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
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, 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/
Melodie Davis, News manager