Thursday, January 28, 2010

Romanticizing the "Plain."

Kay Stoner writes to KillingtheBuddha today to comment on my article last week about Republican talk of converting to the Anabaptist faith (Amish, Mennonite) to avoid the health care mandate.

There are a couple of ironies in the Republican comments that I get to in my piece, but Stoner emphasizes yet another: romanticizing "plain" life. Oh the simple life, oh the tax exemptions, some say.

Growing up in Lancaster County, PA, as I did, or in the community as Stoner did, one can't help but note the romance for the "plain" life that makes the Anabaptists a tourist attraction. People come from far and wide to buy Amish quilts and preserves and to gawk at the funny farms and dress of the throw-back Amish.

Stoner's point that Anabaptists have segregated themselves from the rest of society for a reason is apt. They themselves haven't glorified simple life; they just know that religious tolerance requires separation of church and state. And they learned this lesson through centuries of persecution.

So the next time you hear religious groups working to enforce their beliefs via federal or state laws, in violation of the Establishment clause, think of the Anabaptists and their hard-learned lesson about the necessity of separation of church and state. While it's fun to romanticize a separatist culture, understanding the theological underpinnings of their faith is a vital lesson to us all about the great laws that protect religious tolerance in the US.

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Blogger Kay Stoner said...

Ann -

Love your work! My parents live in Akron, PA, and my dad was Executive Secretary of the MCC Peace Section (US) for about 12 years. My siblings have carried on the Anabaptist "family business" and there are plenty of progeny, so the Stoner name and dedication to peace, social justice, and low-budget Christmases should go on for some time to come.

Ironically, tho' I'm up in the Boston area, I seem to be in a sort of Mennonite diaspora, as a number of other Menno kids I went to school with are living up here, too. Maybe we should all carpool south for Thanksgiving ;)

Keep up the great work!


January 28, 2010 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger L A Neumann said...

Fantastic to hear from you Kay! And your last name says a lot; I grew up with a gazillion Stoners. It's like Herr and Zook and Mylin and Lefever and Harnish and Hess, ubiquitous in Pennsylvania.

The MCC does fantastic work and your mention of them makes me think of all the Mennonites around the world working to bring social justice to the poor. Without the typical patronizing and "food for prayer" that other missionizing organizations enforce.

If you ever swing through New York on your way back to Akron, let me know. And let's keep in touch!

Very best, Ann

January 29, 2010 at 5:18 AM  

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