A Shout-Out to My Mennonite Pacifists Out There…

Being in Pennsylvania, I meet lots of people that either consider themselves Mennonite, or at least were raised that way. One of the most well-known aspects of Mennonite belief is their unwavering commitment to pacifism (or, as a commenter corrected me below, the Mennonite “doctrine of nonresistance”). Hanging out with one of my new raised-Mennonite friends the other evening, she showed me (with pride) the above picture that has hung in one of their family’s houses for a long time. It struck me as beautiful as well, especially the second quote. Here it is, nicely typed out for optimal readability and convenience:

“It is our fixed principle rather than take up Arms to defend our King, our Country, or our Selves, to suffer all that is dear to be rent from us, even Life itself, and this we think not out of Contempt to Authority, but that herein we act agreeable to what we think is the Mind and Will of our Lord Jesus.”

–Thirteen Mennonite Ministers of Pennsylvania, May 15, 1755

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How to be a Christian at Virginia Commonwealth University & Hopefully Maintain the Respect of those Around You

You will decide to go Virginia Commonwealth University after being accepted into both The College of William & Mary and Liberty University. Your school will want you to go to William & Mary. Your youth group will want you to go to Liberty.

You will–for a reason unknown to you–not go to William & Mary but never regret the decision for even a second. Your school friends will not care as much as you’d expect.

You will not go to Liberty because it is Liberty University, but you will tell people it’s because you couldn’t stand being in a place where everyone agreed with you. Your youth group will care much more than you’d expect. They will keep accidentally forgetting you aren’t going to God’s school, Liberty, but keep purposely forgetting you are going to Satan’s school, VCU.

First and foremost, upon arrival, understand that every word you say in some way, shape, and form can and will offend someone. You realize this is a fact; you get used to it and quit your whining.

Also, you will understand it is by the very nature of who you are that every word will be scrutinized, analyzed, and criticized for every error inherent in the words you say. Sometimes, they will find said errors. Understand that no, contrary to the victory smile on their faces, these moments do not amount to the complete and utter destruction of the past 2,000 years of Christian belief and thought.

Next, ignore last point and treat the survival of Christianity as the weight borne on your shoulders and only yours. Understand that yes, the whole of God’s will for the earth is in your hands to make or break.

Remind yourself again this isn’t true.

Never, ever under any circumstances use the a-word, the b-word, s-word, gd-phrase, or the worst of all: the f-words. (Note for the pagans, these words are: Absolutist, Book of Revelation, Sin Nature, Gays & Damnation, Fundamentalist & Falwell)

You will try your hardest to tell the liberal intellectual elitist feminist urban artists that you don’t think that voting Republican is a stated Christian virtue. They will not believe you and continue to call you closed-minded and spoon-fed by your parents to always vote Republican. You will grow accustomed to these phrases being applied to you. Other wonderful colloquialisms to look out for: intolerant, racist, misogynist, homophobic, Jew-hater, prideful, arrogant, radical, Mel Gibsonite, asshole, and “fucking God-lover.”

Every once and a while, to show people you are not a legalistic Pharisee- say a curse word. You shouldn’t use it as an expletive, though. Be sure to only use it sparingly to sprinkle conversation with colour. Make sure it’s funny.

Live with a Buddhist, an Atheist, and a Jew. You will get no sleep for the entire year you do so, but the parties, sex, and the food will make up for it. You will abstain from the first two activities. You will partake in the third. Again: you will partake in the third.

Do things that people wouldn’t expect Christians to do. These may include having gay friends, voting Democrat, watching rated-R movies, kissing girls, admitting you’re wrong, not judging people, talking about your sins and weaknesses, working on Sundays, being active in politics, giving money to people, forgiving people, missing church on a Sunday to help someone else, reading, and pretty much being a real, feeling, loving human.

You will go through many faith crises. You will be scared to tell anyone about them because the Christians will shame your doubt, and the Non-Christians will gloat in the seeming affirmation of their beliefs (or rather, disbeliefs). You will start to view yourself as isolated in the world, with only God and some feeble hope for a future earthly love beside you to keep you going.

You will constantly hear that people only use religion as a crutch. You will feel the violent urge to prove this wrong while God is whispering in your ear the entire time to just rest your head on His shoulder as He holds you and wipes away your tears. You relent, but not as often as you should.

You will need to always be right, always be strong, always be secure and interesting, never wavering in any of this lest those around you think they have stood victorious over Almighty God.

Embrace all this.

You will realize that God is God even if you are not.

You will realize that the pains of life you go through will help you relate to and love more people than you could ever imagine. They will become your joy in a strange, quiet, unspeakable way.

You will realize that God saves people; you don’t.

Weight upon weight, burden upon burden, will fall away as you see that you are meant to glorify this God by enjoying Him, being satisfied in Him, and rooting your joy and pleasure in Him, in an eternal, unshakeable place that no situation, power, or seemingly wise human can touch. This will make you happy.

Still, people will be offended by everything you say. They will either misunderstand or understand all too well that which you have tried to soften through tact. Tact will be both your best friend and worst enemy. Love to hate to love it.

Be sure to accept early on that the most sensitive issues are the ones that will come up the most: Free Will, Abortion, Homosexuality, and most of all, Hypocrisy.

You will slowly realize that every form of disbelief is rooted in a past pain inflicted on someone by a Christian, the Church, or seemingly by a misunderstood God. No disbelief is purely intellectual. You will see, it’s a heart issue, not a mind issue. You will spend almost all your time apologizing for all other Christians everyone has ever met, trying to be the one exception to the rule.

You will love dearly, and hurt greatly.

You will pray for those around you, late into the night, knees raw from the carpet beneath them, eyes red from the tears streaming down, and knuckles white from passion. The word that will come across your lips more than any will be “Why”. It will be answered rarely.

Still, you will go on. You will go on because your very will has been seized by a Sovereign stronger than you; because your very affections and desires have been changed, your spiritual taste buds delighting in the taste of the glory of God more than the glory of You. His glory just tastes so much better to your soul. You were made for this, meaning you will be more truly yourself by delighting in God than you ever were in fighting against Him.

Oh, and before it is forgotten, you must be told that you will learn all the various ways of saying you’re a virgin. “Proud v-card carrier,” “ridin’ the v-train,” ‘member of the v-club with a prime parking space beside the pool,” and “Yes, I’m a virgin” are some of the more popular ones.

Everyone will think your purity ring/promise ring/v-ring is a wedding ring. They will all ask about it. Form an answer early on and stay consistent; this will be easiest.

You will try to not ever sound “preachy” but passionate, but everyone will think you are preaching at them and will not like it. You will, inevitably, despite all your greatest efforts, speak too much, listen too little, and write “how to” guides that start off really funny, have way too abrupt of a tonal change half-way through and then become really serious, only to try and salvage some humor towards the end, probably to no avail.

Life will be good, because, as you will see, God is.

To sum up the experience, you will love and embrace the eccentricities of a meta-existential cognitive living with teleological features leading to a psychotheolgical eschatological perspective of its consummation being in an increasingly Christian hedonistic affective eternality.

In other words, you will be the only one that really understands the things that come out of your mouth, as absurd as they are. Get to know His words more. You will then know Love in all His depths, and from this, you will learn to love others as He has loved you,

and in that you will find the key to it all.

Good luck, and God speed.

[Note: this was an assignment I did for my Scotland Creative Writing Course. It is a stylized parody piece off of the famous “How to . . .” prose pieces from Lorrie Moore.]