Mennonites in the News

Events occurring and how they relate/affect Anabaptist faith and culture.
haithabu
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Mennonites in the News

Postby haithabu » Fri Dec 01, 2017 7:08 pm

Here is an interesting article by Edwin Black which pulls Mennonites (at least the MCUSA branch) firmly into the Zionist/AntiZionist crossfire on account of a Kansas woman's support of the BDS movement. The piece takes the form of a long explainer on just who the Mennonites are and uses Gerhard Rempel's research to connect MCUSA support of the BDS movement with Mennonite collaboration with the Nazis in World War II.

It contains a lot of partially digested information which contains some howlers such as the writer's disclosure that the Amish speak Plautdietsch. A more serious error is the broad brush implying that any Mennonites to come out of Russia after the war were Nazis. Further, the Mennonite settlements in Paraguay are described as Nazi colonies:

As Hitler’s Germany collapsed, Nazi Mennonite colonies transplanted to Paraguay, where they joined existing Nazi-like colonies that for years racially afflicted and exploited indigenous Indians.


There is enough truth contained in the article to save it from being fake news, but I feel that in his effort to knock MCUSA's stance, Black overgeneralizes about Russian Mennonites (or is it the Amish? :)) to the point of being misleading.

http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/268581/ ... dwin-black
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cmbl
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Re: Mennonites in the News

Postby cmbl » Fri Dec 01, 2017 7:28 pm

Thirty seconds on the website indicates it is a very political-right slanted "news" magazine.
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haithabu
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Re: Mennonites in the News

Postby haithabu » Fri Dec 01, 2017 8:26 pm

cmbl wrote:Thirty seconds on the website indicates it is a very political-right slanted "news" magazine.



You're saying that as if it is significant.
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MaxPC
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Re: Mennonites in the News

Postby MaxPC » Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:08 am

Right or left slant, I've yet to see a secular news story do a good job of reporting on religious groups. The journalists are in a rush for deadlines and choose convenient sentiments and hearsay over actual facts. The more exaggerated the better too, simply because readership numbers equal profit.
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cmbl
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Re: Mennonites in the News

Postby cmbl » Sat Dec 02, 2017 4:54 pm

haithabu wrote:
cmbl wrote:Thirty seconds on the website indicates it is a very political-right slanted "news" magazine.



You're saying that as if it is significant.

At a minimum, it's significant to those of us who try to limit our exposure to the political/religious right.

Beyond that, I think the source explains why
in his effort to knock MCUSA's stance, Black overgeneralizes about Russian Mennonites (or is it the Amish? :)) to the point of being misleading
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"The church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part in that grace." -Bonhoeffer

haithabu
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Re: Mennonites in the News

Postby haithabu » Sun Dec 03, 2017 1:03 am

Yet you would only know that if you have taken the time to read the article rather than prejudging it.

It's not just you, but I've noticed a pattern out there where people will say of an opinion piece they have not read "But that's on a _______ site", or "_______ (the writer) is a well known ________."

Personally I think it's a bad habit, because in some cases (not this one mind you) those who have said such things have missed out on thoughtful, well written stuff.

Front Page Mag (the website in question) has an agenda which they are up front about and publish opinion/analysis pieces in support of. I don't consider them a news site per se. Most of their articles are better thought through than this one. They are not stereotypical right wing so much as anti left and they have a strong Jewish focus.
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Bootstrap
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Re: Mennonites in the News

Postby Bootstrap » Sun Dec 03, 2017 6:03 pm

haithabu wrote:Personally I think it's a bad habit, because in some cases (not this one mind you) those who have said such things have missed out on thoughtful, well written stuff.


This description doesn't make it sound like thoughtful, well-written stuff.

haithabu wrote:It contains a lot of partially digested information which contains some howlers such as the writer's disclosure that the Amish speak Plautdietsch. A more serious error is the broad brush implying that any Mennonites to come out of Russia after the war were Nazis. Further, the Mennonite settlements in Paraguay are described as Nazi colonies:

As Hitler’s Germany collapsed, Nazi Mennonite colonies transplanted to Paraguay, where they joined existing Nazi-like colonies that for years racially afflicted and exploited indigenous Indians.


There is enough truth contained in the article to save it from being fake news, but I feel that in his effort to knock MCUSA's stance, Black overgeneralizes about Russian Mennonites (or is it the Amish? :)) to the point of being misleading.


I did take the time to read the article, it is attacking Koontz and MC-USA and Mennonites of many kinds in various countries. The article was prompted by two things.

1. Koontz is a math teacher who lost her job because Kansas passed a law forbidding contracts with people or parties who boycott Israel, requiring them to sign written certificates that they aren't boycotting the Jewish state. Koontz sued:

On October 11, 2017, the ACLU and the ACLU of Kansas filed a lawsuit against the state of Kansas over a state law that requires that any person or company that contracts with the state submit a written certification that they are “not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel.”

The ACLU represents Esther Koontz, who belongs to the Mennonite Church USA. In accordance with calls for boycott made by members of her congregation and her church, Ms. Koontz chooses not to buy consumer products made by Israeli companies and international companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Ms. Koontz participates in this boycott in order to protest the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians and to pressure the country to change its policies.

Ms. Koontz has served as a public school math teacher for nine years, and was preparing to begin training math teachers across the state as a contractor with the Kansas Department of Education's Math and Science Partnerships program when she was asked to sign the certification. After responding that she could not sign the certification in good conscience, Ms. Koontz was told she could no longer participate in the program.

The lawsuit argues that the Kansas law violates the First Amendment for several reasons: it compels speech regarding protected political beliefs, associations, and expression; restricts the political expression and association of government contractors; and discriminates against protected expression based on its content and viewpoint. The lawsuit asks the court to strike down the law and bar the Kansas Department of Education from requiring contractors to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel.



2. MC-USA divested holdings in companies that profit from Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories:

The Mennonite Church USA voted to sell its holdings in companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the latest American Christian group to do so.


Mennonites had rejected a divestment proposal at their last national meeting two years ago amid fears that the resolution would be considered anti-Jewish. The statement adopted Thursday condemns anti-Semitism, encourages stronger ties between church members and Jews, and endorses a review of how Mennonites responded to the Holocaust.


The article you pointed to concludes that the Mennonites are messing up because they question Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, here is the conclusion:

If Koontz will return to any of the simple Mennonite churches in central Kansas, she can refresh her knowledge of history and the restoration of the Jews in Israel. She can read the one international law that predated the League of Nations, the Arab invasion, and even the Roman expulsion. She can refer to Leviticus 25:10 which commands the Israelites to “proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property.” No Hitler decree, Arab League boycott, BDS chant, MC-USA resolution, or ACLU lawsuit can erase those words from the churches of Kansas— or from its courtrooms.


Along the lines, it makes a number of over-the-top statements like this:

No one speaks for the Mennonites. They answer to no one but their God and their conscience. But in the highly-fragmented world of Anabaptist Mennonite thought, there are several sects and branches which have darkly drifted far away from the teachings and have embraced hate, fascism, terrorism, and politics.

During the Holocaust, Nazism appealed to many German and Ukrainian Mennonites. In 1942, the Molotschna Mennonite colony in the Ukraine formally hosted an SS gathering and raised the swastika flag, as the Mennonite Library and Archives in Kansas has preserved. Ukrainian Mennonites volunteered to assist Nazi death squads as they machine-gunned helpless Jews in pits.


Mennonites. Hate, fascism, terrorism, and politics. A bit of a hatchet-job, don't you think? On the whole, I really don't think this article fairly characterizes Mennonites. Or Koontz. Or the decision of MC-USA to divest holdings that profit from the occupation of Palestine.
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Bootstrap
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Re: Mennonites in the News

Postby Bootstrap » Sun Dec 03, 2017 6:16 pm

haithabu wrote:Personally I think it's a bad habit, because in some cases (not this one mind you) those who have said such things have missed out on thoughtful, well written stuff.


I think filtering out worldly influences is a good habit. I think filtering out questionable news sources is a good habit. I think Christians need to pay attention to how the things we read influence us. And I think one really good way to respond to questionable news sources is to make a list of issues you consider important and think about the best sources of information for understanding those issues.

Question: Do you think Koontz should lose her job because she participates in a boycott against Israel? Do you believe that MC-USA was morally wrong to divest holdings that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine? Those are the main things the article is responding to. What are good sources to use if you want a solid understanding of the issues involved?
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Josh
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Re: Mennonites in the News

Postby Josh » Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:58 am

Disclaimer: I am fairly anti-BDS myself and if proponents of BDS had their way, I'd lose my job and my employer would go out of business.

Generally speaking, Edwin Black (and outlets like FrontPage Magazine) will tend to start with the axiom that any group of people who oppose BDS must be bad, and then work from the pre-drawn conclusion to find all kinds of ways to explain how entire groups of people are moral filth.

His invention of "Nazi Mennonites" is pretty much a fabrication out of whole cloth, particularly when he is using this association to level accusations against far-left, liberal-progressive Mennonites who are the very ones who are talking about past Mennonite associations with Nazis in Russia at all.

Completely missing the mark in comparing Low German to Yiddish, confusing High German-dialect speaking Amish with Low German-speaking Russian Mennonites, and his complete misinformation about colonies in Paraguay and migrations to Canada makes me question details in books of his I read that I valued, particularly IBM and the Holocaust and The Transfer Agreement.

He really has no excuse for such a state of ignorance. Back in the 1990s, when he edited a magazine I read, OS2 Professional, Elizabeth Black was the art director. She grew up Mennonite Brethren woman who in the present day is quite well educated about the background of Russian Mennonites and at one point was writing a book about the migrations of 1874.

In any case, we live in a democracy, and I think we should have a democracy where a public school teacher can hold political opinions with which I disagree. I disagree with BDS, but I don't think every teacher who is pro-BDS should be fired. Where does that end?
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haithabu
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Re: Mennonites in the News

Postby haithabu » Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:16 pm

Bootstrap wrote:
haithabu wrote:Personally I think it's a bad habit, because in some cases (not this one mind you) those who have said such things have missed out on thoughtful, well written stuff.


This description doesn't make it sound like thoughtful, well-written stuff.


<snip>





You've just spent a lot of time which you'll never get back in elaborating a point which I had already made.

And also,

1) I'm no fan of BDS but I am not in favour of the law in question.

2) MCUSA can do whatever it likes, since I am not a member. If I were a member, I would oppose a divestment policy with respect to Israel because I consider such policies to be one-sided in considering the Israeli/Palestinian issue and largely symbolic. And as symbolism, divestment sends a message on behalf of all MCUSA's members which I would prefer not to be associated with.

3) I understand that people like to follow their own philosophical preferences in deciding which websites to follow. I do myself. After all, who ever logs on to the internet saying "I think I'll expose myself to some cognitive dissonance today"?

But I also understand that if I follow that practice exclusively, I'll deny myself perspectives that will broaden my understanding. I do occasionally follow links to articles Vox, HuffPost and other sites of that orientation and some are worth reading. I believe that everyone has a worthwhile story to tell, everyone has reasons for what they believe, and I never lose anything by considering those reasons even if they turn out to be fallacious.

I posted the article not because I endorse it (I think I made that clear) because it is always of interest to me what others say about Mennonites.
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