I haven’t taken much time on this blog to talk about myself. I should say that I am an outsider in this church – my last name isn’t Yoder, Miller, Freisen, or Moshier.
I have only been a Christian for 9 months; the Mennonite congregation I attend (a beautiful place that I hope my new-found YAR friends can come see some day) was evangelical merely by their presence – they were spiritually formative by aligning speech and action and desire and vision. I would not want to be any place else.
I am writing from the convention in San Jose; I have been here since yesterday and will be leaving tomorrow (short time, I know, but I’m a busy guy).
I am coming to learn why it is frustrating to penetrate the Mennonite world: there are a lot of people who make money off of being Mennonite. Now, I’m not saying that they are money-grubbing, laughing in the corner like Wario or something with a treasure chest that they stole from some Indiana congregation. What I mean is that it seems (at least to me) that “modern” Mennonites have re-integrated this classic idea of “community” to fit within a secular capitalist context. So we got executive leadership in the conference, paid pastors, we got professors at Mennonite universities, we got MMA’ers making a paycheck.
I think this probably came up out of a desire to stay connected to the Church and a sincere concern for vocation within the Mennonite community. But just because you’re a banking consultant for a Mennonite institution working with a Mennonite constituency, does that REALLY set you apart from any other banking consultant? Just because you’re a Mennonite pastor preaching to a Mennonite choir, does that really mean you’re better than any other pastor, if you still practice the exclusion of those who don’t fit in your worldview?
So rather than having the Mennonite community where one guy is the blacksmith and the other guy is the cobbler and another guy a carpenter – we got professors, banking consultants, pastors, etc. And when Church and livelihood become married, the probability of being more conservative in your doctrine and thinking makes sense: you don’t want to jeopardize your job, your pastor salary or health insurance, and you certainly don’t want to be alienated from this community that has helped you find schools, find homes, find jobs.
Eric and I talked last night about “tradition”, and how that can often trump scripture and theology (including Anabaptist theology). Maybe this is part of the reason that tradition has such a focus: people who depend upon the church for their livelihood want to tread lightly, and many of those very same people hold positions of power.
If I left the church tomorrow (or was kicked out), I’d really not have much to lose. I could go to the United Church of Christ, the Quakers. My convictions are the same. It sounds like, for others, there would be a lot to lose.
Then again, I get the feeling (from some) that just because I didn’t grow up Mennonite, then I don’t know what it means to be Mennonite.