Essays for King Jesus
- Dan Ziegler
Have you ever wondered what is behind the unique set of convictions that define conservative Anabaptists (Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, Brethren, and related groups)? We Mennonites often call them “distinctives” – deeply rooted practices among the “plain people” that are uncommon within much of the rest of Christianity, like:
- Non-resistance (conscientious objection to violence and participation in war)
- Not swearing oaths
- Not suing another person
- Strong teaching against divorce and remarriage
- A focus on servanthood and surrenderedness
- Simplicity and non-accumulation of wealth
- Church discipline
- Abstaining from political involvement
- Mutual aid and communal sharing
- Non-conformity and modesty in dress
- Women’s head covering
- Greeting one another with the holy kiss
- Distinct gender roles within family and church, etc.
Are we plain folks privy to some kind of special revelation? Or are we really just quaint cultural oddities – an anachronistic tribe of Germanic ascetics, suffering from the long-term effects of too much scrapple and over-ripe sauerkraut? The truth, of course, is that we are neither. We non-conformed Anabaptists are just regular folk, no more astute or intrinsically spiritual than our neighbors.
So, what drives the uniqueness of the conservative Anabaptist faith?
- Beth B.
I was a slightly nerdy, freshman chemistry major begrudgingly taking the required basic communications course. Dutifully, I decided to make the most of the class and write my term paper on what is fundamental to friendship initiation. Deep in the musty, psychology journal section of the library, I found I was not the first to want more “scientific” answers in addressing this question. Some waxing psychologist had written an article on 30 things that lead to friendship. Now, many years later, one quality stands out the strongest in my memory. Nothing grandiose or complicated; simply, the other person must perceive that you like them. The Christian believes that the core human longings of humanity are universal in nature but differing in expression. International friendships are no different. To craft a friendship, one must communicate to someone with a different set of cultural norms, a sense of affinity for their personal humanity and express Christlike, sacrificial love.
Some Northern European cultures are notoriously viewed by most of the world as unaffectionate in demeanor. Many of the plain Anabaptist lineage are cultural descendants from this “unaffectionate” lineage. Getting someone to know you like them when they come from a culture where three kisses is the common greeting may be challenging. Learn how to express a warm greeting in a diversity of cultures. Thankfully, internationals visiting the USA are often acquainted with US cultural norms, but receiving a greeting harkening back to home and family might be a salve to their soul.
One of my partners in international outreach has a bumper sticker, “Love people, cook them good food.” A string of internationals adore her friendship. Any home cooked meal can express care and affection. Cooking the food of your own culture is a way of inviting them into your life. Bravely attempting to cook their home cuisine for them as good as their mother (which I have rarely attained to) expresses an acceptance of their unique identity. Both are valuable.
- Marlin Sommers
“The chicken showed me where the chickens are getting out,” said my son. We soon fixed that hole in the fence. (Unfortunately, there were more.) What stuck with me were the words “the chicken showed me”. Those words indicate observation and attentiveness. And, perhaps I push the point too far, openness to learning from the chicken.
Philosophizing about knowing (i.e. epistemology) may seem arcane or excessively technical. However, what increasingly strikes me is that our mindset toward knowing and the way we think about knowledge ties into our overall stance toward life. Whether or not we study formal epistemology, we all have a functional epistemology: our conception of what knowing is, our ideas about what (and who!) it is worthwhile to know, and ideas about how we can gain knowledge. The first part of this essay highlights epistemological thinkers and themes that I find helpful. The second part notes thinkers and themes I have encountered in various parts of my life that exemplify the approach to knowing outlined in part one.
What Is Knowing and What’s Worth Knowing?
Steven Brubaker’s delightful essay, “A Mennonite Thinks about Knowing,” introduces key themes.1 What is worth knowing? God, first and foremost. God’s creation is also important and worth knowing. Humans are a key part of creation we should know and love. As humans, we also exercise creativity through our work, which results in what Brubaker calls “creation’s creation.” If we study history, or writings, or architecture, or carpentry, or any host of other things we are dealing largely with creation’s creation.