Gabrielle gave a post suggestion the other day:
Pros and cons of being Mennonite. What do you love/hate most about it?
My first thoughts were, “this is dangerous territory,” and, “I don’t think of Mennonites in pro/con love/hate terms.” But on second thought, there are some things I really appreciate about being a conservative Mennonite, and some things that really bother me. As a person trying to be completely honest on her blog, I might as well do a post about it.
Pro: Mennonites are Christians. In a Mennonite church, the most important thing is Jesus, and the most important decision you can make is to accept Jesus into your heart and give your life to Him.
This trait it obviously present in many churches that are not Mennonite, but I am still mentioning it first because it is the most important aspect of Mennonite churches.
Con: The over-emphasis on culture.
This is kind of a sticky tricky subject and I know that not all of my readers are going to agree with me on this. However, I think the conservative Mennonite church is too focused on their own personal culture.
There are two great downfalls in this. First, it’s hard for non-Mennonites to understand and break into our culture, greatly hindering our outreach. Second, we end up with a lot of rules which have no Scriptural basis, which also hinders our outreach.
For instance, here are some questions I have been asked by non-Mennonites which I had no good answer for.
1. How come you have to wear a black head covering? Why don’t you wear a pretty pink one some time?
2. Wait, you can watch movies at home but you can’t go to a movie theater? What if you just bought a really big screen?
3. Your hair is so pretty. Couldn’t you wear it down if you still wore your head covering?
People in the church have told me that I should say, “the members of my church have all agreed on a standard,” and that people will admire my church for having standards. However, I have never met a person “in the world” who admired my church for having “standards” that had no scriptural basis. Instead they look at me with sympathy.
I feel strongly that our purpose as Christians is to share Jesus with those who don’t know him, and that our churches should be safe places for those new Christians to come and get to know Jesus better. I also feel, from personal experience, that the Mennonite culture makes this more difficult. That is why I listed it as a “con.”
Pro: The core beliefs and values.
In Reformation days, the Mennonites (then called Anabaptists) formed because they believed that people should be baptized when they are consenting adults, not when they are babies. This was about more than some sprinkled water. When babies were baptized, they became church members. The Catholics and Protestants were both trying to get as many church members as possible, and form a state church. The Mennonites, however, didn’t want a state church. They wanted a church filled only with people who had truly given their heart to Jesus, and were committed to spending their life serving Him.
Thus, Mennonites were some of the first proponents of separation of Church and State in the western world. (I’d like to say they were THE first, but I haven’t done enough research on that point to know for sure.)
Mennonites also practiced “nonresistance.” The idea of nonresistance is taken from Matthew 5:39, which says, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Like Pacifists, Mennonites would be opposed to going to war. However, they take it a step further. If someone does something evil to us, we are to do something nice back. As simple as that.
A good example of what I like about Mennonite values can be found on Millercase.org. You can read up on the case there, because I don’t feel like explaining the whole thing here. However, there was one line on the website which struck me:
We wish to clarify that this was an act of mercy without a political agenda. This is true for the simple reason that Anabaptists have always believed that we are not to participate in the affairs of the State, while we gladly submit to its rule under God. We also recognize that there are many legal battles being fought in relation to homosexuality. We have no desire to participate in these conflicts.
When I read this I thought, how great it this? So many people have an agenda these days. Even this case can be seen as a battle between ‘pro homosexual’ people and ‘anti-homosexual’ people. But in the Mennonite world, it’s not a political battle. The Mennonites simply saw someone who needed help, and helped them, because they felt it was the right thing to do.
That is, in a nutshell, what I love about the Mennonites.
Thank you Gabrille for your post suggestion! Anyone who had suggestions for future posts can leave them in the comments or email them to me at Jemilys@gmail.com
Love this. I’m a not-from-Mennonite-backgroud-Mennonite. I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head.
yes, yes, yes
That was fast! 🙂 Thank you so much, Emily! Your post totally made my day.
You did a great job explaining some of the pros and cons of your denomination. I come from a strong Mennonite background on my mom’s side, but not on my dad’s side. Thus, it’s been really interesting to see the differences between the two as I’ve grown up. I like to say I have the best of both worlds… parenting pulling from mindsets and lifestyles. At the same time, I think it’s important for me to recognize some of the cons, such as the more rigid, legalistic rules, that tend to be a barrier between outsiders and also my relationship with Christ. It keeps my heart in check.
Thank you so much for your honesty. I know it wasn’t an easy question, but you handled it amazingly!
Just a nerd passing by.
Being a nerd, I can’t resist a few comments on the historical issues that you referred to. Anabaptists did give birth to the Mennonites, but the people who would become the Mennonites were a distinct minority amongst the broader population of Anabaptists.
I believe that the different the beliefs of the various Anabaptist were one of the prime reasons for the heavy emphasis that Menno Simons placed on “standards” as you call them. In particular, Menno had a problem with the Anabaptists who are often times called Münster movement by modern historians.
In a nut shell, the Munster movement was a bunch of Anabaptists who believed that Christians were called by God to use violence to bring about social change. These Anabaptists lead a violent rebellion against the authorities of the day and this lead to a campaign by the various authorities to portray all the Anabaptists as being violent revolutionaries.
While all this was going on, Menno was a Catholic priest who was secretly attending Anabaptists meetings and becoming convinced that they were right. When the persecution of all Anabaptists starting heating up because of the actions of the the Münster movement, Menno felt he had to make a stand as he knew that the Munster movement did not represent all Anabaptists. And the rest is history as they say.
Having read some of Menno’s collected letters as well as some other works on the time period, I think a lot of Mennonite standards came about as a way of differentiating themselves from the Munster movement. These standards then took on a life of their own and few people seem to really remember why they started anymore.
I know that is not the whole story behind the Mennonites “standards” but I think it is an important part that is often forgotten.
“Wait, you can watch movies at home but you can’t go to a movie theater?”
Not even Mennonite and I was raised this way in the Church of Christ (restoration movement). Its much harder when you are like the only family in your church that believes going to the movie theater is wrong than if everyone in your church has agreed to this as a standard, trust me. In the CoC there is an undo emphasis on church attendance to the point where they basically teach justification by perfect attendance. Does the Mennonite church do that?
(i just discovered your blog, and obviously love it because I read so far back in it….therefore this is why this comment is so late)
This is exactly how I explain Mennonites to people! I love them but also would have to agree with the cons you listed. (even though I don’t know if you would consider me a ‘real’ Mennonite, because my church is part of Mennonite Church USA).
But, thanks so much for the post! much appreciated!
The reason you can’t wear a different color headcovering besides black in your church or white in others is because if they allowed colors then they should allow prints and if prints are allowed then why not sparkles and glitter. It’s about modesty and not being worldly. The reason you can’t wear your hair down is so that it’s kept private for you husband’s eyes only so that only he may lust after it. Finally the idea of going to the movies and also amusement parks in some churches is due to the fact of them being worldly. You are to be in the world not of it. Hope this helps :0)
LikeLiked by 1 person
As I’ve done more research on Mennonites lately, I can’t figure out, what’s the difference between a Mennonite church being part of Mennonite church USA and a church that is non part of MCUSA? Are the ones that are part of it less conservative and the ones that are not more conservative or what??
Well, Not a Mennonite,but from what I have researched is MCUSA is part of the Indiana/Michigan Conference. Some of these Conferences have become INClusive about homosexual issues of accepting them as Members or shunning them. Because of these issues other conferences have been formed to accept Gay Marriages/ and Members within the Churches who are assigned to their different Conferences. The Conferences determines the Standards to which each member Church has is adherences to, and that form of Standards they see as a godly/scriptural practice. Some Schisms within the the Mennonites Assemblies are forming over these issues and so you see New Conferences or formed Bodies of Mennonites who are more INCLUSIVE of Gay Marriages/Memberships within their Church. The real issues as I have known Christ for Almost 40 years is whether to allow SIN OR NOT. THE BIBLE IS CLEAR ABOUT ALL SIN, LET it not be named once amongst us Saints. The issue of love them/gays has been convoluted into a wishing mushy love and NOT one of discernment and Absolute Scriptural Based. We love them but we hate the sin. We don’t corrupt our Assemblies because of this ACCEPTANCE ISSUES GAY People feel inferior in is a moral issue not a social issue, Our love is discerning even if it were bunch of Prostitutes/ ETC.., we don’t change the BIBLICAL STANDARD for Prostitutes, either, or brethren who causes disord in the Assembly of Saints no matter what denomination we come from. This issue of the love/acceptance language that comes from the gay community is basically saying ; “accept me is allowing me to sin with my homosexual/Sodomies/etc and I can live as I want against Christ Standards in the Body of Christ and God is in agreement with that arguement or my views. This my Friend is absolutely forbidden on every level from Scriptures O.T and N.T and the disciplines that are required from God Himself to be righteous as He is Righteous and to put out a person who does not or will not repent of their Sins and forsake them, God is not pleased that we have Caved in for our own Understanding apart from the Scriptures, Do we Provoke God to displeasure? What fools are we if we ADD or Subtract the Standards and the VERY WORDS OF GOD, those lines that we cross as individuals and leadership will have grave consequences in Eternity and the Stumbling blocks for the Brethren everywhere and the unsaved, how dar we act with such wickedness of reasons, We are to Have the Mind of Christ/Biblically. What testimony of Christ is this, it’s NOT. The grave deception of Satan is that if he can defile the vessels in which God uses us to bring a dieing World to the Savior, we can no longer become a used Vessel but discarded/ of no use and an ineffective witness to the world, they don’t want to repent of their homosexuality they want to mask it and reason with it a NOT repent, this is the wickedness from the pits of hell John 3: 16-27 men love darkness rather than light lest’ they should come to that light and their DEEDS BE REPROVED! The issues of the final Authorities of the Scriptures are settled in Heaven, you delude yourselves by Pride and Arrogance to Change the Word of God because you have NO Spiritual Backbone to Stand against the Wickedness and the Powers of Darkness to come into your own hearts and the Congregation/ The True Body of Christ! The love God speaks of is not an all Inclusive Love of sins of any kind, but discerning and able to reprove and rebuke, Satan does not want us to be effective so he is using these issues to corrupt the Body of Christ/ make us distracted and keep Souls from being saved as we are arguing these stupid obvious issues the Bible forbids. Soul’s looking at us are saying, what kind of people are these? If you want an all inclusive of sin type religion in your lives there is 100 more different ones from True Christianity. We will die, perhaps and all Nations will hate us because of Christ and the offence or the offended is always the equasion to living for Christ, and what price are you willing to pay, we don’t cave into sin or Satan’s agenda. Our titles mean nothing if we lose our Biblical/Scriptural convictions, to Reign with Christ means we will suffer with Him not some party style Christianity or the love movement where anything goes type of Christianity, with inclusiveness of Abominations/Sins religion. God is HOLY and responsible for drawing them to Christ, we don’t have to change Gods Word because of few might be lost, they are lost because they refuse to repent and come to Christ on His terms/Biblical terms. Thank you, Assoc Chaplain K. Marie
P.S. CON: I would love to become a Mennonite but the too many issues spoil the experience of having a Relationship with my Heavenly Father. PRO: is the woman’s Head covering and helping others.