I grew up in a Mennonite family. Not only did we attend, and were members of, a Mennonite church, our ancestors traced back to the original Mennonites in Europe. My perspective on Mennonite theology and practices has changed over the past year. I moved away from the close-knit Mennonite community I grew up in and now have to explain what Mennonite believe and practice. I began to realize I could explain Mennonites using two metaphors.
First, the political spectrum. The Mennonite community is large with many variations. I like to explain it as the political spectrum. Some Mennonites are very conservative and others very liberal. Within a fifteen mile radius, you may have Mennonites who only drive black cars, or no cars at all, some who wear coverings and others who do not.
Second, Mennonites are the original hippies. I am not saying that all these are true for all Mennonites, but generally, these themes have and continue to exist within the Mennonite community. As a Mennonite, and self-proclaimed hippie, here are my five reasons why Mennonites are the original hippies.
1. Sing Communally
Mennonite sing, all the time. If a group of Mennonites gets together for more than ten minutes you know communal singing will occur. One (embarrassing) example: At my wedding this past summer, the photographer was attempting to get my Dad’s side of the family in some semblance of an order for a family picture. Within less than five minutes, they all began singing the Mennonite favorite 606 or “Praise God from Whom” in four part harmony. Here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF42YQUoEqU) is a clip for your enjoyment (this is not my family)
Mennonite garden and have gardened for decades. Remember the victory gardens during WWII? For Mennonites, it is not about supporting a war (see reason number four), it’s about stewardship and feeding your family. Growing up, we had a garden and most Mennonites I knew had a garden. With gardening comes canning, freezing, and preserve making.
When the harvest comes, then the food preserving begins. Preserving everything from canning apples, cherries, and peaches, to freezing green beans, corn. Recently, as the DIY and environmentally friendly trends pick back up on these activities, Mennonites continue to grow, preserve, and consume their homegrown food.
3. Homemade clothes
One way some hippies claim to fight consumerism is by making their own clothes. Here’s the thing, just like gardening, Mennonites have continued to make their own clothes throughout the last several decades. Traditional Mennonite dresses (for women) and head coverings are made by each family and in some cases by a family friend.
One of the pillars of the Mennonite church is pacifism. This belief distinguishes the Mennonite faith from other similar denominations. During wartimes and US drafts, Mennonites have been conscientious objectors. Mennonites believe in using peace to solve conflicts. However, unlike hippies, Mennonites do not run away from conflict. Many Mennonites have served in war-torn countries to resolve conflict peacefully. Similarly to the traditional perception of hippies, Mennonites also believe in serving those in need and giving freely. I have never met a group of people more dedicated to giving of their own, time, money, and talents to serve others than Mennonites.
5. Resistance to technology
Many, many Mennonites today have a television or a computer. However, I think, the resistance to technology it is important to include. Part of the Mennonite faith and tradition is the biblical teaching “be in the world but not of it.” For generations, Mennonites have taken this literally. Even today, I could easily name over a dozen Mennonite communities and churches who do not allow members to have a television or computer in their home. Mennonites, similar to hippies, do not want the “mainstream” media to influence their families, children, and faith.
What are your views of Mennonites? How does this change your perspective?
LauraEllen Ashcraft lives in Pittsburgh, Pa with her husband, Justin. She attends the University of Pittsburgh and is pursuing her Master’s of Social Work. She blogs about advocacy and social justice issues at Advocate for All. Her veganism does not stop her from making the best whoopie pie and although she can sew and crochet, she cannot quilt to save her life.