Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mennonites Allow National Anthem Played Goshen College

The Mennonites are a group of Christian Anabaptist denominations named after the Frisian Menno Simons 1496–1561, who, through his writings, articulated and thereby formalized the teachings of earlier Swiss founders. The teachings of the Mennonites were founded on their belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ,


which they held to with great conviction despite persecution by the various Roman Catholic and Protestant states. Rather than fight, the majority survived by fleeing to neighboring states where ruling families were tolerant of their radical belief in adult baptism.

I had followed with some interest, but had not had time to post about, the controversy surrounding Goshen College and its historic refusal to play the national anthem before sporting events. Goshen’s own website hosts an archive of news coverage of the anthem flap, as well as its own press releases. A Mennonite institution, Goshen belongs to the historic pacifist tradition of the Anabaptist movement. Mennonites have, like their stricter Amish cousins, refused military service.

Although never officially banned, the National Anthem was allowed before a game at Goshen College in Indiana on Tuesday for the first time ever. The move marks a shift in Mennonite outlooks propelled by a dwindling student body majority and a relaxation of a hard line stance regarding acceptance of War as a morally defensive strategy. The move to allow the anthem was triggered by protests from a small group of students last year. After prolonged discussion and community debate, the decision was made to allow the song to be sung prior to both a softball game and baseball game played on the college athletic field Tuesday afternoon.

"This marks the point at which we begin to deal with the real differences we have here," said Paul Keim, a Mennonite professor who has taught bible and religion at Goshen for 13 years. "It's a struggle for us to stay true to our Mennonite tradition and yet be hospitable to the community around us."

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