In a world of snarky bloggers, I choose not to snark. There are plenty of blog posts pointing out the short-comings of the Mennonite world, and there are plenty of people reading those posts. I have read many of these posts and, in fact, enjoyed them and agreed with much. But I decided when I started my own blog that controversy was not my forte. I read articles on blogging that advised me to post something controversial to bring people to my new blog. I have a mind of my own, though, and I decided that I much preferred to be unknown for the sake of peace than snarky for the sake of readers.
Therefore, I have chosen to write this post about reasons I love being Mennonite, rather than the things that are tiresome. There are a few of those (“Oh, you’re a Mennonite? Can you make me some whoopie pies?”), but the reason I am a Mennonite is because the good outweighs the bad… Those who know me personally probably also know that for a few years of my life I longed to walk away from the Mennonite world and never look back. Sometimes people ask me what happened, but most of them just wonder silently… In answer to that silent question- I guess life happened. I guess God showed me that by walking away from my Mennonite culture, I would lose more than I would ever gain. And here are my reasons why:
#1- Let’s start with the little things. Things that have a definite twist to them that might look bad from the outside but are so freeing… Other girls my age live with pressure to look a certain way, to wear the right clothes, to make up their faces for 15 minutes every morning. Despite my chagrin at sticking out like a sore thumb and feeling ugly sometimes- I love being able to look different under the name of Mennonite. I love not having to put on make-up in the morning. I love not spending as much money on my personal appearance. It has made me free to concentrate on other things. And having a group behind me responsible and supportive of this aspect of my life leaves me free from the pressure that would come if I were choosing on my own to dress like this. It also helps keep me humble. It’s a small thing, but something I did not appreciate at the age of 15… I guess it’s one of those adult things you grow into. Right along with this point is the freedom to have different opinions and stand-out in a group. Yes, the Mennonite girl doesn’t fit in, but at least she is expected to be different and there’s an accepted reason for it!
#2- Another thing I love about being a Mennonite is the slowness to embrace new technology. I don’t watch TV or Netflix, and sometimes I’ve felt left-out when all my coworkers talked about a popular TV show or movie and I had no idea what they were referring to. If I hadn’t been a Mennonite, I almost certainly would have gone home and binge-watched these same shows. But because I was a Mennonite, I didn’t. Because I was a Mennonite, I was strictly limited on my screen time and Internet use all my growing up years. There are so many wonderful books I would have never read if I hadn’t been a Mennonite. There are so many conversations I would not have had, and so much time spent near God’s creation that wouldn’t have happened. For years I used the “Is it wrong?” argument. I stopped that, and just recently removed Facebook, Google, and YouTube from my smartphone. Not because those things are wrong, but because I wanted to spend more time doing better things…
#3- I also love the emphasis on family. Just because I love my family! This can be excluding, I know, to singles and those without family connections in the Mennonites. I guess that’s why we need to be inclusive, and maybe unofficially adopt people into our families. Mennonite families can have problems just as messy as non-Mennonite families, but at least as a group we value things like lifetime marriages, freedom from divorce, and the men functioning as head of the home. From my limited experience, there is so much security in strong family units. Right along with that, I love that most moms stay at home and care for their children while they are small. I’ve seen too many burned-out working moms with shuffled-around children. I’m not saying this is wrong in every situation- I just like this Mennonite custom.
#4- The right to be a pushover- I have to consciously cling to that concept in this world of assertiveness. The ability to let people run over you, to forgive and forget, to journey on in peace… This is actively taught in our Mennonite community, and it seems like much of the world is losing it. I don’t have to demand fairness from the world. There is so much peace in letting people walk all over you, and you gain better relationships. Sometimes I forget this, and my human nature wants to cry loud for fairness! But this isn’t how I was trained, at least, and it isn’t what Jesus teaches. Entitled-ism is not the Mennonite way, and I can only hope we retain this.
#5- I’ve saved my favorite thing for last- the main reason I am still a Mennonite, when once I wasn’t going to be. Relationships are at the heart of all decisions, I believe. And strong relationships are at the core of the Mennonite community. Gossip and love travel fast. There’s so much support for those in distress, even if there is also a thriving grape-vine to lend its own brand of support. Things do travel fast in the Mennonite community, but not as maliciously, I’ve learned, as in a non-Christian community. In the Mennonite community, you belong. They don’t kick you out when you’re struggling emotionally or spiritually. They give so much love and food when someone in the family is physically unwell. When my dad died, we got enough flowers to fill a small greenhouse. They pray for you and send you cards. They include others even if they don’t really want to. In the name of community. Because we’re all family- church family. Somedays we might all look crazy to the rest of the world, but isn’t that how families are? (I know mine is its own brand of crazy.) We’re all in this together, and that is why I’m still here. I finally figured out that I’m in this with the rest of the crazy Mennonite clan. Walking away wouldn’t change the fact that these are my people, and I’d rather be with them than with anyone else…
This Post Has 12 Comments
Monica31 Aug 2019
Alison, my sister introduced me to your blog, describing it as “refreshing.” She was exactly right! Thank you for being positive and uplifting in your writing.
Alison31 Aug 2019
Thank-you, Monica! I’m so glad you enjoy it!
Kezia Hostetler31 Aug 2019
Very well written! I love that you’ve decided to keep this blog positive. That’s why I so enjoy reading it. It’s like a bright candle on a dreary day 😉
Alison31 Aug 2019
Ryan Hoover6 Sep 2019
I really enjoyed this article! Thank you!
Alison6 Sep 2019
You’re welcome! Thank you for reading it!
Mary Lynn Derstine1 Sep 2019
I’m new here, but found this article interesting. I didn’t agree with all of it, to be sure. I might be one of those snarky bloggers that writes about Mennonites. Except I aim to be honest, not snarky. I am still Mennonite but our faults stand out in obvious ways, although I do enjoy the Mennonite culture. One thing that concerned me was your point number 4. Forgiving and forgetting isn’t actually a biblical concept and letting people walk over you doesn’t give you better relationships. That’s what concerns me most about our Mennonite culture…the abused are told to forgive and forget and let things happen and often they aren’t given a voice. I believe forgiving is important but I also believe dignity is as well and people should know when to say no and stop a relationship if they are being abused or walked over. There is a difference between being walked over and choosing to be selfless. One is a choice the other is not. Anyway, sorry for this long epistle but I enjoy comments on my blog if my readers have thoughts so I thought I would let you know what I think.
Alison2 Sep 2019
Hi, Mary, and thank you for your comment! I enjoy reading “honest” blog posts very much, and I am excited to check out your blog! I’m going to just be blunt and say that (probably in my naivete) I never once considered the subject of abused individuals when writing my point number four. I was thinking of other situations- like handling road-rage, or lazy coworkers that take advantage of you, or someone who continually takes from you but never gives back. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly said to give even when you don’t get anything back in return, to go willingly along with someone treating you unfairly, and to love and pray for those who use you wrong. That’s my definition of letting people walk over you. Maybe forgetting isn’t a biblical concept and I should be more careful with that phrase, I don’t know. And the subject of those who are abused? It’s much to big for me to tackle, but I’m willing to learn!
Mary Derstine3 Sep 2019
Ah yes, thank you for not ignoring my comment. I was afraid I may have been a little too blunt. 🙂 I definitely agree and appreciate the nonresistant spirit of our culture. I really appreciated your response to my comment and I look forward to reading more of your blog!
Alison3 Sep 2019
Blunt is ok! 🙂 I like hearing people’s honest thoughts.
Anonymous29 Nov 2022
You are a lucky lady!
Sophia16 Jan 2023
Whenever I go to the mall I am flabbergasted at how girls and women are dressed, behave, and treat their children. During a hospital visit recently, Mennonite girls were pushing patients in wheelchairs. They were modest, polite, and dressed appropriately — the only ones! It is indeed refreshing to have your perspective