Sunday, 13 years ago, my spouse and I joined our Mennonite community and church.
You might be surprised that a Mennonite is here on the Internet, talking about things like cybersecurity. So let me give you the world’s shortest history of Mennonites and a few quick points about modern Mennonites.
Mennonites are descendants (sometimes literally) of the reformation, specifically, what’s often called the “radical reformation.” In that movement, the radical reformers believed that that one’s place of birth or government should not dictate one’s religion, and that one should profess their faith once they were capable of freely accepting one. For this, the label “anabaptists” or “re-baptizers” was used as an epithet, and it stuck.
Anabaptists also opted out of the violence and warring between religious and political factions, choosing to disassociate or flee to a new location, as needed. They practiced a “priesthood of all believers”, meaning that there was no formal clergy and that all were called to hold each other accountable in interpretation and life. They put a focus on Jesus’s teachings and life, not just his birth and death.
None of these stories are without exception, and I could write several other posts about the asterisks. But I promised you a short history.
Modern Anabaptists include Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites, Bruderhof, Church of Brethren, Brethren in Christ, and several variations on all these.
Here are what I see as the most-common traits of modern Mennonites:
- Reconciliation: conflict mediation, healing relationships, restoring ecology, practicing redemption, disaster-relief
- Peacemaking: nonviolent struggles for peace & justice, echoing the voices of the voiceless, reducing harm, operating from subversive & prophetic weakness instead of domination
- Simplicity: living intentionally, being kind to animals & the earth, humility, avoiding consumerism
- Christocentrism: viewing the whole of the Bible through the lens of Jesus’s teaching and action, seeing the image of God in our neighbors & enemies
Again, this is very short list with exceptions omitted. If you want to read a short book with more, I’d recommend The Naked Anabaptist or (somewhat longer) The Upside Down Kingdom.