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This is why I’m a Mennonite

July 25th, 2010 by isaac · 8 Comments

I joined the Mennonite church 7 years ago. I wanted to be a part of a church that acknowledged Christ’s way of peace as fundamental to the gospel. The peace of Jesus is always at the center of our worship at Chapel Hill Mennonite. But, as far as I can tell, the larger denominational bodies have not found ways to proclaim the good news of Christ’s peace in our national context.

So, I was very happy at a recent Virginia Mennonite Conference delegate assembly when we affirmed the work of the Peace Committee (led by Nicholas Detweiler-Stoddard and Spencer Bradford) to print anti-war ads in our local newspapers.

the nation through ware will know no peace

I have to admit, this sort of thing makes me proud to be a Mennonite.

For those outside the Mennonite community, you should know that the Virginia Mennonite Conference is one of the more conservative conferences in our denomination (MCUSA). For Mennonites, however, to be conservative about the tradition is to be clear about our historic position of peace. Our Mennonite conference takes seriously our mission to conserve the church’s tradition of proclaiming the peace of Christ.

Tags: church life · war

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mike O // Jul 28, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Hello,

    Discovered your website while reading about Psalm 88 and liked your post on it (from 2005 I think). I must admit that I don’t know any Mennonites and that I am not very familiar with their perspective on life. Naturally I have a question.

    Are Mennonites total pacifists? While I certainly I agree that a nation seeking peace through war will not know it, do Mennonites object to every use of force? Can a nation fight to defend itself?

    In my opinion not all nations of the world are friendly, and not all will be moved by diplomacy. As such, I think a nation should be ready to defend itself. What are your thoughts?

  • 2 isaac // Jul 28, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Hi Mike,

    I’m glad you found your way to the blog, and I am thankful for your comment.

    Mennonites are part of the peace church tradition which tries to live out the peace of Christ. For this tradition, killing someone else is a disbelief in the gospel of Jesus. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 12, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil… Do not take revenge, my friends…”

    So, to get back to your question, we do not believe in killing someone else in the name of self-defense. Like Jesus, we would rather be killed than to kill. For we trust in God’s grace to care for us, even after our deaths.

    There’s a lot more to all of this. For more information on the Mennonite way of peace, check out this website:
    http://www.thirdway.com/peace/

    peace,
    isv

  • 3 Mike O // Jul 30, 2010 at 9:13 am

    I enjoy reading your blog as your posts are thoughtful and respectful.

    I like the Mennonite viewpoint on violence, though I’m not sure I completely agree with it; but I do believe in trusting in God’s grace to care for us.

    I actually read an anecdote recently which relates to that subject. An elderly man was asked if he wanted to be put on drugs and life support, extending his life by a few months. His response was basically “no thanks, I have an eternity with God waiting for me.” I’ve often thought that the troubles we encounter in this life are of little significance in comparison to being with God.

    Another question for you concerning violence, what do Mennonites make of all the violence in the Old Testament? I’m not a Biblical scholar, so that is probably an ignorant question, and I hope you’ll excuse it. But I’ve often wondered about the difference (at least in my mind) in the personality of God between the New and Old Testaments.

  • 4 isaac // Aug 4, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Mike, thanks for the follow up comment. Your story about the elderly man sounds exactly right.

    You are right to note the violence in some of the Old Testament. It’s there. But I would want to be careful that we don’t ignore the important teachings of peace in the OT as well. There is no cohesive teaching about violence throughout the OT. There is no theology of violence easily distilled from the OT. Plenty of passages get in the way of that kind of reading strategy: for example, Isaiah 11, Leviticus 26, Zephaniah 3, Jeremiah 29, and a number of others.

    For Mennonites (and I assume for Christians in general), Jesus is the decisive revelation of God. Through Christ we learn to read all of the Scriptures in a new light. I think this means that Jesus helps us reinterpret some parts of the Old Testament: “You’ve heard it was said… but I say to you…” We affirm that God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever,” yet we recognize how Christ gives us new eyes to read the story of God’s people. There’s a tension here that I don’t know how to resolve. But I can say with some certainty that Jesus calls us to follow his example, through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. “But we do see Jesus,” as the author of Hebrews writes. Why should we not obey Jesus when he says, “Love your enemies”?

    Mike, thanks again for your comment. Hopefully there’s something here that gets at your questions.

  • 5 Mike O // Aug 6, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to reply Issac. It is only recently that I’ve truly let God into my life, so there is quite a bit I don’t know, and there will always be lots to learn. Your reply got at my questions though didn’t fully answer them. But they won’t truly be answered without a lot of reading and pondering. Every conversation helps in building a relationship with God (which after a bit of reflection I believe is the purpose of human existence). I hope my questions have helped you do the same, if only in a small way.

  • 6 Dale B // Aug 13, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Mike: I suggest that you read through Isaiah, with a specific focus on the passages about justice. God is concerned about justice, and while it is not always achieved in this life, it will be in the next, as Revelation makes clear.
    Also remember that the “eye for an eye” passage (Ex 21:23-25, Lev 24:19-20) are both a minimum as well as a maximum: it both prohibited the powerful from inflicting injury without punishment, as well as prevented excessive retaliation such as taking a life due to a minor injury.
    Much of the need for defense arises from injustice: Hitler could not have come to power in Germany without the crushing economic sanctions imposed on the German people as a result of WW1. Bin Laden’s excuse for the Sept. 11 attacks were due to the US having troops stationed on Saudi soil (admittedly at the request of the Saudi gov’t).

    The writings of the US founders are full of warnings against military involvement in foreign conflicts, which we have too often failed to heed.

    Isaac: I leave you with this quote from William Ralph Inge: “It is useless for sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism while wolves remain of a different persuasion.”

    This is an area where each Christ-follower must reach his/her own conclusion. I would not kill anyone for property theft, but if someone’s life were in danger (especially my wife or children) I would kill the person who was threatening them. Would I have trouble sleeping? Sure. But if I didn’t protect them, I’d have even more trouble sleeping.

  • 7 BithoryVionry // Mar 1, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Thank you! Do you often Great posts! Right from the morning lift the mood.

  • 8 isaac // Mar 4, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Thanks for reading the post!