Smoking, driving and deep theology

20 questions at Third Way show curiosity about Mennonites

Jan 2, 2018 by

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HARRISONBURG, Va. — Suppose your job is to answer impossibly complex questions, sometimes dealing with theology and even eternal destiny. How do you respond?

This was the volunteer task of Erwin and Angela Rempel, now retired mission workers who served two Mennonite agencies in the U.S. and abroad. They are now “retiring” a second time, this time from answering the myriad questions sent to the Third Way website. Third Way is dedicated to conveying information about Mennonites and related Anabaptist groups to the general public.

Since 2012, the Rempels responded personally to questions sent to the website. Third Way was originally launched in 1998 and is curated by staff of MennoMedia as part of its publishing platform on behalf of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada.

Dennis Kuhns, a retired pastor in Harrisonburg, is filling the position vacated by the Rempels as of Jan. 1. He will generally answer questions in keeping with the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective and guide questioners to find answers at Third Way and elsewhere as needed.

Here, in no particular order, are 2017’s top 20 questions as determined by MennoMedia staff, asked at Third Way (with minor edits for spelling and grammar) and names withheld.

  • Do Mennonites drive cars?
  • What are the truths in the Christian faith?
  • How do Mennonites and Amish differ in their clothing? How come I see some smoking but they cannot drive? Isn’t smoking considered of the world?
  • What are a set of rules Mennonites have? Commandments, pillars, moral code?
  • How does Jesus want me to live my life?
  • I am doing a research project in school about Utopian Society and I decided to do it on your community. I was wondering if there was anything that you would like to tell me in depth about your community.
  • Why do Amish practice shunning instead of showing Christ’s love for all? Especially when it’s a family member?
  • Is your doctrine the same as the Baptists? Are you Calvinist?
  • How is your religion similar to the book Brave New World?
  • What are the key teachings of Jesus on the church?
  • After spending a good amount of time with my Mennonite friend, she has told me that herself and a lot of 25- to 35-year-old Mennonites don’t marry because it is more fun to have multiple partners, your wealth is yours, plus you are really liberated. It seems things are really changing.
  • We would really like to join the Mennonites. My fiancé and I have been together for six years and will be married. We have both been married before, and I know that is looked down on in the community. We have five children and really want to raise them for God. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to be part of the community.
  • I have often heard at church and from many who call themselves Christians that we are “born in sin” because of Adam and Eve, yet I have never found anything in the Bible that says so. Not a word. What does your church teach about that, and what Bible verses support that view?
  • How can we say that Jesus died for our sins? He was persecuted because of our sinful nature. He didn’t suicide. Right? So how can we say that Jesus willingly died on the cross? He says that he was persecuted because he always stood with the right. So how [was] he sacrificed for our sins? What’s the purpose of this belief? What are we expected to believe about Jesus?
  • Is there a dress code for Sunday services? I’m thinking of attending Sunday service at the [name deleted] location, however I don’t really have church clothes. It’s more of shirt and jeans thing in my life at this time.
  • What day is the Sabbath, and do you have churches in Tasmania?
  • Why don’t you worship on Saturday as indicated in the Ten Commandments?
  • My friend and I are strong believers in Mennonite living style and way of life. We live by their beliefs already; we are wondering how we fully live the style of a Mennonite? We are 14 and are wondering where we would live and if we would go to school still?
  • Have Mennonites done research on domestic violence in the U.S.?
  • If everything happens as according to God’s plan, and I die as an atheist as according to his plan, why do I go to hell?

In addition to much historical and theological information on Mennonites at Third Way, numerous free weekly or monthly email subscriptions are available at Media Matters, Living Simply, Wider View, Daily Scripture and Stories of Peace. Third Way sponsors include Mennonite Mission Network, Everence, Abundance (Canada) and Goodville Mutual.

The Rempels have written a combined memoir of their lifetime mission work, titled Unexpected Invitations: Surprises, Adventures and Opportunities in Mennonite Ministry, available at

A recent story came from Third Way’s outreach:

“I am so happy that I found the courage to visit the Chicago Community Mennonite Church across the street in my neighborhood here on the West Side of Chicago. I first attended the church in the late spring/early summer of 2017. I was a bit apprehensive at first, as I am an African-American and the Mennonite community that I worship with is about 99 percent white. However, after relaxing myself and keeping an open mind, I found it easy to converse with other parishioners and visitors at the church. Pastor Alison and Rev. Celeste immediately welcomed me with open arms and open hearts. They are both to be commended as great women of God. I am strongly considering becoming a member of the church in 2018. Thank you and God bless you.”

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