Being part of a sub-culture, I’ve often taken much for granted. I see my grandparents several times a year. I sew my own clothes. I know how to change a diaper, scald peaches for canning, plant seeds in season, and sing both lead and harmony a cappella.
I have a network of literally hundreds of people who know my face, last name, and frien schaft (the Pennsylvania Dutch word for family tree/relatives). Chances are, I know many of theirs. I have this network even without the pervasive fingers of social media.
My culture permeates my wardrobe, my music choices, my church life, my career, and my worldview.
It’s hard to identify where culture ends and Christianity begins.
While I’ve been rightly taught to say, “I’m a Christian attending a Mennonite church,” I wonder sometimes if my people forget the values cultural traditions teach us. We’ve practised what we’ve heard preached so long that children grow up never knowing the Christian values they’re meant to absorb by the actions they do every day.
I think about these things.
I think about how we are to love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. I think about how our thoughts become words and words become actions. I think about the words I heard for the first time eight years ago, “Our actions inform our hearts.”
I wonder if it’s time we look at the principles our practices teach, winnow out the traditions that have become empty, keep the enriching ones, and move forward as a stronger faith community.
This series “Values that My Culture Taught Me” came to me gradually. Maybe the seed was planted eight years ago, dormant for many years, and–like the sequoia–cracked open under the fire of many things like the writings of James K. A. Smith. Maybe it’s seeing all the false advertising in Amish romance that burned me. Maybe it was watching people I love walk away from the culture I treasure that cracked me.
While I don’t expect it to be sequoia-sized, I will be sharing a longer series of five or so blog posts over the next few months, exploring values that my culture taught me, starting with “Keep Sacred Things Sacred” on August 28th(ish).
I seek to do so with truth, balance, and grace. I want to be approachable but philosophical. I’ve asked several Anabaptist or formerly Anabaptist people to share from their experience, and I’m so grateful for their words.
I beg the Spirit of Truth to bear witness with the spirit of each reader, not because this is Gospel (It’s not.), but because I’m human, and it is only by His Spirit that any truth translates between me and you.
I write these words for:
I know some of you personally in each category. (I’ve waffled between the last two.) But, reader, you also know these people. Would you pass this on and invite others to an exploration and by God’s grace, a deeper understanding of Anabaptist culture and values? I’d appreciate that so much.
It’s worth saying that I see out of my own eyes. No two stories are alike. I’m a particular branch of Anabaptist called Mennonite and I’m part of a fellowship of Mennonite churches called Midwest. Within that fellowship there are nuances–differences–between individual churches and within those churches there are different nuclear families. What permeates my cultural experience cannot be identical to another’s.
While I’ve consulted other voices, the interpretation is strictly my own.