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.
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.