Nature vs. Nurture

I’m curious about something here, though it may be something for a later poll.

I am 23 and only recently “became” Mennonite. I had a spiritual rebirth as a result of my attendance at a Mennoniite church and through reading the Confession of Faith, though I was almost enticed to Catholicism because of my fascination with the Catholic Worker movement (though I have serious reservations about particular aspects of Catholic theology).

I’m one of two people in the whole place who are even in their twenties; everyone else is either a teenager, a small child, or mid-30’s on up through their 80’s (most folks being baby boomers).

How many people here grew up in a Mennonite/Brethren family? How many people here came into the Mennonite/Brethren church later in life? For either answer, how do you think this influences you view of the church and your faith, if at all?

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4 Responses to “Nature vs. Nurture”

  1. Skylark Says:

    “How many people here grew up in a Mennonite/Brethren family? How many people here came into the Mennonite/Brethren church later in life? For either answer, how do you think this influences you view of the church and your faith, if at all?”

    Did I grow up in a Menno/Brethren family? Um, well, kind of. My grandparents and other relatives are various shades of Protestant, while a few are agnostic. When I was very young, my immediate family attended several nondenominational churches—a small one in Cincinnati, a large one in Canton, and a small homechurch in Rootstown. My parents decided the homechurch had run its course, and we left there when I was 13. We then began attending the Mennonite church where they and I still are. It wasn’t a big switch from my previous experiences. The faith didn’t become my own until I was 17, though.

    I suppose though I didn’t interact with many Mennos until I was 13, the values were there all along. My parents homeschooled me and my sisters. My twin sisters were born when I was 13. It was a complicated medical situation. People from the homechurch, the Mennonite church and the homeschooling community deluged my family with casseroles and offers of help.

    This impacted me in several ways: Expectations were clear. Because all the churches I attended had the same essential values set and my family stayed the same, I knew what other people wanted me to do. Yet, everything changed when I embraced the faith for me, not to keep up appearances. Since the Mennonite church was the strongest influence on me for the four years prior, I didn’t seriously consider going back to any of the other churches I’d attended.

    Freshman year of college, I was a regular visitor at a friend’s church that had Sunday evening, Wednesday evening and Friday evening activities. The Menno church was still meeting in a college auditorium and only met on Sunday morning. This other church was so large it had three Sunday a.m. services. It was a significant contrast to my Menno church, especially because this was a Health, Wealth & Prosperity Gospel church. They were as charasmatic as my church wasn’t. It’s not that my church was staid, immobile or overly traditional. They just weren’t into hitting quivering people on the forehead, watching them crumple to the floor and calling it “healing.” My church had never promised anyone they’d get rich if they put more in the offering plate. No one at my church had spoken in tongues publically—let alone the pastor instructing the entire congregation to speak in tongues at once.

    All that and more I saw at this church I visited. I read many books written by the founders of that church’s theology. It scared me. I told my friend the church’s theology was wacked, and I wasn’t going anymore. We didn’t argue about it. I’d never stopped going to the Menno church, but I suppose I “returned emotionally.”

    Now, I live in an area even more dominated by Mennonites than my hometown. Half my church is from this area. It’s been interesting. I’m friends with quite a few young adult Mennos here, and I’ve had deep discussions with them. My beliefs aren’t all “traditional Menno.” For that matter, neither are theirs.

  2. mfalme Says:

    I was born and raised Mennonite, and have my memebership in a Menno Church at present (although we’ve been attending a Brethren in Christ church).

    I find that I share your attraction to (and reservations about) Catholicism. But on balance, I have a very clear sense that if I were not Anabaptist, I would probably be Catholic, rather than in one of the mainline “Protestant” denominations.

  3. TimN Says:

    Folknotions, you might be interested in reading through blog posts with the biographical tag (or category):

    http://young.anabaptistradicals.org/category/biographical/

    In these brief biographies or introductions a number of people talk about their upbringing.

    In my experience as a “cradle” Mennonite its one thing to grow up in the church its quite another to be inspired and convinced by Anabaptism. I really appreciate the privilege of growing up Mennonite, eating meals from More with Less and reading Martyrs Mirror. But to really own my faith I needed to have some space for a while and read folks like Walter Wink and John Howard Yoder who helped me see the Bible with new eyes.

    In this regard I’ve found it really energizing to be around those who have come to Anabaptism later in life. Its exciting to talk with people who are digesting Anabaptist values and weighing them against other influences in their life. And its inspiring to see what new energy convinced Anabaptists bring to the table.

  4. Jacob Says:

    The way I see it there are different types of mennonites. To some extent there are ethnic mennonites those who have a Mennonite last name(Harder, Wiens, Friesen, Yoder, etc.)some people might disagree with me but I think at some point throughout Mennonite History being mennonite beceame ethinc for instance I would consider my ethnicity “low german mennonite’ since my family had no country for hundreds of year prior to coming to the US. Even though I do not currently attend a Mennonite church I still consider myself a mennonite it is something a think an ethnic mennonite can never escape even if they want to(which I don’t)). Not all of these ethnic mennonites would call themselves mennonites or attend a mennonite church but I would still consider them mennonites. Then of course there are all those whose ancestery is not mennonite but somewhere along the line joined the family. Maybe my understanding of mennonites is incorrect but that is the way I see it. Please correcet me if I am wrong.

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