“The Midianite Hour” and more false impressions about Mennonites

News release
January 2, 2019

“The Midianite Hour” and more false impressions about Mennonites
Intriguing questions of 2018 at 20-year-old website, Third Way

HARRISONBURG, Va.—Third Way website (originally known as Third Way Café) was launched in 1998, just over 20 years ago now. It came about in part because of The Mennonite Hour radio program that began in the early 1950s.

The Mennonite Hour aired on both religious and secular stations across the United States and Canada, and many people had never heard of Mennonites. As listeners wrote letters to the broadcast requesting free literature and eventually Bible correspondence courses, they tried valiantly to spell the name: The Midianite Hour, Man of the Knight Hour, Moonlight Hour, Minnow Night Hour, and Midnight Hour, according to a partial history, Mennonite Broadcasts: The First 25 Years by Hubert R. Pellman, published in 1979. People often asked about Mennonites beliefs and practices.

Queries arrived by letter and phone, and eventually by email and online questions to Third Way website. A dozen or so staff persons and volunteers have responded to these questions about Mennonites over the years. By the end of 2018, the number of emails had reduced from hundreds to dozens, since the curious often just google their questions and find answers. But some persons have questions that are not easily answered in an online search—nor are they easy to answer for the current volunteer, Dennis Kuhns, a retired Mennonite pastor in Harrisonburg.

Dennis Kuhns, with assistance from Edith Shenk Kuhns, answers questions at Third Way on a volunteer basis.

Here is an overview of 10 questions Kuhns responded to in 2018, which can give churches a glimpse of what the public may wonder about Mennonites:

MEMBERS FROM THE ’50s? Is there a list of members from the 1950s? I have pictures of meetings from that time, and I think my family religion of that time was Mennonites, but in the newspapers it just read: nondenominational. However, when I was growing up, we would meet at other members’ homes and each would take turns reading from the Bible and telling how it had affected them that week. Just trying to find any connections. —Lynda

WHAT ABOUT BUDDHA AND MOHAMMED? Jesus preaches, “Love your enemies; do not hate, be reconciled.” How about this: Have no enemies. Following Jesus is one way, but there are better ways. What about the way of Buddha? What about Krishna? What about Mohammed? I’m not trying to argue with you or outsmart you. I just don’t like how Christians say that Jesus is the only way. Also, Christians say if I do not believe in God and Jesus Christ, then I’m going to hell. Also, how can we ascertain that Jesus specifically said, “Love thy neighbor” and all various commands? The Bible was written after Jesus’s so-called death. Also, I heard in documentaries that names like Paul, Matthew, and John are “pen names.” We don’t know their real names. I question the validity of the Bible. [name withheld]

RULES OF THE CHURCH. I am looking for a church in the area of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I am also curious on the rules of the church. Thank you so much! —Gina

GOING MENNONITE OR AMISH. I am a 21-year-old female that is interested in going [into] the Amish and/or Mennonite community. I have never supported society and their ways of life and have become more fearful of where it may be heading. Ever since I can remember I have longed to learn how to live off of the land, farming and raising a family. There is a chance that I may be with child, my fiancé and I both do not agree with modern expectations in society and want to give our family the greatest chance of walking in the light of the Lord. —Sadie

RUNNING SHORT ON RENT. I was encouraged through my prayers to finally reach out for help. I started coming to your church and have been [there] several times, but my visits have been somewhat sporadic due to my health. I now find myself broken and in need. I will be having major surgery in several weeks but my sickness benefits have run out and I am struggling while waiting for my disability to come through. I am a single mom with a 16-year-old son and am running short on my rent and everything else. I don’t want to lose everything because of a short-term setback. I am college educated, have always been employed until a downsizing layoff about 14 months ago. I am writing to find out if the church can offer any kind of one-time assistance just to bridge the gap? —Tracey

MENNONITE RELIEF CAMPS IN WORMS? Would you know whom to contact about Mennonite camps near Worms, Germany, from 1944 to 1953? I have been looking online; however I cannot find anything. I do remember being in one, and a nice lady by the name of Snyder gave me a pair of white new shoes which I never forgot. Being 73 years old now, my relatives don’t have any knowledge. —Roswitha

GIFT FOR SINGERS? We have a wonderful community of Mennonites in our small town. They want to come sing for us at our home! I don’t know what to give them in return? —Valta

ENSLAVEMENT. Why are Mennonites against slavery?? —Ann

NURSING CULTURE PROJECT. I am a first-year nursing student and I have a culture project due Sept. 17 and my culture topic is Mennonites. I’d like to know what your beliefs are in regard to health and healthcare. Perhaps the church’s view on illness/health; pain; traditional or religious healing practices; concerns with modern treatment; increased risk of any particular disease; family dynamics; dietary considerations; respect; modesty; social concerns; hygiene; touch/personal space; end of life. —Kenya

FINDING JESUS. How do you know you found Jesus? —Tyriah

In addition to much historical and theological information on Mennonites at Third Way, several free daily, weekly, or monthly email subscriptions are available at thirdway.com/subscriptions: Media Matters, Living Simply, Wider View, Daily Scripture, and Stories of Peace. Third Way sponsors include Mennonite Mission Network, Everence, Peace & Justice Support Network, and Goodville Mutual. The website is curated by MennoMedia on behalf of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.

For a history of the first 10 years of Third Way website, Mennonite Mission Network still has a news release posted called “Third Way Café celebrates a decade.” Jodi Nisly-Hertzler, who responded to Third Way questions for several years, wrote Ask Third Way Café: 50 Common and Quirky Questions about Mennonites, published by Cascadia Publishing, 2009.

—Staff release

Melodie Davis

What people wonder about Mennonites: Top 20 questions asked in 2017 at Third Way

News release

December 28, 2017

What people wonder about Mennonites: Top 20 questions asked in 2017 at Third Way

HARRISONBURG, Va.—Suppose your job is to answer impossibly complex questions, sometimes dealing with theology and even eternal destiny. How do you respond?

This was the volunteer task of Erwin and Angela Rempel, now retired mission workers

Angela and Erwin Rempel also volunteer on the annual Everence “Day of Generosity” for MennoMedia.

who served two Mennonite agencies in the U.S. and abroad. They are now “retiring” a second time, this time from answering the myriad questions sent to Third Way website. Third Way is dedicated to conveying information about Mennonites and related Anabaptist groups to the general public.

Since 2012, the Rempels responded personally to questions sent to the website. Third Way was originally launched in 1998 and is curated by staff of MennoMedia as part of its publishing platform on behalf of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.

Dennis Kuhns and Edith Shenk Kuhns.

Dennis Kuhns, a retired pastor in Harrisonburg, will fill the position vacated by the Rempels as of January 1. He will generally answer questions in keeping with Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective and guide questioners to find answers at Third Way and elsewhere as needed.

A recent story came from Third Way’s outreach:

“I am so happy that I found the courage to visit the Chicago Community Mennonite Church across the street in my neighborhood here on the West Side of Chicago. I first attended the church in the late spring/early summer of 2017. I was a bit apprehensive at first, as I am an African-American and the Mennonite community that I worship with is about 99 percent white. However, after relaxing myself and keeping an open mind, I found it easy to converse with other parishioners and visitors at the church. Pastor Alison and Rev. Celeste immediately welcomed me with open arms and open hearts. They are both to be commended as great women of God. I am STRONGLY considering becoming a member of the church in 2018. Thank you and God bless you.”

Here in no particular order, are 2017’s top 20 questions as determined by staff, asked at Third Way (with minor edits for spelling and grammar) and names withheld.

DRIVE AUTOS? Do Mennonites drive cars?

CHRISTIAN TRUTHS? What are the truths in the Christian faith?

CLOTHING, SMOKING, AND DRIVING. How do Mennonites and Amish differ in their clothing? How come I see some smoking but they cannot drive? Isn’t smoking considered of the world?

WHAT PILLARS? What are a set of rules Mennonites have? Commandments, pillars, moral code?

WWJD? How does Jesus want me to live my life?

UTOPIAN MENNOS? I am doing a research project in school about Utopian Society and I decided to do it on your community. I was wondering if there was anything that you would like to tell me in depth about your community.

FAMILY MEMBER SHUNNING. Why do Amish practice shunning instead of showing Christ’s love for all? Especially when it’s a family member?

DOCTRINES? Is your doctrine the same as the Baptists? Are you Calvinist?

ALDOUS HUXLEY ANYONE? How is your religion similar to the book Brave New World?

KEY TEACHINGS? What are the key teachings of Jesus on the Church?

MULTIPLE PARTNERS? After spending a good amount of time with my Mennonite friend, she has told me that herself and a lot of 25-35-year-old Mennonites don’t marry because it is more fun to have multiple partners, your wealth is yours, plus you are really liberated. It seems things are really changing.

JOIN MENNONITES? We would really like to join the Mennonites. My fiancé and I have been together for six years and will be married. We have both been married before and I know that is looked down on in the community. We have five children and really want to raise them for God. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to be part of the community.

BORN IN SIN? I have often heard at church and from many who call themselves Christians that we are “born in sin” because of Adam and Eve, yet I have never found anything in the Bible that says so. Not a word. What does your church teach about that and what Bible verses support that view?

DID JESUS DIE WILLINGLY? How can we say that Jesus died for our sins? He was persecuted because of our sinful nature. He didn’t suicide. Right? So how can we say that Jesus willingly died on the cross? He says that he was persecuted because he always stood with the right. So how [was] he sacrificed for our sins? What’s the purpose of this belief? What are we expected to believe about Jesus?

A JEANS GUY. Is there a “dress code” for Sunday services? I’m thinking of attending Sunday service at the [name deleted] location, however I don’t really have church clothes. It’s more of shirt and jeans thing in my life at this time.

SABBATH IN TASMANIA? What day is the Sabbath and do you have churches in Tasmania?

SATURDAY WORSHIP? Why don’t you worship on Saturday as indicated in the ten commandments?

STILL HAVE TO GO TO SCHOOL? My friend and I are strong believers in Mennonite living style and way of life. We live by their beliefs already; we are wondering how we fully live the style of a Mennonite? We are 14 and are wondering where we would live and if we would go to school still?

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE? Have Mennonites done research on domestic violence in the U.S.?

DIE AN ATHEIST? If everything happens as according to God’s plan, and I die as an atheist as according to his plan, why do I go to hell?

In addition to much historical and theological information on Mennonites at Third Way, numerous free weekly or monthly email subscriptions are available at thirdway.com/subscriptions: Media Matters, Living Simply, Wider View, Daily Scripture and Stories of Peace. Third Way sponsors include Mennonite Mission Network, Everence, Abundance (Canada), and Goodville Mutual.

The Rempels have written a combined memoir of their lifetime mission work, titled Unexpected Invitations: Surprises, Adventures, and Opportunities in Mennonite Ministry, available here: http://unexpectedinvitations.com/

—Staff release

Melodie Davis, News manager








Third Way’s 2016 Top 10 Quirky Queries

News Release
December 21, 2016

Third Way’s 2016 Top 10 Quirky Queries
Bonus list: Top 10 questions worth pondering

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—Many millions of people will never pick up a book or magazine about Mennonites or enter any Mennonite church. But they will drop in anonymously to Third Way website (thirdway.com) to get a quick glimpse of what Mennonites are about.

Erwin and Angela Rempel, who previously worked many years in mission settings around the globe and for church agencies in the United States, volunteer for MennoMedia and responded to 60 to 70 email queries this past year, sometimes with multiple follow-ups. The site averages more than one thousand hits a day, nearing a third of a million annually. Third Way is one part of the media matrix offered by MennoMedia and its book imprint, Herald Press, based in Harrisonburg.

Six sponsors, Mennonite Mission Network, Everence, Abundance Canada, Mennonite Health Services, Conrad Grebel University, and Goodville Mutual currently help sponsor the all-free website, which was founded in 1998 to help dispel myths about Mennonites and to convey solid information. While a fluffier FAQ titled “What’s the difference between Mennonites and Amish?” gets the most clicks (146,000 this past year), the second most accessed section, “Key Teachings of Jesus,” is a meatier section that totaled 65,000 clicks this year.

The inquirers offer windows into the questions—and misconceptions—people still have about Mennonites. Here, in two lists, discover what people in the general public wonder about regarding Mennonites. (You might consider holding a small group or church school class discussion around these lists.)

Top 10 Quirky Queries at Third Way

  1. MENNONITE MOABITES? Were [Mennonites] from the Moabites in the Bible?
  2. BEARDS, MODESTY, AND COVERINGS. What is the view on beards for men? Modest dresses for women? Headcoverings?
  3. BUY A BONNET? Can you tell me where we might purchase a traditional Old Order River Brethren bonnet? So far we’ve seen several pictures but nowhere to obtain one. It would be a good and modest bonnet for a woman attending prayer services.
  4. MENNO VEGETABLES IN PERTH? Do you grow vegetables and sell to the public? Are you located in Perth, Australia ? Thank you for getting back to me.
  5. BC? Which year [was] Jesus Christ born?
  6. SEPARATE WOMEN AND MEN? Why do the women sit separate from the men at church services? I asked a young Mennonite roofer this question and he wasn’t sure why but sort of knew the answer. I’m curious as to why?
  7. INQUIRING NURSES WANT TO KNOW. I’m doing some research on the Mennonite culture for nursing school. What are your verbal and non-verbal communication patterns? Any slang/dialect? How do you view personal space (how close when talking to someone)? If you were in the hospital, would there be anything that you would want the nurse to do/not do?
  8. BLACK AND WHITE. I am an African American male who is married to a white woman. Do the Mennonites accept this marriage?
  9. INFANT BAPTISM? Why do some people baptize infants?
  10. WANTS TO FARM. I’m interested in becoming a part of a Mennonite community, in an agricultural community somewhere in the U.S.

Top 10 Probes Worth Pondering

  1. GOSSIP CAUSING LOSS OF FAITH. I am not Mennonite but my boyfriend is. I understand views on divorce in the Bible. . . . I just have one issue. I have been talked bad about, against and to my face. I have been through a lot in my life and faced a lot of demons. But none worse than my boyfriend’s parents. I am pained to say this but due to the way one Mennonite family talks, it’s forced an opinion on me and is causing me to lose faith.
  2. KINSHIP WITH AMISH IN ADELAID. I have been brought up as a Christian and I find what the Amish believe, from what I can see, is a lot closer to what I believe then what a lot of other Christians believe. Is there a church or discussion group or someone in my area that I would be able to discuss or have meetings or get together for some drinks of some sort every so often? I am from the southern suburbs of Adelaid, South Australia [Numerous inquiries this year about Anabaptists in Australia have been referred to Mark and Mary Hurst, workers Down Under.]
  3. DESPERATELY HOMELESS. I am a homeless woman, 41 years old. I am in desperate need of help. I have nowhere to live and I am having a very hard time finding work in the Leola, Ephrata, Pa., area. I clean houses and repair anything that needs fixing, refinish and build wood furniture and install wood and tile flooring. But I am having trouble and do not even have the money to eat anymore. I try so hard to be a good person and because of that people take advantage of me. I cannot live on the streets anymore and I have no family to help and I am feeling hopeless. [She was given a local help number to call.]
  4. THE BIBLE A JOKE? The Bible still has no credibility to me just because of how stupid the verses are. I couldn’t even name all the dumb things that are listed there that don’t make any sense and are just so laughable. It’s a joke that this is what people live by and believe. “The Bible is holy and sacred and God’s word.” Please. I highly doubt that this is what God wanted people to live by. This sounds like a mockery of God.
  5. HOPE FOR ME? I was raised Catholic. Many many years later I was rebaptized as a born-again Christian. I have lost my faith. But sometimes I still believe. I want to believe in Jesus. I want to believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. I want to believe that there is hope for me.
  6. IDENTITY QUESTIONS FOR MENNONITES. I am a student at Texas A&M University. What do you consider your identity to be as a Mennonite? What aspect of your identity do you want to be remembered by? What do you believe others in different cultures view your identity as?
  7. JUDEO-CHRISTIAN? Does the Mennonite church consider the United States a Judeo-Christian nation?
  8. MENNONITES AND JEWS. Two of my very dear friends are Mennonites. They shared with me that they are taught to love and help one another, especially the Jews. Could you provide more information regarding the Mennonite/Jewish relationship?
  9. WANT TO BE SAVED. I am looking to get saved. I was reading about the Mennonite church. I tried to find a church near Augusta, Georgia, but had no luck. Is there a Mennonite church in Augusta?
  10. ANGRY JESUS? I have heard Mennonites refer to Jesus as the Prince of Peace. According to scripture, did Jesus ever display signs of anger or violence?

MennoMedia Staff 

Photo Caption: Angela and Erwin Rempel volunteer on the annual Everence Day of Generosity for MennoMedia, and year round answering questions at Third Way website.

For more information on this news release:

Melodie Davis
MennoMedia 540-574-4874

For a book with 50 common questions asked over the years, see Ask Third Way Café 50 Common and Quirky Questions About Mennonites by Jodi Nisly Hertzler.

Ask Third Way Cafe