Thursday, September 29, 2005

My kind of Mennonite

When the president of Eastern Mennonite College named names in an effort to keep Mennonites pure, he included Jim Harnish.

During World War II, Jim, a long time member of Plow Creek Fellowship, was a conscientious objector and served in an alternative service program run by Mennonites.

The program, sanctioned by the U.S. government, was required to accept not just Mennonites but all conscientious objectors.

Mennonite leaders were worried that young Mennonites were being radicalized by being thrown together with pacifists of other persuasions.

Jim was part of an alternative service unit, working as an orderly at a state hospital near Poughkeepsie, NY, when the president of EMC identified a conservative young man who was part of the unit. He wrote the young man and asked who among the Mennonites at the unit were being radicalized.

Based on the information from the young man, the EMC president sent a letter to the unit naming Jim and others who he deemed as not adhering strictly enough to all Mennonite beliefs. How can you call yourself Mennonites? he asked.

The young man who had provided the names felt very bad. He had not expected the people he had named to be denouced in a letter to the whole unit.

Jim and another person in the unit felt sorry for the young man and took him out for a malt.

Now that's my kind of Mennonite.

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