What Is Being a Mennonite, When You Aren't? Angie N Amstutz, April 1999 (United States)
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Over the last two months I have learned more about the Mennonites and Anabaptists than I have ever known. I knew very little coming into this class. Coming to Goshen College, I never even heard of Mennonites and knew nothing about them. All I knew was Goshen was to be a four-year Christian college. Little by little I picked up on what a Mennonite was supposed to be. This class helped to solidify my ideas and helped me form a new concept of Mennonites.
The Mennonite church is a branch of Bible believing, Christians. It is has a long struggle of a history. It begins with the Anabaptist movement of the late 1500's. It is passed on and transformed over the years. The Anabaptists are persecuted for their beliefs of adult baptism, missions, biblical literalism, and being like Christ. There were various religious leaders that helped move Anabaptism along. Some of the leaders were Conrad Grebel, Menno Simons, Pilgram Marpeck and Hans Hut. These men helped to form and shape the form of Anabaptism. However there were differing views on how issues should be handled causing many schisms over the years. The schisms lead to many divisions in the church. This is why there are Mennonites, Hutterites, and Amish. Even then there are so many variations in each of the congregations in each of these Anabaptist groups.
Mennonites today are to be active pacifists. I have seen more active pacifism here at Goshen College in the last four years than I have ever seen in my life. I am not Mennonite neither an active pacifist. This was a new concept for me coming to this campus. My father was is a Vietnam era veteran. He was in active duty in Germany during the conflict. I grew up with guns in our house and learned how to shoot. I have no qualms about that. I am proud and honored that my father served this country. Ever since coming to Goshen my views have changed on how I look at pacifism. I look at trying to find a non-violent solution to a problem, but in my mind I know that the government will not always be able to find a peaceful way to handle other countries' leaders. I know there will never really be peace until Jesus Christ returns.
Mennonites are to be humble and self-denying people. From all that I have read over the last two months, I have gotten the impression that Mennonites like to "suffer" and to display that suffering. I have had discussions with Mennonites as to how the older generation of Mennonites would not let on as to how much money they have and to look as poor and humble as possible. It was almost a contest as to who could look the poorest but have the most. I cannot understand this concept. I understand the humbleness and humility, but to the extreme as to lie about it is crazy. Here on campus I have come across many people who have not had to work a day in their lives as well as those who have had to work for everything they have. It is such a contrast. The attitudes these people also reflect in this contrast. I have seen some very Christian people call themselves Mennonites. I have also seen some very unchristian-like people who call themselves Mennonites. I have seen too many Mennonites of my generation on this campus have double standards. They say one thing but do another. In my mind it is so hypocritical. It just does not make sense.
By taking this class I have learned about my heritage. I would have never known that I had Anabaptist roots if not for doing a genealogy study. I am proud of those roots and I believe that I was brought here to Goshen to find my roots. I have seen and learned a lot over the last four years about the current Mennonites. I think that many are very liberal and let many issues fly that my conservative independent church would never let happen. There are very conservative Mennonites too, but I have not come into contact with very many. I like the idea of voluntary service. I think it is very Christ like and a humbling experience. However, sometimes I think people take advantage of it so they do not have back loans, etc. Not all, but some do. Again, this is something that I question.
I think revival of the Christian church, whether it is Mennonite or not has to happen. I think in many ways the Mennonite church of this day and age has forgotten what the first Anabaptists really believed. People like Bender tried to get a revival going. It just has never taken hold. I am happy to be in the Christian, Bible-believing church that I am in. Too many people here have turned me off to wanting to be a Mennonite today. Some things just have to change before I would ever consider calling myself a Mennonite. I also have a problem with having a denominational title. Is one denomination really better than any other? I think that it does not matter as long as the doctrine being taught is biblically sound.
This essay was completed for an Anabaptist/Mennonite History class at Goshen College in April 1999.