Every June, I decide that June is the most beautiful month of the year. Then, October comes. How can I help but change my mind?
We are nearing the end of the radiant colors of the season, but so many moments of beauty have almost taken away my breath, that it’s hard to understand why I’m still breathing.
A Mennonite Weakness – Arrogance
One particular autumn tree taught me something this year. The most fantastic tree in our little area spreads its crimson crown over Drug Dealer Street. That’s not exactly the name on the street sign, but it might as well be.
Thinking about the Mennonites and their strengths and weaknesses, I noticed that a lot of people said they feel that Mennonites are cocky and superior. Too superior to wear masks is something that was mentioned several times I think. Or just an attitude of being “better than” people who don’t work hard or don’t live well.
Well, that is a problem with Mennonites, I think, and according to my reading about the Moravians and Mennonites in history, the problem is several hundred years old. Already back then, the Mennonites had a reputation for being a bit “holier-than-thou.”
That splendid maple tree reminded me that God doesn’t operate that way. He lavished his most exquisite colors on the Drug Dealer Street. Now, I think he wishes they would not be trapped in those addictions. But as Craig Greenfield shared the other day, “Cannabis is not the gateway drug. Alcohol is not the gateway drug…. Trauma is the gateway….. Abuse is the gateway. Neglect is the gateway.” This might not be true of everyone; I know people get involved in drugs who came from loving families.
But as a general rule, it makes a good point. We should never be arrogant about who we are. Or walk past a homeless person with a feeling of superiority. Or view other Christians with disdain.
Mennonite Strengths: Dinner Tables and Strong Community
And I will say, this ties directly into something I appreciate about the Mennonites. Now, of course, you can’t generalize because all Mennonites are different. However, I’ll go out on a limb and say that many, possibly most, Mennonites grow up eating meals with their family around a table.
Eating a meal together around a table is something all but unheard of for many of our neighbors. They don’t even have tables to sit around. They probably have a TV screen as big as a table, but no table. Their children might not have any idea what it means to “pass” things around a table.
Also, most Mennonites are connected to a broader community than just their family circle. And here’s where I get another lesson from Drug Dealer Street.
Now, child abuse is terrible no matter where it happens. But I wonder if my neighbor Janice, who was abused as a child and got solid F’s in grade school, had been in a Mennonite home (or other “Christian” home within a strong church community and school) rather than in the home she was, perhaps she might have had a network of other friends that could have pulled her through the devilry of her father and brothers. Perhaps she would not have ended up in prostitution and drugs and peddling food pantry groceries door to door to earn a few bucks.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m sure all survivors of abuse suffer terribly, and it’s possible some abused children from Mennonite homes have ended up like Janice. But it just makes me wonder how a broader community might have changed her. If Janice had had one Sunday School teacher. Or been around men who were not abusive but truly following Christ. Or one old lady at church who noticed something was wrong…If there had been one person she saw every week who reached out to her! It might have helped. But apparently there wasn’t, and I don’t know why I’m crying over this as I type, except that I guess I wish someone could reach back into her childhood and be that person.
The facts are, abuse is everywhere. The Mennonites struggle with abusers in their churches. The Baptists struggle with abusers in their churches. Etc. Abuse in churches seems worse because it blots God’s name. Maybe God judges those abusers more harshly. But today I’m thinking of the well-being of the child. What about the abused children who aren’t even part of any group, but lost hiding behind a freezer in a lonely house on a lonely street that no one but the abusers ever visit?
In short, I don’t think blaming the church group is a therapeutic solution, unless there are truly “churches” out there promoting abuse. In fact, the church group might be the only light in that child’s darkness. If you want to see what happens when little girls are abused without a church community of any kind around them, I’ll take you to visit my neighbor. Or jump on Voices of Survival and listen to her interviews from the last two weeks. They are sickening. At least strong community increases the possibility of more eyes to see that something is not right and more hands to offer a beacon of light. And more chance of hope.
I do apologize if this topic is a trigger. Again, please feel free to email me at Katrina@500-words.com.
My Mennonite Strength of the Day
I just finished processing three bushels of apples into applesauce. I started in the afternoon by myself. Thankfully Marnell chipped in and helped when he got home. We wrapped it all up by 9:40pm. And then I remembered that I still hadn’t finished my blog. So give me some grace!
A quick note on “Mennonite culture.” I used to hate when people asked if I knew how to sew, or can applesauce. Or, “Do you always wear blue? I knew some Mennonites once and they could only wear blue.” Stupid things like that. Now I realize that, while canning applesauce or sewing are not Biblically commanded and won’t take anyone to heaven, they are useful life skills. Maybe it’s okay to admit that some of our practices are just culture. As long as they don’t hinder our obedience to Christ, they can still be good things worth passing on.
Okay, I think I should stop before my applesauce-enduced fatigue writes something really extreme.
From the White House to the Amish update:
Hurray! The audiobook is on schedule to be finished by Thanksgiving. Here’s another snippet just to get you salivating.
Good news! The e-book is up and running on most platforms. Barnes and Noble and Google Play are still processing, but you can see all the other options here:
Keep in mind, the Kindle store has options for Australia, Canada, and other countries. Some of the other e-book stores you will see are based in other countries, especially in Europe.
And then, for those of us who need paper in our hands, you can always –
I’m always glad when people buy from local bookstores, but if you can’t do that, you support authors best by buying directly from them, if they sell their own books. Thanks to so many of you for buying direct!
And finally, if you are from Southern Indiana, we plan to be in Odon next Friday evening at Shiloh Community Center with the new book and the friends and family of Tom Kirkman. I would love to see you there! There will be lots of coffee (the Kirkman curse!), samples of Mamie Eisenhower’s Million Dollar Fudge, and a chance to try your hand at basic calligraphy like Tom Kirkman!