Mennonites have received a lot of attention in the media as of late, and not all of it has been positive. Therefore, it behooves me as a proud Mennonite and journalist to clear up a few misconceptions about Mennonites, some of which have been reported as fact. After this, I hope there will be no more misunderstandings.
- You’ve heard it was said that Mennonites are a diverse people from many different cultural backgrounds. You may have even seen reports that there are more Mennonites in India and Ethiopia than there are Mennonites of European descent. But I say unto thee, all Mennonites descend directly from one particularly fertile couple on the Molotschna Colony. All depictions of us in the media should therefore be completely homogenous.
- You’ve heard it was said that Mennonites represent a wide range of theological positions from very progressive to very conservative and everything in between, but we plead with you to select the most conservative of us and then draw wide-spreading conclusions about us as a whole. After all, we’re Mennonites and we agree on absolutely everything. There is never any disagreement among us and we never start a new church based on the most trivial of theological differences. That’s not us at all. You must be thinking of some other denomination.
- You’ve heard it was said that Mennonites speak a wide range of languages from French to Hindi to Indonesian, but I say unto thee that every single Mennonite actually speaks “a dialect of German.” When reporting on Mennonites be sure to only include German-speaking Mennonites and also make sure to mistake Plautdietsch for German. Please don’t do any research or show any subtlety about these matters. Danke.
- You’ve heard it was said that, unlike Lutherans, Catholics and Anglicans, Mennonites have no central governing body or head of the church and, thus, we have no overarching authority that applies to each and every Mennonite church. But you are misled. We actually do have a pope and her name is Miriam.
- You’ve heard it was said that Mennonites live in a variety of cities, towns, and rural areas. You may even be under the impression that there are more Mennonites in the city of Winnipeg than there are in rural southern Manitoba. Whatever you do, don’t make mention of this in any media reports. Instead only ever photograph Mennonite farmers. They’re more photogenic anyway. Better yet, photograph Hutterites and mislabel them as Mennonites … that way you’re pleasing everyone.
- You’ve heard it was said that it’s quite difficult to define who or what is a Mennonite, but never mind that. Nuance is a challenge these days. If at all possible, please provide simplistic answers whenever you can.
So there you have it. If you only take one thing out of this post, just remember that Mennonites are all exactly the same and we really appreciate it when we’re depicted as such. Thanks!
(photo credit: Laurelville – Camp and Retreat Center/CC)