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Church, state, basketball and Mennonites
March 1, 2010 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Church, state, basketball and Mennonites. For the first time in 116 years, Goshen College, a small Mennonite school in Indiana, will play an instrumental version of the Star-Spangled Banner before college sporting events. As a college in a "peace church" tradition, this decision has not come without controversy.

...Goshen College officials say discussions about whether to change the policy began in September 2008 when the athletic department asked Brenneman to reconsider the school's stance. Brenneman said the teams often bore the brunt of criticism about the policy because the anthem's absence is most visible at sporting events, where it has become part of American culture.

Two months later, a parent from a visiting team game complained to the athletics director when the anthem wasn't played, said Vice President for Student Life Bill Born. Her complaint caught the attention of conservative talk show host Mike Gallagher, who featured the issue on his show. More than 300 people called or sent e-mails to the school, most urging the school to change its policy....
posted by jhandey (50 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
..a parent from a visiting team game complained to the athletics director when the anthem wasn't played...

Reason enough not to play it. Patriotism is something you are supposed to feel, not something you are supposed to be made to perform ritually.

...conservative talk show host Mike Gallagher, who featured the issue on his show...

Aaaand confirmed.
posted by DU at 7:18 AM on March 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


What I hear from my sister and other family members who go there is that many/most of the athletes approve of this measure because they were tired of being harassed.
posted by symbollocks at 7:19 AM on March 1, 2010


I was the designated anthem singer at my high school basketball and football games. As far as I can remember, we didn't sing the anthem before soccer games, though. And no one seemed to notice.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:20 AM on March 1, 2010


I kind of wishing they wouldn't sing the National Anthem on the grounds that it is really no fun to sing. We desperately need a new National Anthem, but I kind of imagine the likely options would be easier to sing but worse in every other way.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:27 AM on March 1, 2010


Laurie Anderson - "National Anthem"
posted by The Whelk at 7:35 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I kind of wishing they wouldn't sing the National Anthem on the grounds that it is really no fun to sing.

Try doing it drunk the way it was intended to be sung.
posted by Think_Long at 7:37 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


DU: "Patriotism is something you are supposed to feel, not something you are supposed to be made to perform ritually."

I doubt this has ever been true.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:38 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I doubt this has ever been true.

Sure it has. The Pledge is optional. And for 116 the Mennonites didn't have to play the anthem. Although if the reason they are doing it now is that they are "tired of being harassed" I have to wonder if the change is more due to Mennonite will weakening than external forces strengthening. I doubt society has gotten *more* pro-war and "patriotic" than during WWI for instance.
posted by DU at 7:41 AM on March 1, 2010


I've long had a wish that some country would adopt Radiohead's National Anthem as their own. I've always wanted to hear a national anthem I can dance to [bonus: video has Ed O'Brien at his most pants-meltingly hot]
posted by Kattullus at 7:42 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


DU: "The Pledge is optional."

Not usually.

Of the 53 states and territories in this survey (the 50 states plus Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands), 43 require public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

posted by Joe Beese at 7:43 AM on March 1, 2010


Hopefully they'll just play the Jimi Hendrix instrumental version.
posted by Sailormom at 7:45 AM on March 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


The Pledge is optional.

Not really. I think we said it every day through sixth grade or so. The pledge was routine. The only time it comes up as being truly optional is when some smartass kid decides not to say it and it raises a big fuss.

Can you name something patriotic that isn't ritualistic?
posted by graventy at 7:45 AM on March 1, 2010


Not usually.

But sometimes, thus it has "ever been true".

Can you name something patriotic that isn't ritualistic?

A (sometimes temporary) feeling of pride in the accomplishments/state of one's country such as when for the first time ever a minority won the White House?
posted by DU at 7:47 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about when your country gets second place in a big tournament?
posted by Mister_A at 7:50 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


DU: "... such as when for the first time ever a minority won the White House?"

Funny you should mention him.

In case you missed it, Barack Obama's American flag lapel pin is back. ... Obama may make it sound like just a random fashion choice, but there is a large swath of Americans who take symbols like the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem, and, yes, the flag in its many iterations very seriously. And, as former Clinton adviser Doug Schoen pointed out in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week, these are people — mostly white working-class folk — whom Obama can ill afford to offend given his losses in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:50 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It astounds me that we banned these exact practices in Japan and Germany 50 years ago, and yet only smartasses on the Internet question them in our own country today. I guess World War II was only a message for the losers.
posted by shii at 7:52 AM on March 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm disappointed. Since the evangelical world (with a very few exceptions) has decided to become chaplains to power, endorsing war-making and even torture rather than standing apart as a peace-oriented counter-culture, I've steadily grown in appreciation of the Mennonite witness to a faith that will not be subsumed by the wishes of the American empire. The president of Goshen College is offering an untenable reading of his tradition in what certainly looks like a pretty simple caving under pressure. Look, guys, they have the national anthem everywhere else in this country. Can't we keep a few places around that still believe that you have to choose between God and the king (or president)?

On a related note, I visited a church yesterday with distant, shriveled roots in the peace tradition--so distant that I doubt anyone there but the preacher (and maybe not him) even know it. The preacher did a pretty nice job speaking from the David and Goliath text, reading Goliath as a symbol for military might and technology in contrast to the simple faith of David who shrugged off an offer of the king's own armor, facing down the giant through his trust in God. You have to choose, he said, whether to trust in military superiority for your security or trust in God. I thought it was a very well done homily, and undermined some of the rah-rah G.I. Joe mentality that his church (located near several military bases) often falls for.

Then in the closing prayer, someone else offered God thanks for the American military, which engaged in conflict in the middle east, securing our freedoms. Consistencyfail!, as the kids don't really say. It's hard to resist the lure of nationalistic idolatry.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:58 AM on March 1, 2010 [27 favorites]


We desperately need a new National Anthem, but I kind of imagine the likely options would be easier to sing but worse in every other way.

"This Land Is Your Land" would be a fantastic choice, I think.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:03 AM on March 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Here we go again. In Lancaster County, Pa. there is a small chain (three stores, plus one in an adjacent county) of Mennonite-run, Mennonite-frequented, Mennonite-friendly-stocked general stores. Good's is where the local Mennonite women get the calico fabric for their dresses and where their husbands get their summer straw hats. Birdseed, paint, baby clothing, puzzles and gentle toys, canning gear, Christian fiction, all in a quiet, respectful, family-owned small business -- this is like a conservative's dream store.

But.

Good's does not carry American flags.

Here's one take on the reason behind this decision:

"Mennonites' Relationship to the Flag
Because Mennonites give their primary allegiance to God, some choose to not say the Pledge of Allegiance. They claim the pledge does not allow them to first be citizens of God's kingdom. This issue has been so important to Mennonites over the years that many Mennonite communities built and staffed their own Mennonite schools, so their children did not have to say the pledge. Mennonites have often been persecuted in the United States for refusing to fly the flag.

"One reason some Mennonites see the flag as a symbol of violence is because a primary purpose of a flag is to identify a nation during war. Back when the Revolutionary War was fought, the flag was created so that it could be carried into battle. As soon as territory is taken over during a war, the nation's flag is raised over it. Our national anthem was a poem written during a battle, glorifying war. That's the reason many Mennonites don't sing it."


Every few years, an email urging a boycott over the flag issue makes the rounds. Everybody sighs, the local paper carries an article on it, and then it passes.

And every few days, I think to myself how a certain segment of the angry right would rather compromise their stated principles of supporting family, small business, capitalism, freedom to worship and independence rather than allow anyone to have a reasoned, principled difference of opinion about the American flag.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:04 AM on March 1, 2010 [9 favorites]


"This Land Is Your Land" would be a fantastic choice, I think.

I am only imagining the horrific Irony of this at a Chiefs or Redskins game.
posted by yeloson at 8:10 AM on March 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Not usually.

Joe, you need to read the things you link to. If you had done so, you would learn that (according to it) only Delaware has a law where the pledge isn't optional.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:18 AM on March 1, 2010


The national anthem is fine as it is, I guess. It's just stupid that it's a tradition/ritual to do it before sporting events. Boo on Goshen. but I can understand that caving to peer pressure is often easier than being the one organization with principles.

a good alternative to traditional patriotic songs would be "This is my song, O God of all the nations" by Lloyd Stone.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:24 AM on March 1, 2010


A good friend of mine has parents who are Mennonite missionaries. He was born in South Africa, while his parents were on a mission there. Their mission wasn't to convert anybody or to spread bibles all over the place, the church sent them on a mission to help end apartheid. That is why if I were, for some reason, forced to pick a religion, it'd be the Mennonites.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:24 AM on March 1, 2010


the anthem's absence is most visible at sporting events, where it has become part of American culture.

And this is one of the things I like least about American culture, and one of the reasons (along with ridiculous ticket prices) why I rarely go to sporting events any more. What the fuck does the national anthem have to do with a fucking baseball game? (Substitute your own favorite sport as necessary.)
posted by languagehat at 8:47 AM on March 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I recall my first act of political rebellion was in 6th grade when I went to one of the only school football games (perhaps the only one, actually) with a friend and I was sitting by an older friend of ours (he also happened to be the best skater) who, when the anthem was supposed to be sung, refused to stand. And I *knew* that was how I felt. And it wasn't just me being silly, it was a sort of understanding of all the shit I knew about how the system was, the "jocks", the whole social game and social cohesion.

At the time, perhaps I couldn't quite explain it in these terms, but I knew what the deal was. And had I not had his courage of refusal to inspire me, I would've gone along with the rest of the crowd. And maybe you can see it was social conformity to him, but in the long run, I think it was an expression of my own will that was allowed to flourish through his act of rebellion.

And it makes me sad that the Mennonites caved. It makes me sad that the athletes had to put up with such bullshit.

Say what you will about groups like Jehovah's Witnesses, at least they know the game when it comes to the "pledge of allegiance" That's the one thing I respect them for. I didn't know Mennonites were the same way, I'd imagine Quakers are similar? And what about Amish?
posted by symbioid at 9:00 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pater Alethias: "Can't we keep a few places around that still believe that you have to choose between God and the king (or president)?"

Actually I find it interesting you mention that. It seems to me that in a sense, this is kinda like dealing with the initial Protestant/Catholic issue and "Diving Right of Kings" (and maybe you specifically worded it that way for that effect?)

Also, to those who ask why we even sing the pledge before a game, I think there's probably a couple reasons.

1) It's all just a big ol' game. "Hey they may be our enemy on the field, but we're all Americans"

2) It serves to engender and imprint nationalism with competition and tribal identity. The song becomes a symbol not just of a Nation (which in itself is a tribal identity), but by relating it to your local sports team, you associate it with a more local sense of group identity, and in that way, tie it even more emotionally cuz you have so much wrapped up in this "game"...

So in a sense, it's a two way street in terms of the meanings it imparts, on a large and small scale and they both reinforce a unity and a division "Us vs Them" and defines who "we" are.

As above, so below.
posted by symbioid at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2010


For representing my almost weekly experience, I can't favorite Pater Aletheias enough. This should be evidence, BTW, that conservatives hate it when outsiders intervene in the private practices of churches, so long as those practices are ones they like.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:18 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Patriotism is only Patriotism when it's compulsory.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:28 AM on March 1, 2010


I disagree, blue_beetle, there is always the choice to be a villainous commie traitor.
posted by Mister_A at 9:47 AM on March 1, 2010


I'm a Quaker; we're also one of the historic peace churches. We talk sometimes about former witnesses that have fallen by the wayside: plain dress; plain speech (which used to mean "thee" and "thou" and, at least for us liberal Quakers, has evolved into something more along the lines of valuing a high level of honesty, and a single standard for honesty in all places and at all times); refusing to give hat honor; refusing to take oaths.

Sometimes, it seems that something which was important in a former time and place is less important now. Refusing to take an oath in England in 1672 is very different from doing it now, in a culture that is less oppressive, under a government that is democratic, in a nation where our right to gather and worship as Quakers is not subject to the whim of whoever's sitting on the throne at the moment (or acting as Regent, OK).

So, when I hear that the Mennonite college started playing the national anthem because athletes were tired of being harassed, I consider the possibility that an unspoken piece of that is "tired of being harassed for acting in support of a witness that no longer seems meaningful". I'm not saying it's not meaningful; I'm not even sure folks at the college thought of it in those terms. I just think that if a similar question came to Quakers, that would be one of the questions we'd ask ourselves.
posted by not that girl at 10:04 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also favoriting Pater Aletheias like the fist of an angry god. I'm reminded of all the talk I've heard from the Christian right about other denominations not actually being Christian.
posted by charred husk at 10:05 AM on March 1, 2010


Every nation has, indeed needs, a civil religion. As Napoleon put it, "A man does not have himself killed for a few halfpence a day or for a petty distinction. You must speak to the soul in order to electrify him." Every nation, if it is to cohere as a nation, must focus its worship at one person, idea, or thing. Because make no mistake, everyone is involved in worship, even if there's nothing terribly religious about it.

In Rome it was the emperor, until the imperial cult was replaced by Christianity. In the Middle Ages, yeah, there was the church, but this was inextricably mixed up with local political hierarchies and the noble/common social distinction. In the Middle East, it's Islam, complete with its diverse social organizing principles of kin and clan. In East Asia, it's some combination of social hierarchy and ancestor worship (depending on where you are, who you ask, when you ask them, and what you and/or they have been smoking at the time*).

In America, it's some combination of self-determination, rugged individualism, materialism, and historical mythologizing. Civil religion goes back a ways--Jefferson was far more excited about Christianity as a tool of social order than as a personal faith--and retains Christian overtones, but make no mistake: this has nothing to do with historic Christianity, even if it does involve going to "church." Christianity was never intended to be a civil religion, the organizing principle for a nation. Or rather, it is the organizing principle for a nation, but not one of this earth.

This is something the Mennonites have maintained longer than many other Christian traditions in this country. While I ultimately think that the issue of whether or not to play the anthem at sports events is kind of silly--schools/colleges are not churches and basketball games are not church services--it's a shame to see them abandon their principles, especially when they have kept the faith when far more was at stake than a f*cking basketball game.

*I kid, obviously, but I'm serious about the fact that though most Asian cultures are deeply religious, the ones that aren't Muslim tend to be a lot less organized about it in the ways that Western and Middle-Eastern cultures are organized about it. But Confucianism was how the Chinese Empire was run for centuries, so I don't think I'm that far off the mark here.
posted by valkyryn at 10:08 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


.
posted by madmethods at 10:12 AM on March 1, 2010


Perhaps the Mennonite college should examine its decision to have competitive sports at all. In my view these sports look a lot like indoctrination into an us versus them mentality, much like that of the military, any military.
posted by mareli at 10:16 AM on March 1, 2010


I come from a Mennonite background and briefly considered attending Goshen. I don't attend church anymore but this is complete and utter bullshit. Goshen is throwing away everything that makes it and the Mennonites special.
posted by Glibpaxman at 10:58 AM on March 1, 2010


Personally, I prefer instrumental recordings. I've only ever one or two decent live renditions of the anthem (and both at the Northeast Qualifier, big volleyball tournament, sung twice a day).

I remember in high school, we were getting ready to play our very first match (since it was a new school, we were all excited about it) and we quickly realized that no one had a tape of the National Anthem. We didn't have a microphone and barely had the scoreboard working properly. None of us really gave a shit about it and just wanted to get on with the match, but it was the adults who were all freaking out about it.

(The athletic director saved the day with a backup cassette he had of the Naval Academy Orchestra performing it that he kept around just for this purpose, heh. We later had our own school orchestra do a recording.)
posted by sperose at 11:19 AM on March 1, 2010


I hadn't really thought about it much up until now, but this decision hurts me somewhere deep inside. And I can understand the outrage of many students parents. As someone who was raised by mennonites this was something I was proud to explain to teachers when I refused to stand for the pledge. Outrage is all well and good here, but...

At the same time, what are you going to do? The students largely don't care. Would making a decision to uphold the policy to the detriment of the athletes be so much better? I mean, it's one thing if the athletes care about it. But they don't. It would be a veneer for what was really going on. And because the outcome of this dilemma is a symptom of something deeper and not the disease itself, I think it's important not to focus on this decision too much. I have no idea what might be behind this lack of resolve... increasing religious apathy across the board?
posted by symbollocks at 11:55 AM on March 1, 2010


The articles linked in the post make it seem quite clear that one of the major causes of the change is that the demographics of the school are changing: many of the students, and an even higher percentage of the athlete students, are not Mennonite. Obviously kids who are not in that religion are not really interested in being harassed for something they don't care about. What is interesting here is perhaps why the college demographics are changing - it is apparently a conscious change of recruiting practice at Goshen over the last couple of years. Are there fewer Mennonite kids around? Money? I have no idea, does anybody else?
posted by jacalata at 12:23 PM on March 1, 2010


Although I am not a fan of religion or faith generally, I do have a lot of respect for the Mennonites, in that they seem to follow through on their loyalty-to-God-comes-first policy. I don't get it, but I appreciate the steps that they take to avoid any sort of conflict of interest.

It bothers me a lot more when people who claim to be committed to their religion uber alles accept positions of public trust where they are expected to uphold secular law without bringing their own personal beliefs into it. There seems to be an almost inevitable potential for conflict there, and although I don't share or even pretend to understand the Mennonites' faith, I deeply respect their decision to just recuse themselves from certain aspects of secular life in order to avoid hypocrisy. The idea of stepping aside when you know you can't do a particular duty without being dishonest in some way is something that we could all do well to keep in mind.

It certainly beats the all-too-popular alternative, which seems little more than the old "divine right of Kings" applied to the state, or worse yet, attempting to theocratize or desecularize the state, in order to eliminate the perceived conflict. The Mennonites deserve a lot of credit just for avoiding that dangerously well-trod path.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:26 PM on March 1, 2010


I spent the last part of my childhood in the area. My brother went to Goshen College. I was part of what might have been the first playing of the Star Spangled Banner on their campus.

In eighth grade I sat in with my high school's pep band. Twice that season, we were invited to play at Goshen College's basketball games, as they did not have their own pep band. The first game, our band was running late because of snow. When we got there, and since nobody told us not to, we awkwardly squeezed in the national anthem during a long pause before the game. Right afterwards, someone from GC (I'm pretty sure it was the then-president) came over and informed our director that we probably shouldn't have, but it was no big deal. We didn't play it the second game, and that wasn't a big deal either.

We still got our semester-long free passes to GC's incredible gym facilities. All the facilities on campus seemed to be built for a student body about five times what they actually had in residence, so the gym was never crowded.

Just a piece of GC trivia: My brother would often, legitimately or not, say he was late for class because of a train. Tracks bisected their campus right between the dorms and most of the rest of the college.
posted by The Potate at 12:29 PM on March 1, 2010


The articles linked in the post make it seem quite clear that one of the major causes of the change is that the demographics of the school are changing: many of the students, and an even higher percentage of the athlete students, are not Mennonite. Obviously kids who are not in that religion are not really interested in being harassed for something they don't care about. What is interesting here is perhaps why the college demographics are changing - it is apparently a conscious change of recruiting practice at Goshen over the last couple of years. Are there fewer Mennonite kids around? Money? I have no idea, does anybody else?

I don't know that the demographics have actually changed. My brother (who attended GC a decade ago) gives me the impression that, for a long time, the student body was, to a great degree, non-Mennonite. They took pride in(and had, for a long time, as I understand it) a very diverse student body, many of whom were from outside of the US. I think it's less a function of fewer Mennonites than it is of societal attitudes. Especially that of "Get a conservative demagogue on your side and you can get anything out of people who just want him/her to STFU."
posted by The Potate at 12:39 PM on March 1, 2010


What is interesting here is perhaps why the college demographics are changing

Yeah, I found that interesting myself. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I suspect a big part of it is a conscious choice by the people who run the college.

Besides my personal fascination with Anabaptism (and Quakers, too), the main reason I find this whole story interesting is that it poses a lot of questions about assimiliation and the limits of nonconformity in American society. Thomas Frank laid out in "The Conquest of Cool" how the Sixties' supposed triumph of nonconformity was coopted and even largely driven by "The Man" that the hippies were trying to rebel against - individual nonconformity in the realm of consumer choice.

I'd say that the Mennonites, even today, chose a far more substantial form of nonconformity than the hippies did, not to mention today's assembly-line nose rings and body piercings, but is it sustainable in a consumer capitalist society? Does our society have its own softer pressures, and are they sometimes more effective in breaking down group distinctiveness than the old-fashioned methods of overt legal sanctions? And is that a good thing? The answer to that question has a much wider impact than just on Mennonites - it matters to any group, any culture, anything broader than just the lonely individual.
posted by jhandey at 12:52 PM on March 1, 2010


They could always just mix-and-match the different stanzas to make a peacenik version:

What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
O'er the ramparts we watched, was so gallantly streaming?
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep:
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

posted by Rhaomi at 1:31 PM on March 1, 2010


"Diving Right of Kings"

Best typo of the day.
posted by Bonzai at 1:44 PM on March 1, 2010


symbioid: ""Diving Right of Kings""

If that whole "turning back the tide" thing would just work, they wouldn't need these.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:53 PM on March 1, 2010


...conservative talk show host Mike Gallagher, who featured the issue on his show...


I just wanted to say, the people who should be most concerned about this story are members of non-mainstream religions (and by this I mean nothing derogatory, only that their practice is in some way different than the larger religions) that have chosen to band together with the religious right in order to see some aspect of their agenda be pushed on the American people in general...

They probably have more to fear from their "allies" than they do from the secularists and atheists. Because their allies are fucking crazy, and not afraid to harass people into submission.
posted by illovich at 2:03 PM on March 1, 2010


the people who should be most concerned about this story are members of non-mainstream religions (and by this I mean nothing derogatory, only that their practice is in some way different than the larger religions) that have chosen to band together with the religious right in order to see some aspect of their agenda be pushed on the American people in general...

Out of sincere puzzlement and curiosity, do you have any examples of a religion that's doing this? I honestly can't think of any, so I'm not sure what you mean.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:06 PM on March 1, 2010


Mormons?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:23 PM on March 1, 2010


I'm a proud Goshen alum, as are my wife, brother, and more cousins than you want to know about. My other brother is a sophomore there now. We're all extremely unhappy about this decision.

As a Mennonite, I've never said the pledge or stood to sing the national anthem (as a slightly lapsed Mennonite I have sung the national anthem while drinking for its unsingable comedy value, not as an exercise of civil religion). My father was a conscientious objector in Vietnam and my two grandfathers were conscientious objectors in the Second World War. Heck, I have ancestors who refused to fight for the South in the Civil War. Into her eighties my grandmother always gave away half of her income to charity to minimize her tax obligations to give as little money as possible to the military-industrial complex. (Her father, my great-grandfather, was a bishop of the Mennonite Church who shut Goshen down for a year in the 1910s for being too theologically liberal, but that's another story).

Goshen is a wonderful institution: you are required to spend a semester doing service in a third-world country in order to graduate, there are people there from a million countries around the world, and the academics are much better than you'd expect because both professors and students who could take positions elsewhere go there because they believe in the mission. It's also a withering institution, because that mission is struggling to remain vibrant in 21st-century American culture. About three-quarters of Mennonites are turning into mainstream fundamentalists/evangelicals. They're forgetting the peace witness and when they vote they vote Republican. Of the other quarter, many are becoming assimilated, secular lefties. These are my people: young professionals who may have been baptized in their teens and remain deeply committed to the peace position, the anti-imperialist lefty politics, and the sweet sweet acapella four part singing, but have trouble sticking with the orthodox Christian theology. Both groups are moving away from our church schools (Eastern Mennonte University is the other one I know well) because the fundamentalists think that Goshen is too liberal for allowing gays to write on the opinion board and the drifting secularists move to cities and their kids don't grow up caring about church and when they graduate from high school they want a cheaper education at a state school or a better education in the Ivy League.

This means that Goshen and its peers are holding on with 900-1000 students in a campus that could hold one and a half times that number, and they do it by getting the remaining lefty Mennonites like my family, a few more conservative Mennonites who haven't entirely gone the Focus on the Family route, and plenty of locals who are looking for a good place to train to be nurses, teachers, and businesspeople. And they get athletes. These last two groups don't particularly know or care about Anabaptism, but they're the ones who have to explain our quirky little belief in not worshipping the American flag and the brutal empire it represents to the teams we play. They're also the tail wagging the dog of this recent decision.

Thanks for posting this. And if you or someone you know is looking to get a good education in a worldview that's non-violent, global, service-oriented, and doesn't try to mold you as a future elite of the American global order (which is what my current grad school does to its undergraduates), check out my alma mater.
posted by sy at 2:43 PM on March 1, 2010 [20 favorites]


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posted by thandal at 10:59 PM on March 1, 2010


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