An Alternative Way Of Life

By Danny Booth
NEWS Reporter


 

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n Friday, March 31, Dr. Stephen Nolt visited Mercersburg Academy to speak on the Anabaptists. Nolt was born and raised Mennonite. He attended Notre Dame University and developed a passion for studying Anabaptists. He loved studying their way of life and juxtaposing the Amish way of life with the modern way of life.

Anabaptists are a branch of Christianity that believes in a simpler way of life, service to God, and humility. Anabaptists and Mennonites are oftentimes mislabeled as “Amish,” and, although the religions are similar, they are not the same. An analogy would be the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles: both are NFL teams from Pennsylvania, but they are completely different oragnizations. Similarly, Mennonites and Amish are both Anabaptists, but are different Christian groups.

Nolt believes Anabaptists are misunderstood, largely because of how the media portrays them. In the 1930s and ’40s, they were portrayed as anti-progress because they repeatedly turned down government money to build big-ger schoolhouses. In the ’50s and ’60s, they were co-opted as an advertisement. “Come see this archaic way of life! Come see how your ‘peasant’ grandfathers used to live! Come see this generation before it dies out.” The ’70s introduced the energy crisis and abstract art to the US. Anabaptists were then seen as advanced, because they didn’t use fossil fuels and already had abstract art in the form of quilts and other such handicrafts. The ’90s reintroduced the sentiment of anti-progress, since traditional gender roles were seen as sexist.

Nolt believes currently Anabaptists are held at arms length. The media portrays them as distant, so we don’t believe Anabaptists feel emotion, but we don’t hold negative stereotypes either.

Nolt believes Anabaptists should be studied because they introduce an alternative way of life. Anabaptists prioritize service, which they show by volunteering for fire companies and hospitals. They are also patient. One can ask an Anabaptist a question, and he may not respond for three or four minutes, not because he doesn’t understand the question, but because he is trying to think of the best way to answer it.

Anabaptists are also rooted in tradition. When Nolt was interviewing some Amish about the presidential election, the men responded, “It’s no question we’ll vote Republican. The question becomes whether we’ll get out of our chairs and vote.” Nolt explains Anabaptists will only vote if their father or grandfather voted, and the reason they will most likely vote Republican is because Anabaptists were firm abolitionists and all voted for Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president.

The Anabaptists are a people suspended in time. They exist independently of the world, but are very much a part of it. We can all learn some lessons from Anabaptist culture, such as patience, humility, and service of others before ourselves.

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