The Mennonites are a group that were once part of the Amish, but a split left them as two different church groups. People sometimes confuse the two, but the Mennonites are a much more progressive set of individuals where things such as technology are concerned. There are some areas, however, that they still restricted on.
Do Mennonites Vote? Traditional Mennonites do not vote and have very strong opinions and some restrictions on such things as participating in the military, government, taxes, secular courts, pledging allegiance, flags, or seeking to influence government or legislation. More progressive Mennonites have chosen to vote due to their opposition to war and other issues.
Mennonites traditionally lived a very restrictive life, similar to their Amish counterparts. They are members of certain Christian groups belonging to the church communities of Anabaptists denominations. The early teachings of the Mennonites were founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus, which the original Anabaptist followers held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic and Protestant States. The various groups do not hold a common confession or creed.
Over the years, Mennonites have become known as one of the historic peace churches because of their commitment to pacifism.
In Contemporary society, Mennonites are either described only as a religious denomination with members of different ethnic origins or as both an ethnic group and a religious denomination. There is a controversy among Mennonites about this issue with some insisting that they are a religious group while others will argue that they are an ethnic group. The more conservative Mennonite groups fit well into the definition of an ethnic group while the more liberal groups and those who convert do not.
Worldwide, there are 2.1 million Anabaptists that include Mennonites, Amish, Mennonite Brethren, the Hutterites and many other Anabaptist groups. The congregations embody a full scope of practice from “plain people” to those who are indistinguishable from the general populations.
One thing that distinguishes the Amish from the Mennonites is that the Amish practice a total separation from the world. They create their own communities and separate from society. In this, they avoid technology. However, Mennonites believe living IN the world but not being OF the world in terms of embracing worldly, spiritual and moral values. The Mennonites embrace technology but, like all of their decisions- they do this cautiously and the church itself warns against overuse and the temptations that are associated with technology itself.
Another issue that separates the Mennonites from their Amish Brethren is how the church deals with homosexuality. They have supported close to 100 churches within the Mennonite denomination that welcome openly gay church members into its flock. In 2014, an openly gay pastor was ordained and some Mennonite pastors have performed same-sex unions. The church also has a council on LGBT interests that allows them to ensure the continued Godly work within the group.
The more conservative Mennonite groups retain their dedication to biblical teaching and the belief that homosexuality is a grievous sin against the church and God. Some pastors have been disciplined, to the point of having their ministerial credentials stripped for performing same sex unions or for allowing practicing homosexuals to remain as church members. This, alone, shows the variation in beliefs across the Mennonite community.
Voting and other beliefs
In traditional Mennonite households, faith and following the tenets of the church take precedence over political participation. It was not until 1960 that there was a change. At that time, when JFK defeated Nixon, some Mennonites decided to go against the grain and get involved in politics. In the time of the Vietnam War, many Mennonites voted for the first time in an effort to voice their opposition to the war.
Though most Mennonites have been avoiding involvement in elections and politics, many took a stand and became active starting in the 60s and 70s. All branches of the Anabaptist movement believed in separation of church and state historically, viewing government as only necessary to keep the secular population in check. Even with all of these issues at hand, there are still Mennonites who believe that abstaining from voting and government are still the right things to do, biblically speaking. They remind us that their first allegiance is to God, and not to government.
In recent times, there has even been representation in the form of lobbyists in Washington DC that allow the Mennonite community to legitimize the position of the church on politics, which allows the voices of the Mennonite community to be heard.
Others who continue not to vote give the following reasons for their abstinence:
- We are part of Christ’s Kingdom, and our first allegiance is to Him and not earthly government. As Jesus told Pilate when he stood on trial, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 8:30 NIV)
- The kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of Christ don’t mix well. In almost any issue one could name, the stated goals and purposes of Christ stand in diametric opposition to the goals of any earthly nation or government.
- And so, we choose not to become involved in the purposes and plans of any government even to the extent of voting. We would rather sway our nation through prayer than polls and enact change by our own hard work and quiet service than in a voting booth.
The Mennonites go on to state that they don’t think badly of Christians who vote, and that they understand that we are all blessed with the freedom to choose these things for ourselves, as God gave us all free will in all things. Their belief is just that prayers are the best way to influence change in the world. They remember that the Government will never be our Salvation, and Salvation can only be found through Jesus.
Mennonite beliefs on government
Mennonites believe that the church is God’s “holy nation”. They feel called to give allegiance to Christ and to witness to all nations about God’s saving love. As citizens of God’s kingdom, they trust in the power of God’s love for their defense. They know that the church has no geographical boundaries and does not need violence to ensure its protection. The only Christian nation is the church of Jesus Christ, which they believe is made up of people from all tribes and nations who are called to witness God’s Glory.
Mennonites believe that governing authorities of the world have been instituted by God for maintaining order in societies. Such governments and institutions as servants of God are called to act justly and provide for each other. But like all such institutions, nations tend to demand total allegiance. They then become idolatrous and rebellious against the will of God. Even at best, government cannot act according to the will of God because no nation outside of the church confesses Christ’s rule as its foundation.
As Christians, Mennonites feel we must respect those in authority and pray for all people. This includes those in government. Our participation in government should be only done if they do not violate the love and holiness taught by Christ and if they do not compromise our loyalty to Christ. Voting for those who have agendas that fall outside of the word of Christ would be harmful to the world.
Mennonites feel we should demonstrate the way of Christ and become ambassadors, calling the nations to move toward justice, peace and compassion for all people. We should also seek the welfare of the city in which God has placed us. This means working to assist those in need, whether helping the homeless or cleaning our city streets. We should use works that will honor God and the place He has chosen for us to live.
Christ won victory over all powers, including all human governments, through his death and resurrection. Because Jesus is the Lord of Lords, no other authority’s claims are definite of that of His. Human governments cannot override the power of the Lord.
There are times that we forget the political language of the New Testament- spiritualizing the language for the benefit of the church. The words kingdom, Lord and even the word for church- which means assembly or town meeting -are political by nature. Understanding that the church is a nation makes clearer the churches relationship to the nations of the world.
In places where Christianity is no longer the state religion, the government can be seen as the defender of religion and the church. The church, in turn, is expected to support governmental policies. However, the Church and State are separate entities- and, at times, they are vying for our loyalty.
It is important to understand that government can preserve order and we should honor those in governmental power. However, when government conflicts with the demands of Christ, we must obey God rather than the human authority. Many times this puts Mennonites at odds with National, State and even local governments.
Because of their reliance on violence and their tendency to give themselves almost Godly powers, nations are limited in their ability to fulfill the will of God. However, we must understand that a government that provides order and relative justice is better than anarchy or an unjust and oppressive government. Christians become responsible to government to reflect Christ’s compassion for all people and to proclaim Christ’s lordship over the human governments.
Mennonites know they continue to need the church to help them discern how to be IN the world without belonging TO the world. The church must question if participation in the government or other institutions enable us to be ambassadors of Christs reconciliation. We must also ask if such participation will violate our commitment to the way of Christ and our loyalty.
The Mennonite church takes governmental participation and judges the extent that its members should or should not participate based on their individual church and their beliefs as well as the specific level of participation. Such as during the times of the Vietnam war, the church chose to participate in the political realm to share their sadness over the violence taking place through war. Situations such as these have moved the church farther and farther into the human political world.
When confronting issues such as military service, holding public office, employment in the government, voting, taxes, participating in the economic system, using secular courts, pledging allegiance, using flags, public and private schooling, and seeking to influence legislation; Mennonites must first ask themselves if these activities will compromise their loyalty to Christ.
In other areas, such as swearing oaths, many Mennonites are still steadfast. We commit ourselves to tell the truth- giving a simple yes or no. Jesus told the disciples that there should be no swearing to oaths and to let their yes mean yes and their no mean no. This teaching applies to telling the truth as well as avoiding profane language. An oath guarantees that someone is telling the truth- but it can mean that if someone is being dishonest if not swearing an oath. The followers of Jesus always tell the truth and should be able to simply affirm that their statements are true.
Human governments ask citizens to swear oaths of allegiance but as Christians our first allegiance is to God. We pledge our loyalty to the community of Christ, and this commitment takes presence over other social or political communities. Swearing allegiance to an organization, governmental institution or even the country we live in means that we will place that above all things. However, nothing takes precedence over Jesus and, therefore, Mennonites will not take this ungodly step.
All of these instances are forbidden: affirming rather than swearing in courts and legal matters, in a commitment to unconditional truth telling and to keeping one’s word, in avoiding membership in secret societies and those that require an oath, and in refusing to take oaths that would conflict with the allegiance in God through Christ. Also, avoiding all profane oaths.
Jesus’ command to tell the truth without taking oaths and to be true in all relationship should apply to family life, business dealings, advertising and any other agreements that we make. Speaking the truth in love in the community of Christians shows our commitment to faithfulness. The includes truth telling and being true in all relationships. Having honest relations is one way of strengthening the family unit and ensuring that the family works together to honor God.
The biblical concept of peace embraces personal peace with God, peace in human relations, peace among nations and peace with God’s creation. The Old Testament word for peace includes healing, reconciliation and well-being. Peace is more than the absence of war; it includes the restoration of right relationships.
Justice and peace belong together since relationships should involve both. Peace and justice are not optional – Christians cannot take or leave them. They belong to the heart of the gospel and are based on the teachings of Jesus. Justice is based not only on Jesus’ teachings but also on his death. His death accomplished justices as his crucifixion brought forgiveness and restored sinners their relationship with God.
Thusly, Mennonites affirm that nonparticipation in warfare involves conscientious objection to military service and a nonresistant response to violence. This includes peacemaking and working for justice. This ties back into the fact that Mennonites do not believe in military service and, for a long time, did not approve voting. Too many ungodly issues come into play to allow us to continue to walk the path that God has set forth for us. We must act with nonviolent resolutions to express our commitment to Christ’s way of peace.
Government will never be the Salvation of Christians. Mennonites that do not vote and those that do both have the same feelings toward government. Mennonites understand that the government is not moral, and never will be. Government is not inherently good. Government derives its authority from an underlying threat of violence. This comes in the form of taxation through the threat of imprisonment or violence if individuals do not pay, violence in taking land from the original owners, violence in the name of keeping us “safe”.
Mennonites that do not vote feel that prayer for the country, prayer for the family, prayer for the place they reside is the only thing needed to keep them safe. Prayer and honest commitment to the church is the only way to obtain the Salvation through Jesus Christ. Mennonites who do vote do so as a way to combat the violence and ungodly ideals that come through government. Voting against candidates who live in an ungodly manner, against reforms that go against the church, and movements that can harm the people. They vote not to increase the power in the government, but to decrease that power and to lend a human voice to the Biblical ideals that they feel we should all be living.
If you are interested in learning about other Religions in the world, then check out this book on World’s Religions on Amazon.