This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

A real doctrine?

I have not witnessed a 500- year history of the church dehumanizing indigenous people or attempting to justify genocide. Nor have the people in my fellowship claimed a right to seize the property of others. I have never come across a church “doc­trine,” written or understood, that condoned such behavior.

Mennonite history was drastically different than described in the editorial. My immigrant ancestors in the early 1700s came to a scarcely populated America seeking refuge from fatal persecution. They sought to get along with the indigenous people. Although they had fire­arms, when attacked they chose to die rather than kill to preserve their own lives. Some were killed, but my ancestor was captured and later adopted by the natives. Years later he married and raised a family but refused to own land out of respect for his captors.

Our church believed in the Heilsgeschichte (salvation history) as well as the Great Commission. I believe that the editorial sheds doubts on the authority of the Bible, the Old Testament and even the Great Commission.

The implication that Mennonites today need to rectify the wrongs of some of our ancestors centuries ago is pharisaical. I doubt there is a square mile of inhabited land anywhere on Earth that was not squabbled over at some time in history, and none of us is without an ancestor who was involved.

Before fixing history, the church needs to exert a strong voice and influence on late-term abortion, homelessness and the 70,000 annual deaths in the United States due to drug overdoses. These are real problems that deserve the church’s full attention before attempting to cure history.

Carl Swartz
Salem, Ore.

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