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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Duct-tape and Band-aids

There is a major problem within the Conservative Mennonite churches. In fact, I was a proponent of this thinking for a while and it colored everything I did. This problem is the proud assertiveness of humility. This comes from the Amish tradition of not being proud and being plain. Unfortunately the very way we went about the process of not being proud made us proud!

I believe that Conservative Anabaptists have completely glossed over the passage about the Pharisee and tax-collector that were praying in the Temple. The Pharisee said: “See, I am so good, I do everything according to these set rules. I thank You I am not like this truly repentant guy over here who does not act like I do.” Jesus blasted that line of thinking. He said that looking and acting right because you think it makes you pure does not make you Godly! Looking and acting right should be the result of a transformed heart.

It seems Conservative Anabaptists think they are Godly because they have set up rules to keep each other in check. Do they not realize that that line of thinking did not work in the Old Testament? Yes, the Mosaic rules reminded the people to follow God, but it did not keep them safe unless their hearts were right, but even then they could be destroyed if they were persuaded by misinformation. Under the New Covenant, being misinformed on unimportant or minor disputable things does not make you at risk of hell fire. We now live under Grace!

The Conservative Anabaptists have implemented numerous rules out fear that they might do something evil. If someone dares to question a man-made rule they are viewed as dangerous to be around. This is exactly what the Pharisee's did. This fear does not bring you closer to God, rather it props the rules up as being as important as God’s rules. These rules are supposed to be like duct-tape and are meant to keep people within the confines of the group. In reality the rules are more like a conglomeration of numerous poor quality band-aids. 

Unfortunately, a large number who have ripped off one of those band-aids have fallen into sin. They throw off all the rules just because one rule did not make sense, and since the Conservative Anabaptists say you must keep every single rule strictly in order to be in good standing with the group, they throw out all of the rules.

One of the things that I find appalling is the lack of outreach (witnessing and getting to know them) to the young adults of America BY the young adults of many Conservative Anabaptist groups . There are very few young people witnessed to. This is not because there is a lack of young folks to talk to, but because the young Mennos are scared out of their wits by young folks not exactly like them!

Many Menno youths have been taught that all that the young people of America, including "supposed Christians," think about is sex and having fun. They have been taught to avoid them so they don’t get stained or led astray. While it is good to be on guard around non-Christians it is not Biblical to avoid them. It is not what goes into a man that harms him, but that which comes out of a man. 

I also find it interesting that while talking to a young person from the USA is considered a dangerous thing, it seems to be perfectly acceptable to talk to an unsaved young person of a foreign nation and get to know them in order to witness to them. I wonder why that is? I would like your thoughts on the matter.

I find it sad that Conservative Anabaptists believe so strongly that they are right that they call Christians who are not of their denomination “supposed Christians.” What happened to following what Paul said about not saying “I am of Paul.”

It seems the majority of people being witnessed to by the Conservative Mennonites are older folks who are “supposedly Christians” and they are considered to be confused or unenlightened. In the Conservative Mennonite group that I was part of, even if the person in question had a great Christian testimony, they were referred to as a "supposed Christian."  This sentiment of "supposed Christians" turns my stomach. The idea of someone's salvation being doubtful just because they are not part of the same denomination as you contradicts this passage.

Mark 9:38-41 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone[j] driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.”
 “Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name who can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For whoever is not against us is for us. And whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of My name, since you belong to the Messiah—I assure you: He will never lose his reward.
I recently was at a youth meeting and mentioned that I would like to work for a certain organization that was started in our county. It had become quite large and had spread to other counties. My cousin spoke up and started to defame and libel the owners.
I lit into him for spreading gossip and asked where he was getting this information. He replied that his brother’s employer said so and that the employer was not a Christian, however, he said, non-Christians know when other people are not Christians. It came out that his brother’s employer is a direct political and cultural (not-business) competitor of the people I wanted to work for. It was all about small town politics coupled with the supposed evil of a certain UN mandate. Actually, the UN mandate is questionable, but that is not the point.

So, while the people in the community know that that Conservative Mennonites don’t deal in voting politics they also know the conservatives in the area deal in something far worse, slander based on questions of real Christianity. They know they can use this to defeat their cultural rivals. It should be mentioned that my cousin’s employer wants to keep the town the way it is and the competitor wants to improve the community.

I recently talked to my cousin’s brother. He confirmed what his brother had said and gave me more insight into the situation. Unfortunately the idea of completely avoiding the supposedly evil people was there.

Next week is the last of the blog posts that I currently have ready to go. In two weeks I have a treat for everyone.

At the bottom of this post is a list of what I will write about for the next ten weeks. They are kinda set in stone. If you have some suggestions for some future topics you are welcome to suggest some.

Next week: Low Shoulder Alert - My Testimony of Salvation
--------------------- Completely different writing style
Two weeks: --- -----
--------------------- Another writing style change.
Three weeks: Still a Mennonite in Me
Four weeks: “A historical subject”
---------------------- Tone and Topic change
Five weeks: Thankfulness
Six weeks: Salvation Full, Salvation Free
Seven weeks: Angels Unaware
Eight Weeks: Do You Hear What I Hear!
Nine Weeks: The Story of Modern Christmas
Ten weeks: The Amazing Response

Sunday, October 20, 2013

There was Rebar in the Roof

Before I get to the main topic today, I stumbled across something in my schoolwork that made a light bulb go on.

Luke 15:4-7 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.  I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

I would like to focus on the word lost. I did some research and in the Greek that word means destroyed. So, an unsaved person is not just wandering around without knowledge, but their soul has been destroyed.

Now, to the topic at hand

Mark 2: 1-5 When He entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and He was speaking the message to them. Then they came to Him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Do you notice how it was not just the faith of the guy who was let down through the roof, but also the faith of the guys who took him there? His friends did not tell him he had to “pull himself up by his own bootstraps” or tell him that “God helps those that help themselves.” Rather, they all believed something would happen and all they needed to do was to take their friend to Jesus.

While I was a Conservative Mennonite I longed for someone in the church to tell me that they, as a business owner, had a job for me that I was able to do. Yes, there were manual labor jobs offered to me, but as someone who has a physical IQ of around 50, I knew that it would not end well. Accepting a manual labor position would have been similar to putting rebar in the roof and telling the lame guy he had to use a hand saw and break through the roof himself.  

I find that a lot of American's, not just Conservative Mennonites, are hyperactive about working and not wasting time. They claim that if you spend more time on a computer, any other non-money making activity, or a non-spiritual activity than they think is normal that you must be wasting time.

This work ethic is based on the protestant model of righteousness brought forth in the mid-1500s to early-1600s in Europe. 
The protestants taught at that time that the way you sought the Lord’s blessing was through hard work, labor, discipline, and thriftiness. They taught that the acquisition of wealth and all the capitalistic values that go with that, one could demonstrate that there was the blessing of God on your life. This was a direct result of the influence of Calvinism. (Paraphrase of Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904–05))
Strange thing is, this is the very teaching that the “name it, claim it” churches teach and the Conservative Mennonites hate those churches because they are too materialistic, and they right on that point.

So what is the difference between the Protestant Work Ethic and the Anabaptist work ethic? This webpage sheds some light on the subject. I will quote a portion of that website.
For the Anabaptists, work became a means by which toleration and the right to exist was guaranteed by the authorities of Switzerland, France, Germany, Austria, and Prussia. Thus, for example, the emigrating Dutch Mennonites earned toleration by reclaiming areas of the Vistula Delta in Prussia (cf. Séguy, Hostetler, Penner, water technology). The subsequent toleration of Mennonites in the above-named countries; and the establishment of the Mennonite colonies in Russia, Canada, Latin America; and the vast and prosperous agricultural area in Europe, Canada, and United States, attest to the massive amounts of labor Mennonites have done. "Hard work" has always been an important element in Mennonite identity along with sobriety, honesty, dependability and the other virtues. Troeltsch insists that Mennonites came from the masses and represent the revolt against oppression of the laboring strata, hence the emphasis on work is genuinely inherited.

As Troeltsch avers, Mennonites in time "capitulated" to the "Protestant calling" (p. 705) and forsook their ideal. This is the direct consequence of interaction with the Germanic and Protestant work ethic, a concept described and popularized by Weber and others. Hence, by the end of the 19th century, Mennonite attitudes toward, and involvement in, work can be said to be rather similar to that of Protestantism. The phenomenal achievements of the Hutterite colonies; Mennonite agriculturalists in Europe; Mennonite colonies in Russia, Canada, and Latin America; and the Mennonite settlements in various parts of the United States; not to overlook the achievements of Mennonites in business, are well established facts.

There is a book I would like to get my hands on and read. "Anabaptist/Mennonite Faith and Economics," edited by Calvin Wall Redekop, Victor A. Krahn, and Samuel J. Steiner

Basically, the modern Anabaptist work ethic is no different than the groups that they detest, like Calvinists. Note, I am not a Calvinist.

Is being productive wrong? NO! However, the people who fled to the Americas took the ethic to the extreme and forgot that work is made for man and not man for work, likewise the sabbath is made for man and not man for the sabbath. All work and no rest is actually bad for your health! Have you ever wondered why so many people died so young in the colonies and the early years of the nation? Yes, there was a lot of disease, but they also wore their bodies out by working long hours in harsh conditions.

This work ethic has led to a major problem in America. The problem is that those who dare to disagree with the Protestant work ethic are considered lazy, no matter if they are not. It is a “one size fits all” fallacy.

Here is good blog article on why busyness should not be viewed as a virtue.

But, this is not the only problem. The way SOME Conservative Mennonites view the impoverished is a major problem. They claim that it should be the church's responsibility to care for the poor and not the government, yet some look down on me, an Asperger guy with limited job prospects. See, as an Aspie my sensory organs are abnormally vocal, my feet have been misshapen since birth and I cannot work in a restaurant due to allergies. I can’t even work around large amounts of dust without gloves and a mask or my hands and bronchial tubes go crazy.

I recently had an encounter with an uncle of mine that solidified my thinking on this subject. I told some of the folks in my youth group that I would not be going on a hike with them due to some specific injuries. All of a sudden my uncle, who overheard the discussion, decided to give me verbal whipping. He told me I was the laziest guy he knew and that if I were his son, he would whoop me good. It was the maddest I have ever seen him! It probably did not help that I laughed at him. Why did I laugh? He had berated me sometime before this on the subject of laziness. I tried to reason with him then but he would not listen.

It seems that he thinks I am lazy just because I didn't have a job. Well, in the nine months between finishing college and that encounter I had filled out close to 1800 applications. I had only 3 interviews and only one job offer! (I turned that one down to the extremely low rate of pay versus the actual cost of me working there. I would have been on the losing end financially. It was a minimum wage part-time job 30 miles from home.)

The problem is not with my unwillingness to get a job, but the unwillingness of companies to hire an odd person. Telling me you would beat me if I were your son is not conducive to the situation rectifying and makes me wonder about your stance on non-resistance.

Do I forgive my uncle? By all means! Do I consider him dangerous to emotionally weaker brothers and sisters? Yes. Why? Because I am not the only person he has bullied. He has bullied numerous people in the church and has rarely repented of it, though he has mellowed a bit in the past few years. Many of those in the church who recognize he is a bully are too scared to do anything about it or they are no longer part of the church. Why are they so scared of him? Because he is one of the wealthiest men in the church and has considerable influence. A very highly respected individual within the Floyd church has admitted to me that he wishes that someone who was not afraid of my uncle would stand up to his bullying tactics. Another person and I were the only ones to confront him. Since we are gone, I doubt anyone is left that will do so.

Now, at this point some would say that I am bitter about the situation. I assure you that I am not bitter. I am actually grateful that this happened because it was a factor in awaking my spirit to what I would become or portray to the world if I did not leave. What Satan meant for evil (the attempted destruction of my faith), God has used for good!

So, what is my purpose of mentioning this story? It is to give an example of how some people within the Mennonite Church think on the subject.

Next week: I am soooooooooooo awesome
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