then said actually we had to put our children in the church school.
    We are constantly called Mennonites to the point that even my own mother tells people that we are. but yet it seems like since we weren’t born one that we will only face rejection.
    I thought entrance into the church was repentance and faith in Christ? Why then can I do everything right but the Mennonites will always find away to keep us out even if they say I am a Christian and living at peace with other men, but yet am not welcome to be a member?
    They tell me I need to just submit to the church. Yet Menno Simons certainly did not submit when he seen corruption. I cannot say that all Mennonites are dishonest and I love and have contact with many still. But yet in general what they say about evangelizing sounds good but by their fruit their words do not match there actions. Love would not keep sincere believers out – so how can I even call the Mennonite churches Christian?
    Please tell me where I can find a church that does everything Mennonite(that is how we live except we home school) but is not a respecter of persons and loves their neighbor and doesn’t tell you that they have done this for so long that they know best?

    1. Well, there are many different stripes of Mennonites. There are also many people who believe in nonresistance and simplicity and in women covering their head…and aren’t Mennonites at all. Maybe one of those groups would fit you better. I think it is hard for someone who wasn’t born into a Mennonite culture to fit into it because it IS a distinctive culture, and many of those cultural differences aren’t necessarily right or wrong. The same would be true of any new culture or group of people which you tried to fit into. There are just differences in the way people think and have been brought up. There are a lot of differences between different Mennonite groups as well. Even though I am a Mennonite, I could not go to any Mennonite group and fit in without making many adjustments. But I am very happy where I am, and perhaps you can find a group where you fit better as well. There are many Bible-based churches, whether Mennonite or not, which support and encourage home schools. I have no idea where you live, but I think I might be able to point you to resources where you can find various Anabaptist congregations across the country. But that might be better as a private conversation. I will contact you through email, and if you like, we can continue the discussion there.

    2. I am very sorry you had this experience with Mennonites. We do not have a good history of accepting people from other backgrounds into our churches. As Lucinda said Mennonite churches vary greatly and I hope and pray you can find a church that welcomes you.

  29. I should have mentioned – when I said that I can do everything right – I mean according to the written standards of the Mennonite church I was attending. Because I certainly have my faults and need His help and grace every day.

  30. >> their message was clear: “What’s in the Christian game for me?”

    >>But, with a picture in our mind of the two kingdoms–one a dazzling thing of beauty
    >>and power, the other plain and rather ugly, beset with stark realities of blood, sweat,
    >>and tears….

    Martin Luther well captured your keen observations in the following simple contrast:

    A theology of Glory vs A theology of the Cross.

  31. >>Ironically, the higher we build our walls, the more complex grows
    >>our religion, and the more we destroy the simplicity and Biblical
    >>adherence we are trying to preserve.

    This is far too sad to describe as irony. This is tragedy. This is calamity.
    This is an occasion for sackcloth and ashes, for weeping and for wailing.

  32. Excuse me but Mennonites are stuck up people the ones I meet in Lancaster pa believe they are the only true Christians and somehow they are the only true church they are a pompous people who clearly do not know Jesus also as a Lutheran the book of concord condemns most of the anabaptist doctrines like believing a Child needs to be baptised because they are under the covering of their parents household they deny the real presence of Christ in the communion in the bread and wine they also hold that one must practice pacifism the 10 commandments thou shall not kill means to kill the innocent this does not include a person who is defending themselves in a battlefield situation

    1. I’m sorry you found the Mennonites that way, but I don’t think it’s wise to judge the spiritual status or values of an entire people group on the basis of a few with whom you had a bad experience. People are so many and varied, and they don’t fit as well into categories as we would like to believe.

      I will briefly explain the Biblical basis of the doctrines you mentioned, and hopefully you can understand better why we believe that way. I believe it’s important to take our doctrine from the inspired Word of God, don’t you? As far as I know, the Lutheran book of concord hasn’t reached that status yet. 🙂

      1. Adult baptism. Paul said in Romans 10:9, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” A baby doesn’t have the understanding to believe and confess or to make a choice for Jesus. Salvation comes through a personal, individual choice to turn to God, and a baby isn’t old enough to do that. That doesn’t mean a baby is condemned if it dies, because our loving God would never condemn innocence. But when the child reaches a depth of maturity where he understands that he needs Jesus and why, then is the right time for baptism, by the young person’s own choice.

      2. We don’t take the teaching of non-resistance from the Old Testament commandments, but from Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament. When Jesus was standing on trial before Pilate, he told him, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight so I wouldn’t be delivered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from here.” Jesus also said that we should love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. As Jesus’ followers, we choose to promote his spiritual kingdom over any earthly one. We fight a spiritual battle against the works of darkness, but we do not fight or kill people because those are the very people we would wish to save and invite into Christ’s kingdom.

      Hope this helps you understand those two things, anyway! I’m not going to touch the doctrine of transubstantiation, because I don’t feel I have a deep enough understanding of the subject. 🙂

  33. I feel I am the latecomer, here this blog has been going on for 2 years and I only found it today. But, I read it all and would like to make a few comments. I think a lot of what we are perhaps calling Mennonite-ness is culture. Seems like when we hear the word culture as it relates to Mennonites it is given as a negative. As in “Lets just be real Christians and forget Mennonite culture.” Do we understand culture? I was born in America, spent my childhood, and a good bunch of my adult years in America. And I thought I was normal. Then I spent 12 years in 2 other foreign countries. Did I get a lesson in culture! What I thought was normal wasn’t any more! And they thought they were totally normal. They were living their culture.
    Websters tells us that culture is the beliefs and customs of a particular group of people at a certain place and time. We are all creatures of habit, as we say, and people of culture. Language is a cultural thing, so is dress, food, and almost everything we do that involves a choice. We can talk about the Early American culture, the hippie culture, the Biker culture or whatever. Some cultures can be good, some cultures can be bad. The truth of the matter is we cannot escape culture. It’s how God created us. So when Christians are called to “Come out from among them and be ye separate” They will by default create their own culture. The Baptists have their culture, the Catholics have their culture, and specific church groups can vary in their culture from area to area and from congregation to congregation. We either live in the common culture around us or we live in a subculture. If we abandon the culture we are in it is only to accept another culture in it’s place. The real question is “Is my culture godly”? Mennonite-ness is good if it is describing a church group that is spiritual and scriptural. Mennonite-ness is bad if it describes a group or congregation that is ungodly or unscriptural. “Love not the world neither the things that are in the world . . .”

    1. I really appreciate these thoughts. You are 100% right! And reading this right now helps me to get my thinking straight. It sounds very much like what I have heard my dad say; he is another wise man.

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