Perry Bush. Two Kingdoms, Two Loyalties: Mennonite Pacifism in Modern America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1998. Pp. 362. $48.
This is a mature work, even if it began as the author’s Ph.D. dissertation. Indeed it is a major addition to twentieth-century pacifist history; and in twentieth-century Mennonite history it will stand with and in some ways surpass such works as Leo Driedger and Donald B. Kraybill’s Mennonite Peacemaking (1994), Grant M. Stoltzfus and Albert M. Keim’s The Politics of Conscience: The Historic Peace Churches and America at War, 1917-1955 (1988), and Paul Toews’s Mennonites in American Society, 1930-1970: Modernity and the Persistence of Religious Community (1996). Those books are outstanding, yet Bush’s analysis is more nuanced, and less forced into typologies, than is Driedger and Kraybill’s; it does more to set draft history into larger national context than did Stoltzfus and Keim; and it tells some stories, for instance Mennonites and the civil rights movement, more completely than did Toews.
?Modern America? in the subtitle turns out to mean the United States from World War I to the 1990s. The word ?Mennonite? is more problematic. Bush limited his study almost entirely to ethos and peace thought and practice in the two largest Mennonite branches, the ?old? or ?MC? and the General Conference (GC) churches. Seldom did he draw material from the smaller Mennonite and Amish bodies. Even the sizable Mennonite Brethren have only one index entry, and there is none for smaller fellowships such as the ?Defenseless? or Evangelical Mennonites, the Mennonite Brethren in Christ or the Beachy Amish. Bush did frequently refer to the Mennonite Central Committee. And for the ground he covered, his writing is eminently readable. The material he chose he handled skillfully, weaving it into a fine synthesis.
The main title of the book poses two dichotomies, one more abstract and theological and the other more practical and sociological. Bush used both extensively. He made so much use of the more theological one, ?Two Kingdoms,? that indirectly he demonstrated that the idea still lives, however much some Mennonite thinkers at the turn of the twenty-first century might want to kill it. Yet he wrote even more about practical application, the ?Two Loyalties.? After all, Perry Bush is a social historian more than a theologian.
A third major dichotomy running through the book is the same as the central paradigm of Driedger and Kraybill: quietism and apoliticism versus bold pacifist witness and activism. Clearly Bush’s sympathies lie with Mennonites? trend toward activism; indeed, consciously or unconsciously he seemed to use late-twentieth-century activism as the norm against which to measure other times and other styles. Nevertheless, this book is not a tract. Bush is a fine historian who appreciates subtleties in the evidence and has treated Mennonite peace thinkers of other eras and other temperaments fairly. Like most scholars he may have had some difficulty empathizing with those Mennonite conservatives who have either espoused the most radically apolitical version of two-kingdom or else combined conservative theology with nationalism and other right-wing American agendas (or claimed to do the former while doing quite a bit of the latter). But even in the case of conservatives his treatment is at least fair. And he was especially perceptive and empathetic in his discussion of leading peace thinkers at midcentury who, on questions of social and political activism, represented a centrist Mennonite position with broad support in the churches. One such midcentury centrist was Guy F. Hershberger, and since I am writing Hershberger’s biography I naturally watched closely for Bush’s treatment of him and persons of his circle. Perhaps more than any other Mennonite in the scope of Bush’s study, Hershberger both led and reflected that broad, centrist, midcentury Mennonite consensus. He and those for whom he spoke sought to be thoroughly biblical. He also worked hard to help Mennonites broaden the social applications of the Gospel; yet he willingly accepted what he considered to be biblical limits on sociopolitical involvement.
Despite Bush’s own latter-twentieth-century preference for greater involvement, his analysis of Hershberger’s positions is both fair and well nuanced. Instead of dismissing those positions as ?withdrawal,? Bush placed Hershberger in the historic Mennonite stream that was moving toward bolder expressions of pacifism and witness to the state. Time and again (e.g., 68, 201) he pointed out that the seeds of the more activist approach were present in Hershberger’s 1944 classic, War, Peace, and Nonresistance’and indeed even before that in, for instance, a 1935 address by Hershberger’s colleague and mentor Harold S. Bender (42). Bush also covered the Mennonite Community movement of the 1940s and 1950s and appreciated the close relationship between Hershberger’s ideas of community and his understanding of nonresistance. Indeed Bush understood and covered Hershberger’s thought so well and presented it so perceptively and accurately that as I read I almost began to doubt that a biography is really necessary. The same kind of nuance and fairness appears also regarding other models that have drawn much criticism’for instance Civilian Public Service, the World War II plan for conscientious objectors by which the historic peace churches cooperated closely with a wartime government. And surely Bush offers the best treatment available of the system that followed C.P.S., the ?I-W? program.
All of that is not to say that the book gets everything exactly right. The Johns Hopkins editors produced an admirable volume, yet allowed a few too many minor flaws to slip through. Sometimes they overlooked cases where a word got lost in the cut-and-paste of revising, as for instance on page 202: ?then went on argue for an enhanced testimony.? On page 113 we read ?it is difficult to underestimate? when surely the logic called for ?difficult to overestimate’; on page 235 the word refigured probably should be reconfigured; and however conservative Harold S. Bender’s theology may have been, is a rhetorical flourish by Bender really evidence of such conservatism (40-41)? Meanwhile, although the book’s index is generally ample and good, it would offer readers more help if it had cross-references, which it lacks.
More substantively, a reflective reader will recognize issues that Bush might have addressed but did not, at least not completely. For instance, in his generally excellent treatment of the I-W system Bush quite properly offered a rather strong indictment of the program and reported church leaders? despair at the shallowness of some I-W people’s convictions. He might have gone on to ask whether the historic peace churches had reacted too much against perceived weaknesses and injustices in the C.P.S. system. Had they, therefore, gone along too easily with lawmakers? revisions? Did Mennonite leaders work too much from the idea that young people should develop convictions individually rather than depend on convictions held corporately, within community? If so, had that expectation led Mennonites to acquiesce too easily in a system that uprooted vulnerable late-adolescents from the very communities that should have been available to help them mature in their own inner, personal convictions?
Even in the case of a central concept such as two-kingdom theory, some thoughtful readers might ask for more. Early in the book, on page 6, Bush observed that two-kingdom thought has varied among different Christian traditions. He might well have continued with an explicit analysis to show that Mennonites themselves have entertained various versions of two-kingdom theology’and that not all their versions should have to suffer from the criticisms that activists have leveled against the most politically limiting ones. Implicitly, Bush offers ample evidence for such analysis. In his first few pages he used a starkly apolitical version set forth in 1944 by John R. Mumaw of Eastern Mennonite School and seemed to imply that this version was both the standard for Mennonites and the definitive version for the book’s purposes. Later, however, he alluded to various other Mennonite versions that allowed for prophetic testimony to the state and much more political activism. For instance, he summarized an emphatically activist but still two-kingdom paper that General Conference peace leader Elmer Neufeld delivered in 1957 (198-199). Rather than leaving the point so implicit, Bush might have developed an explicit discussion of how variegated and flexible Mennonite two-kingdom doctrine has been, and of how history shows that it can and does support activism if its proponents construe it that way.
Enough of such comments. Bush deserves high credit for his book just as it stands. Everyone inquiring about North American Mennonites? twentieth-century pacifism must read it carefully. It is a major contribution not only to twentieth-century Mennonite history but also to the history of religious pacifism.
Goshen College THERON F. SCHLABACH
MennoFolk: Mennonite & Amish Folk Traditions. By Ervin Beck. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2004. (Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History, vol. 43). Pp. 231. $15.99, U.S.; $22.49, Can. (pb). $19.99, U.S.; $27.99, Can. (hb).
Ervin Beck’s volume of collected essays on Mennonite and Amish folk traditions, MennoFolk, is a valuable addition to the study of the vibrant and expressive cultural life of groups in the United States sharing a European Anabaptist background. In writing this book, Beck, a retired English professor at Goshen College, draws upon his personal knowledge, astute intuition and ethnographic research into his own heritage as both a scholar of traditional culture and a Mennonite. The predominance of Beck’s research was done in communities of Mennonites stemming from Swiss-German origin, though there are also some examples drawn from Amish culture and a number from that of the Hutterites.
The essays in MennoFolk, written over the course of twenty years, represent a wide range of topics, including discussions of oral and narrative traditions, research on material culture and an analysis of the celebration of Mennonite identity through what Beck calls ?the relief sale festival.? For example, there are essays on the telling of Mennonite versions of the Reggie Jackson urban legend; research on glass painting and the keeping of family records among the Old Order Amish; an illuminating examination of inter-Mennonite ethnic slurs; and a fascinating look at the Civilian Public Service protest songs sung by Mennonite conscientious objectors during World War II.
Few in-depth studies focusing on the folk culture of Mennonite groups in the United States have been undertaken, though there are an array of articles and books that touch on the topic. MennoFolk is not intended to provide an exhaustive survey of the traditions, customs, celebrations and narrative expression of American Mennonite cultural life. As Beck rightly notes, such a study would ?be impossibly large and too ambitious for any one person to attempt? (20). Still, this volume offers an excellent beginning for an exploration of the myriad ways in which those of an Anabaptist tradition have made sense of their lives through the folk cultural expressions of their communities. Beck includes a fine bibliography of suggested readings relating to Mennonite folklore studies.
As Beck points out in his preface, MennoFolk ?assumes and attempts to show that Mennonites constitute a distinctive folk group? (19). By this, he does not intend to suggest that there is uniformity across Mennonite culture. Rather, he contends that there are common and distinctive threads and patterns stemming from the Anabaptist ethnic and religious heritage reflected in the many expressive folk traditions of Mennonites, Hutterites and the Amish. His research also points to an abundance of ethnic markers indicating that ?members of Mennonite-Anabaptist groups see themselves, more or less, as belonging to one single family of believers? (51).
Folk culture is understood to be the traditional knowledge, literature, art and practice communicated by people within close-knit groups of various kinds. The transmission of folk culture is generally done by word of mouth, or by observation and imitation. Folk cultural patterns are thereby generated and formed within the context of a group or community where members share a sense of identity and develop common ways of expression. For example, Amish quilts may have distinctive characteristics (colors, patterns, etc.) that mark them as being from a specific branch or geographic locality of the Amish, though they are neither identical one with another, nor completely without similarity to quilts from other traditions.
Folklorists, Beck notes, find relevance in the study and analysis of what others may regard as insignificant or trivial cultural patterns, but which can provide illuminating ways to examine the values and beliefs that are at the core of Mennonite ways of life. While much has been written about the purely religious and social history of the Mennonites, little has been written about their rich body of folk cultural expression. As Beck demonstrates so aptly in MennoFolk, by studying folk culture, researchers can examine structures of meaning and communication within individual communities, trends of borrowing from non-Mennonite cultures and other significant patterns that can be used to complement more standard historical analyses of Mennonite culture and society.
Mennonite culture may present somewhat of a conundrum for students of ethnography and folklore in that the common description or folk exegesis of what is traditionally valued by Mennonites is often described exclusively as being an expression of religion. In other words, some Mennonites may downplay or even deny the folk cultural aspects of their community and family lives by focusing on the more formal aspects of their heritage. In Beck’s article entitled ?Stories and Functions,? he cites a Beachy Amish minister who, when asked ?if he told any stories that don’t come from his own experience or the Bible,? exclaimed, ?I hope not. I hope I’d never do something like that? (25). Beck goes on to say that, within a few minutes, the minister told two other stories that disproved his prior declaration. Although there may be an age-old tradition of claiming to nurture ?a tradition of truthful speech? (51) among Anabaptists groups, the lively existence of jokes, legends and storytelling not necessarily based in reality or the Bible belies such an ironclad assertion and is worthy of study.
Furthermore, in spite of the fact that many of the original Swiss Anabaptists at the time of the Reformation were distrustful of ritual and the liturgical calendar in the life of the church, suspicious of the use of symbols or pictorial images to define Christian life, and reluctant to accept music in church services, Mennonites of all kinds have developed, over the years, a rich and expressive cultural life. Their narratives, their music, their celebrations, their foodways, their material culture and much more are vibrant and full of meaning, serving to reinforce and mark common identities in various ways.
Beck’s excellent essay on ?The Relief Sale Festival? is a lucid analysis of the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale held each year in September at the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, Indiana. He argues that the relief sale is ?an unself-conscious expressive performance by Mennonites of their ethnic identity.? He goes on to say that ?the relief sale, as festival, strengthens the Michiana Mennonite community as much as it relieves suffering in the wider world? (188). Beck takes his analysis of Mennonite ethnic identity one step further in the only essay in this volume not published previously, entitled ?Inter-Mennonite Ethnic Slurs.? Here, he focuses on the use of ethnic slurs and jokes used by Mennonites to describe their own and other Anabaptist groups, which serve to reinforce group solidarity. Such thoughtful essays delving into Mennonite identity as exemplified through folk cultural expression make MennoFolk a valuable contribution to Mennonite studies.
If there is a problem with MennoFolk, it is that there is not enough of it. The book brings up a myriad of directions for further research. Folklorists, historians and interested parties, whether Mennonite or not, will step away from MennoFolk with a new understanding of the value of examining Mennonite folk culture. This engaging and well-informed volume will certainly enhance existing research done on Mennonite life and culture and, one hopes, will stimulate future research.
American Folklife Center, Library of Congress CATHERINE HIEBERT KERST
This Teaching I Present: Fraktur from the Skippack and Salford Mennonite Meetinghouse Schools, 1747?1836. By Mary Jane Lederach Hershey. Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books. 2003. (Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History, vol. 41). Pp 243. $29.95.
Mary Jane Lederach Hershey’s This Teaching I Present: Fraktur from the Skippack and Salford Mennonite Meetinghouse Schools, 1747-1836, Volume 41 of Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History, is a masterwork of research, writing and fraktur examples. Written by someone intimately familiar with regional Mennonite culture, the book provides a sense of the time and setting in which the artwork presented in the volume was created.
Hershey sets the stage with maps and a short explanation of the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement in Europe. This context, then, introduces the reader to the inhabitants of the Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, region who produced the fraktur artwork under consideration. The book provides a sense of the state of Mennonite affairs before, during and after the American Revolution, which affected the schools, school attendance and production of fraktur within the two townships. Hershey compares the success of Mennonite schools in Skippack and Salford to that of other area schools, and also explains the construction and floor plans of typical schoolhouses during the early American period. The text gives special emphasis to the schoolmaster Christopher Dock and his influence on the fraktur tradition passed on through the ninety-year period (including a lull during and immediately after the Revolution when the schools did not operate). Hershey shows how even after Dock’s death, teachers continued to employ his design and text preferences and followed his published Schul Ordnung as a guide in teaching practices. Citing early local fraktur examples, Hershey is able to come very close to affirming Donald A. Shelley’s theory, put forward in the 1950s, that fraktur produced in America had its roots in Europe. The book also details the preparation and use of quills, as well as the composition and production of ink and ink color.
After a discussion of the most common motifs (tulips and birds) used in this particular fraktur tradition, and how decorative elements sometimes, but not always, illustrated text, the reader is treated to a collection of 129 magnificent color plates. The examples are some of the finest produced. Even though they represent works from Mennonite schools in only two townships, the fraktur work from the area was superlative, with pieces by some of the best artists represented here. While some of the examples had been published previously, many have been discovered only recently, and most appear in reproduction for the first time here. Indeed, many of the new works were uncovered by Hershey herself during the course of her twenty-five years of research. Thanks to her diligence, they are now documented and many will be preserved in the collection of the Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania, in Harleysville, Pennsylvania.
Through her research, Hershey was able to attribute examples to specific schoolmasters, and in some case discovered new artists. She traces the continuity of certain design elements through a generational succession of artists. Not only does she reveal interesting biographical information about the artists, but also about the recipients of the fraktur. This informative and important material is included in two indexes.
All of the frakturs? texts, and English translations of texts that are in German, are available in another section of the book. Additionally, there is a comprehensive list of definitions, a glossary of fraktur-related terminology, a chronological list of dated fraktur from Skippack and Salford, and a fine bibliography. It is important to note that Hershey has also made available to scholars the materials that she collected during the process of researching the book, but which could not be included in the book, by depositing her papers at the library of the Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania.
This Teaching is, indeed, an important teaching. Anyone who opens the book will learn about these two Mennonite communities that provided a cradle in which some of the most beautiful examples of this early American artwork were nurtured over the course of three generations. No doubt, readers will marvel at the variety of color and design. They will learn about new artists, find additional information about others and be inspired by age-old texts. This book is a gift from Mary Jane Lederach Hershey from which we may all learn. It is a labor of love that has taken many years and has blossomed into a beautiful, informative and well-organized work.
Schwenkfelder Library, Pennsburg, Pa. DENNIS K. MOYER
Amish Crib Quilts from the Midwest: The Sara Miller Collection. By Janneken Smucker, Patricia Cox Crews and Linda Welters. Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books. 2003. 108 pp. $19.95 pb.
Some readers will ask: ?Do we need yet another Amish quilt book’? The answer is ?Yes.? We need this one because, in addition to depicting ninety stunning Amish quilts, it is the only book devoted to crib quilts and it advances our understanding of Amish quilts in general.
The book was produced in cooperation with the International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which owns the ninety crib quilts collected by Sara Miller, an Amish woman from Kalona, Iowa. Robert and Ardith James, who helped create the Quilt Study Center, which now houses over 1250 quilts, purchased the quilts from Miller as a gift for the center.
The quilts are reproduced in the context of essays by Patricia Cox Crews, director of the Quilt Study Center; Janneken Smucker, a Mennonite who studied the crib quilts for a master’s degree from the university; and Linda Welters, a professor of textiles at the University of Rhode Island.
The Miller collection is the largest known collection of Amish crib quilts, which are rare, perhaps because crib quilts tended to become worn out in use, unlike full-sized quilts, which were often saved and not used because they were presentation pieces for coming of age or wedding gifts.
One reason for the unusual appeal of crib quilts is that their small size often led to creative use of the patterns found in full-sized quilts. For instance, in Plate 29 the Pine Tree quilt patch, normally found in multiple small patches in a large quilt, is expanded in size to create a crib quilt with a single ?finite? Pine Tree design. Similar unusual uses of enlarged or compressed conventional designs are found in the Railroad Crossing (Pl. 15), Star (Pl. 35) One-Patch (Pl. 37) and many other quilts (Pl. 53, 57, 60, 65, 67, 75, 79).
Janneken Smucker’s essay considers the quilts in the context of Midwestern Amish culture. She uses a Railroad Crossing quilt (Pl. 15) as an emblem for the culture-crossing between Amish quilters and their ?English? neighbors, whereby Amish women borrowed quilting patterns from mainstream American culture, albeit with cultural lag in time and with stunning adaptation according to Amish tastes and cultural restrictions.
Smucker accepts the notion’as stated in Eve Granick’s The Amish Quilt (Good Books, 1989) and elsewhere’that the more open-minded Amish quilters in the Midwest interacted more with their non-Amish neighbors than did Amish quilters in Pennsylvania, which explains the larger repertoire of designs in Midwestern Amish quilts as compared with Lancaster County Amish quilts. Although that is an appealing explanation, it needs to be substantiated by historians of Amish culture.
Smucker lists these contrasting elements in Pennsylvania as opposed to Midwestern Amish quilts (respectively): center medallion vs. repeating block designs, square vs. rectangular shapes, corner blocks vs. inner borders, deep vs. more varied colors (including the use of black), and wool vs. cotton cloth preferences.
However, her interpretation of the quilts in the context of Midwestern Amish culture is hampered by the fact that so little is known about the provenance of the quilts. The ?picker? who sold them to Sara Miller gave her little information about where he obtained the quilts, because he feared that Sara and others would return to his sources and buy additional quilts that he also had his eye on. The result is that the quilts can be attributed to certain communities from Ohio to Kansas mainly through what Eve Granick says in The Amish Quilt about quilting preferences in those communities. The names of only ten of the quiltmakers are known. Most dates are speculative.
The essay by Linda Welters, however, studies the quilts as quilts, using an innovative mathematical analysis of symmetry that has been productive in the study of crystals as well as Persian rugs, Filipino textiles, Lithuanian weaving and Thai textile patterns. Her fascinating, highly disciplined method is too complicated to be explained here, but she uses analysis of symmetry in nonrepresentational art to understand it ?as a metaphor for a culture’s orientation to its world? (66).
In the ?tightly ordered? crib quilts, especially ?the finite designs and the two dimensional block patterns [that] focus inward toward a single center, or toward multiple, repeated centers? (97), she finds a visual equivalent, or expression, of the Amish Ordnung, or rules, that support the values of obedience, humility, simplicity and self-surrender. Since she finds a far greater use of varied symmetries in quilting/stitching designs, compared with fewer different symmetries in patch designs, Welters concludes that Amish quilters expressed their creativity primarily in the stitching designs, rather than in patchwork and color choices. She also suggests that the creativity of Amish women had to be contained, which explains why they chose creativity in stitchery, since its effect was so subtle that it could be best perceived only by looking at the back side of the quilt.
Welters’s conclusions provoke some discussion, however. Her strict interest in symmetry rules out of consideration twenty-three percent of the quilts that lack symmetry in the use of color. Yet these are the most spectacular quilt designs in the book, as she herself admits in saying that absolute color symmetry is rather boring because it is ?so easily perceived that the eye would move on to something else? (97) and in emphasizing that ?the symmetry-breaking caused by slight irregularities in patch size, color, and placement contributes to the exceptional visual appeal of Amish quilts? (103).
Also, in concluding that Amish women’s creativity lies in stitching designs rather than in their use of color, she minimizes Amish women’s artistic use of color by merely noting that they had to use the cloth patches available to them, rather than giving them credit for their creative placement of those patches of varying colors.
Her commitment to studying symmetry leads her to assume that creativity in folk art lies in using varied symmetries, rather than in violating symmetries. She tends to stress the aspect of tradition in folk art rather than the innovation that is also always present. Hence she finds that Amish quilting conforms to Ordnung rather than (also) tests its limits. Her mathematical approach is creative and productive but illustrates once again that art does not yield all of its secrets to numbers.
Amish Crib Quilts from the Midwest is the seventh book on Amish (and Mennonite) quilts that Good Books of Intercourse, Pennsylvania, has published since 1981. The books have grown increasingly brilliant in their color reproduction and sophisticated in their analysis. The field of Mennonite studies is indebted to Phyllis and Merle Good, publishers, for their promotion of interest in Mennonite and Amish material culture, in light of its general neglect by Mennonite scholars.
Goshen, Indiana ERVIN BECK
To the Latest Posterity: Pennsylvania-German Family Registers in the Fraktur Tradition. By Corinne and Russell Earnest. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press. 2004. Pp. 153. $45.
?Pennsylvania-German family registers are charming, at times illegible, and sometimes confusing, but the important point is that we have a source of visual culture and specialized, grassroots literature that contributes building blocks toward an American identity.? With these words Corinne and Russell Earnest summarize their survey of Pennsylvania-German family registers, a study that represents years of research and reflective interpretation about this previously undocumented piece of Pennsylvania German cultural history. The book is the fourth annual volume in The Pennsylvania German Society’s distinguished series on Pennsylvania German culture and history.
This comprehensive study explores the world of printed family registers beginning with roots in Europe where information was almost solely limited to baptismal and other records of the state church, and extending through several centuries in Pennsylvania to the present day Amish community in which family registers continue to be designed.
The Earnests discuss family registers as being a form of the Pennsylvania-German fraktur tradition (Ch. 2); they compare Pennsylvania records with New England family registers (Ch. 3); and they discuss briefly the texts found on family records (Ch. 4). Chapter 5 contains the meat of this study, as the Earnests focus on six forms of Pennsylvania-German family registers. They identify these as (1) entirely printed broadside-type family registers; (2) freehand broadside-type family registers; (3) preprinted broadside-type family registers with added, handwritten infill; (4) preprinted family registers bound into Bibles and infilled by hand; (5) freehand family registers recorded inside the covers or on the flyleaves of Bibles and other books; and (6) handwritten family registers in book form.
My interest in fraktur has been limited to hand-drawn and -lettered Vorschriften, bookplates, rewards and teaching pieces created by schoolmasters in Mennonite meetinghouse schools. During this research, I occasionally found family records penned by schoolmasters and other community scribes. But I neglected to give serious consideration to family registers. This publication fills a void as it reveals the widespread creation and impact of family registers, beginning in the mid-eighteenth century and continuing through the entire nineteenth century, and even into the twentieth.
Several themes persist throughout the book. One concerns the reasons why a family register became an important part of a Pennsylvania German family’s heritage to pass on to subsequent generations. In Europe records were kept by the church, and only the nobility and the wealthy had the status and funds to have personal family trees created for their family members. However, family registers in Pennsylvania were made for common families, and were almost all created for rural families, not city dwellers. Here there was no state church and no class or economic status based on wealth and prestige. Settlers felt free to document and preserve their family records. In Pennsylvania, ordinary people had the freedom to record their family history without fear that these records could be used to their detriment.
The family documents also helped to distance Pennsylvania Germans from their past. On these records seldom was there a reference to the European roots of the family. The Earnests? research provides evidence that the Pennsylvania German settlers had broken their ties with Europe and that they did not feel it important for their children to know about their European connection. This country had become their home and it was almost a starting over for a family system. There was no looking back to their roots. It was a new beginning, a new family.
Many of the registers contain names of only two or three generations: the parents who ordered the register, their children, and sometimes their children’s spouses and their grandchildren. Occasionally the names of the parents of the couple who ordered the register are included.
Another theme interwoven throughout the book is the perception that Mennonites led the way in creating family registers. Mennonites and members of other small sects seemed to favor family registers earlier than other Pennsylvania Germans. The Anabaptists who settled in Pennsylvania came with the memory of life under an oppressive and ruthless government. In those situations it was best not to have written records of family, but in this country they felt secure enough to record for posterity their family information.
The volume contains an exceptional array of thirty-seven color plates, illustrating the six forms of Pennsylvania-German family registers. Also included are twenty-nine black and white illustrations. The information, details and narratives under the color plates and illustrations are unusually instructive and engrossing. A useful appendix is ?Appendix A: Fraktur Artists and Scriveners Who Drew and/or Infilled Family Registers.? This appendix contains the names of the artists with the approximate dates each worked and the geographic location where each artist lettered family registers. Another particularly helpful appendix contains a comprehensive glossary of German terms found on the registers, with English translations.
As I perused the book, I wished for translations and transcriptions for each of the illustrated examples of family registers. This addition would have enhanced the book’s usefulness for future research and study.
This publication is an important and well-researched addition to Pennsylvania German studies. Corrine and Russell Earnest must be commended for their extensive examination of Pennsylvania-German family records, an endeavor that spanned three decades. The publication of this instructive and colorful volume, the first comprehensive documentation of this previously unappreciated Pennsylvania-German family register tradition, splendidly culminates their years of dedicated research.
Mennonite Heritage Center, Harleysville, Pa. MARY JANE LEDERACH HERSHEY
The Way of Wisdom in Pastoral Counseling. By Daniel S. Schipani. Elkhart, Ind.: Institute of Mennonite Studies. 2003. Pp. 120. $12.
The main thesis of this book is a challenge to the clinical pastoral paradigm that has been in place for more than fifty years. Daniel Schipani calls pastoral counseling away from a focus on pathology and back to being centered on biblical wisdom. In reclaiming ?wisdom in the light of God? as the guiding principle for pastoral counseling, Schipani suggests that five goals or components be present. This principle will help people live wholesome and faithful lives, encourage a ministry of guidance and discernment by challenging people to practice good judgment, and focus on healing broken relationships. Additionally, pastoral counselors will participate in various forms of supportive and healing ministry and serve all God’s people, including the poor and marginalized.
According to Schipani, ?Pastoral counseling that operates in the framework of wisdom in the light of God is therefore (a) viewed, practiced, and taught pastorally; (b) contextualized ecclesiologically; (c) centered on Jesus Christ as the wisdom of God; (d) grounded in Scripture; (e) viewed, practiced, and taught as a unique form of the re-creative process guided by the Spirit; and (f) oriented toward the reign of God? (68).
Schipani first makes his point by reflecting on the practice of pastoral counseling, both historically and theologically. He then reclaims wisdom as the heart and soul of pastoral theology and practice, by looking at the reign of God and wisdom in the biblical tradition. He then goes on to reframe and reenvision pastoral counseling, using ?wisdom in the light of God? as the organizing metaphor and center point of both theory and practice.
Schipani illustrates how the way of wisdom provides both a structure and context for pastoral work, by sharing five cases from his own practice. Most of these cases are cross-cultural and family oriented, which strengthens his point about wisdom being the central focus of both process and purpose in pastoral counseling. His ability to reflect on what is happening adds depth to his argument that our work needs to grow out of our theology and biblical wisdom, rather than emanate from psychological or medical diagnoses and practices.
Schipani also moves away from the individual and professional paradigms to a more churchly and community-centered approach. This fits his Anabaptist theology, but it is not as clearly illustrated by the biblical and historical materials as it could have been. There is no mention, for example, of the Matthew 18 conflict resolution model, or of the James model of healing prayer of the community or even of the Quaker meeting for clearness, all of which have rich connotations for his way of wisdom in pastoral counseling.
The structure and outline of the book stay close to the traditional frameworks of theology: an adequate view of reality and being (metaphysics, ontology), an understanding of the nature of knowing and truth (epistemology), and a normative vision of the good life (personal and social ethics). However, the stories and case studies, which compose nearly fifty percent of the book, move much more into the praxis and affective realms. These dimensions are clearly and squarely kept within the confines of the thesis, and are skillfully written to illustrate the major points of Schipani’s argument. It is rare to see case studies that so aptly explicate the point an author or professor is trying to make, so this is another way in which Schipani assists the professor or supervisor in training pastoral students.
In terms of counseling theory, Schipani seems to blend Rogerian, existential, cognitive and family systems approaches into a seamless whole. He does not, however, take time to describe or explain where he positions himself psychologically, as he does so thoroughly in the theological and biblical realms. Perhaps this is an area in which he is less experienced, or it may be a deliberate choice in order not to veer away from his central thesis. The simplicity and elegance of his argument keeps the focus clear and prominent, so no reader can miss the points he is trying to make.
The book is also rich in its implications for how church discipline and pastoral care and counseling intersect and complement each other. Although this is not very explicitly described, Schipani makes a valuable point that ?reality includes evil, non being, and new being, by God’s grace and power? (53, fn. 30). He goes on to say that fostering guidance, discernment, reconciliation, support, liberation and healing requires attending to all of these dimensions. ?Pastoral counseling,? he writes, ?aims at awakening, nurturing, and developing people’s moral and spiritual intelligence, i.e., living wisely’or how to live well’in the face of life’s challenges and struggles? (53, fn. 30).
The writing clearly indicates that the author is well acquainted with the biblical materials on wisdom in both Old and New Testaments. It could be helpful to have an appendix listing of relevant biblical texts, or some additional material in the text for readers who wish to pursue this aspect in greater detail.
One would also wish for more expansion and discussion of how his thesis and approach differs from the Biblical Counseling models of Jay Adams, William Backus, Larry Crabb and the myriads of other members of the American Association of Christian Counselors. This is a major group that could be influenced by his clarion call. Schipani makes it clear that his model is not a ?biblical? approach to counseling (82-83), but stops short of comparing and contrasting where and how he differs from the theology and approaches that are so widely espoused and evangelically promoted in Christian circles. How does one move from ?godly advice, authoritarian, legalistic-moralistic, and paternalistic instruction; or mere words of wisdom? to ?the very reality of divine presence, grace, and power’? (83). Schipani may counter that Chapter 4 is precisely that; he reenvisions pastoral counselors as ?partners in the caring, sustaining, liberating, and healing work that is the business of the Spirit as they also walk alongside others? (97). Since he does such a good job of explicating his thesis, one wishes for the same attention to be given to describing how the process of counseling could move beyond that which is centered in a relationship or in a truth-telling, biblical answer modality. It would seem that Schipani might be nicely positioned to address groups like the American Association of Christian Counselors about this ?distinctive way of walking with others? that utilizes wisdom and themes of love, grace, covenant and blessing, rather than truth and confrontation.
It is also interesting that so little of the current literature on spirituality and therapy is mentioned. Although it often takes a different focal point, it is a parallel movement away from medical diagnostic categories to a more holistic, ethical, moral and spiritual approach in therapy and counseling. The growing interest in and inclusion of Buddhist practices and other Eastern and mystical forms of wisdom in current psychotherapy practice would be another contrast to the medical and psychological model that Schipani is critiquing. It would be interesting to see how that illuminates what he proposes.
The Way of Wisdom in Pastoral Counseling is unique in its ability to hold both theory and praxis in tension. This is vintage Schipani, and his many years of practice and previous publications in the fields of Christian education, practical theology and missiology provide a wonderful foundation for this current work. He quotes widely and liberally from many of the major authors in the field, particularly in the ample footnotes. These are a treasure trove of resources and ideas for any discerning reader who teaches or supervises in the field. This is both an appropriate text for training purposes, and a good read for any pastor, chaplain or therapist working in the church or community. It provides a much-needed corrective lens and a renewed sense of direction to pastoral theologians and practitioners of pastoral care and counseling.
Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary DELORES HISTAND FRIESEN
Teaching Peace: Nonviolence and the Liberal Arts. Edited by J. Denny Weaver and Gerald Biesecker-Mast. Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. 2003. Pp. 287. $26.95.
Teaching Peace is something rare in academia’a book about a single theo-philosophical topic, nonviolence, covered by many of the broad fields in the liberal arts tradition. Teaching Peace goes beyond the typical conversations about nonviolence that are usually bound to peace studies, political science, religion, philosophy, ethics and history. Clearly rooted in an Anabaptist understanding of a nonviolent Jesus, the book reinforces the theo-philosophical perspective that nonviolence is more than a political tactic; it is a way of life. Teaching Peace makes clear that the faculty contributors, drawn primarily from Bluffton College, believe peace is a core value to the mission of that institution.
Biesecker-Mast anchors the book in postmodern arguments about assumptions and privileges. The book holds that all arguments are based on assumptions that are informed by a cultural position. Postcolonialists have argued that political domination systems have led to victimized research subjects and a limited series of questions, or questions legitimated by political privilege. Biesecker-Mast thus states, ?This book seeks to extend such observations that document the violence of present techniques of knowledge toward the reconstruction of alternative nonviolence methods of learning and teaching? (4). Given this postmodern orientation, many of the book’s chapters start with a critical examination, or a deconstruction, of the tradition that it represents.
Following the introduction by Biesecker-Mast is ?Defining Violence and Nonviolence,? a chapter by Glenn Stassen and Michael Westmoreland-White. The chapter is a stand-alone piece that helps those unfamiliar with theories of violence and nonviolence to orient themselves with some basic definitions. Stassen and Westmoreland-White define violence as ?destruction to a victim by means that overpower the victim’s consent? (18). The authors follow their understanding of violence with a brief history of nonviolence both as a term and as practice. The chapter concludes with an outline of Stassen’s ?just peacemaking theory.? Stassen and Westmoreland-White’s chapter is the best in the book, providing a much-needed anchor for those new to the study of violence and nonviolence before exposing them to the Anabaptist deconstructionist chapters that follow.
The remainder of the book is divided into seven parts, covering nonviolence in the Bible and theology, history and politics, the humanities, the arts, the social sciences, the sciences and the professions. Starting with social constructionist and postmodernist assumptions, every chapter, with the exception of Chapter 23, ?The Peaceable Educator,? deconstructs the classically held assumptions and presuppositions of the fields it represents, demonstrating the violence inherent in most fields of study. The authors give examples of how the violent assumptions and presuppositions of a field can be reconstructed in nonviolent ways.
Given the interdisciplinary structure of many peace studies programs, the connection to the fields of Bible and theology, history and politics, humanities, arts and social sciences are not unusual. However, studying nonviolence in the hard sciences and the professional fields is something new to many undergraduate and graduate institutions that house peace studies programs and a wonderful addition to the larger conversation.
Several authors (Horn Montel, Nester and Lehman) in the last two sections of the book suggest a simple, yet effective, way in which the sciences and the professional fields can adopt a nonviolent framework. Following the argument put forth by Biesecker-Mast in the introduction’that knowledge is based on cultural assumptions and informed by a cultural position’the authors argue for a change in orientation. Instead of using violent status quo examples, illustrations and frameworks to explain everyday phenomena, the authors argue for choosing less aggressive, positive, nonviolent and even justice-seeking alternatives.
An example of how nonviolence can be applied to those fields unaccustomed to addressing the topic can be found in Darryl Nester’s chapter, ?Mathematics and Nonviolence.? Many people have been exposed to mathematic problems that use the projectile motion of a bullet or missile as normal occurrences. Nester suggests a reorienting of projectile motion problems by using a baseball or pieces of chalk in place of a bullet or missile. Another example given by Nester is the ?prisoners paradox,? which involves a judge who sentences a prisoner to die. He suggests that the prisoners paradox can be told, instead, with students sitting in the principal’s office awaiting a decision on detention or suspension. Nester contends that not only could the prisoners? dilemma be changed, but if one wants to address issues such as the death penalty in a justice-seeking nonviolent manner one could expose students to problems of racial inequality in the justice system by using mathematical measurements.
As one might expect, a book that covers so many different fields of study in just 287 pages may fall short of many readers? expectations, especially given the grand title. In many of the chapters there is room to offer only a sliver of direction in reconstructing a nonviolent framework. Although the book is creative and a wonderful start, the project creates at least two problems for the reader. First, for those who are involved with academic and professional organizations, the project falls short by missing the opportunity to address many of the ways in which nonviolence and the study of peace are prevalent in those academic and professional organizations. For example, the fields of Bible and theology, history and politics, and the social sciences, to name a few, are hosts to professional academic groups and committees that are solely dedicated to the study of violence and nonviolence, most of which are not even mentioned by the authors or editors.
The second problem the project creates with its brevity is possibly misleading a newcomer to the study of nonviolence and peace by not providing enough information, not only of professional and academic organizations, but also of the massive number of works that could be referenced in a given field. Books on each area of study related to nonviolence and violence have been written, including some by the authors and editors of Teaching Peace, but few references are provided to these texts.
It is unclear how far-reaching the book is intended to be. In reading this book, one can catch glimpses into many academic fields of study. Those who are already teaching at Anabaptist and peace-church-related institutions will find hope in the lessons of the book. They will be able to openly engage their students and colleagues in conversations about the nonviolent ministry of Jesus. However, for those who are a part of mainstream Christian liberal arts institutions there is still the larger challenge of being able to discuss Jesus? ministry in an alternative way. For those at liberal arts institutions with a secular orientation the book will offer at best a modest amount of usable materials.
Teaching Peace offers the opportunity to explore new ways of thinking and being in relation to the study of nonviolence in the liberal arts. Providing an Anabaptist, postmodern orientation, the book highlights the classic assumptions found in the liberal arts traditions. Those reading the text will find academic rigor in some of the authors and the editors, as well as a few chapters that fall short in their expectations and creativity. It is a text that should be engaged by those in the field of peace studies with the hope of offering newer ways to expand further the study of nonviolence. It should also be engaged by those in other liberal arts traditions with the hope of rethinking the assumptions found in their areas of study.
Goshen College DEAN J. JOHNSON
Shepherds, Servants and Prophets: Leadership Among the Russian Mennonites (1880-1960). Edited by Harry Loewen. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press. 2003. Pp. 446. $36.00, U.S.; $42.50, Can.
This substantial book consists of twenty-four biographical sketches by various authors, all seasoned scholars, on Russian Mennonite male leaders in the spiritual, intellectual and cultural spheres. The deft introduction by Harry Loewen briefly describes the historical context of a significant transformation from a more isolated, primarily agricultural, ethno-religious society led by conservative lay ministers to a complex society of higher education, industrial development, religious conflict and vast disparities of wealth. World War I, the Russian revolution, widespread famine, emigration to North America, the Stalinist Terror and World War II were the pivot points of upheaval that virtually destroyed this German-speaking Mennonite commonwealth. These twenty-four lives illustrate the personal and communal impact of these events, whose repercussions are still felt throughout countries in North America, South America and Europe.
The lives of some of these men have been described in more detail in other articles and even books in German and English, such as With Courage to Spare: The Life of B. B. Janz (1877-1964) by John B. Toews. Others have no biographies accessible to the public. Bringing them together here provides a convenient resource for lovers of the biographical genre to learn about Russian Mennonite history in this time period. Those who do not read German will benefit especially from these sketches, some of which present material for the first time in English. Each of these sketches includes a photograph of the subject.
These sketches provide helpful references for further reading. Many of these articles and books are widely available in Mennonite libraries, but other sources, especially some published in Germany, are only available in selected archives and libraries such as Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Canada. An index, even a brief one of themes and names, would have been very helpful for those who want to study topics such as Low German, agricultural implements, Communism, catechism, poetry, pacifism and periodicals.
For the most part the writing style of the various authors is similar, but some contributions’such as the one on Benjamin H. Unruh (401-426), translated from German’suffer from vagueness. This account also has the overblown claim (420) that the two most important figures in the entire history of Russian Mennonites were Johann Cornies and Benjamin H. Unruh. Some cultural leaders who wrote fiction are included, a relevant contribution given the fecund literary production among Russian Mennonites today, but the piece on one such writer, Peter G Epp, does not provide enough biographical information (117-130).
According to family tradition, the mother of Cornelius Krahn, from whom he imbibed his love of learning, could read a book while milking a cow (230). This is a fitting and ironic image for a group of biographies without any major female subjects. The editor recognizes this limitation, and it does restrict the book to a certain arena of human experience’those males accorded the public respect as significant actors in the institutions and intellectual currents of the Mennonite commonwealth.
The emigration in the 1870s of Russian Mennonites to North America does not fall within the stated time period of this book, although a sketch of the 1874 immigrant Cornelius H. Wedel, church historian and theologian in Kansas, is wisely included. The introduction could have mentioned this immigration wave as background for a number of this book’s themes, especially for enlightening readers unfamiliar with this earlier immigration. How were Russian Mennonites in the 1920s able to garner financial support for survival in the Soviet Union or emigration to North America? They had fellow Russian Mennonites’co-believers and relatives in North America. How intense were the efforts of the Russian government in the 1860s and 1870s to assert more of their ?Russification? agenda on the Mennonite educational system? Those remaining in Russia after the 1870s tended to be more open to progressive forms of cultural and religious contact with non-Mennonites.
Various points interested this reviewer. In some instances wealthy Mennonite landowners and industrialists financially supported institutional and personal projects, including paying for the extensive education of individuals both in Russia and in Western Europe. The interplay between the Mennonite Brethren and the Kirchliche (General Conference) Mennonites runs through many of the biographies. For example, we learn that the father of Cornelius Wedel, immigrant to Kansas and primary Kirchliche historian, joined the Mennonite Brethren (435). Heinrich J. Braun, a Mennonite Brethren leader negotiated with the Russian government and the Kirchliche Mennonites on the governmental classification of the Mennonite Brethren as a sect or as a church (29-34). This ongoing discussion brought up severe tensions between the two Mennonite groups. The reader learns about the attempt of some leaders to prove that the Russian Mennonites were of Dutch, not German, origins (52-55). This quest took on an acute poignancy during World War I when the Russian government considered legislation that expropriated property of Germans (not Dutch). Genealogy then took on a desperate flavor of communal and personal dimensions.
The theme of adjustment to a new culture and language by Russian Mennonite refugees emerges in some of these sketches. The lives of Arnold Dyck (69-84) and Gerhard Loewen (279-296) illustrate opposite reactions. Both fled to Manitoba, Canada, but Loewen’s optimistic attitude and love of nature, which he expressed in poetry, helped him function in both English and German. Dyck could never accept the cultural changes in Manitoba and the disappearance of German as the only mode of communication; after immigrating to Manitoba in 1923 and there producing many endearing literary works during three decades, he returned to Germany, disillusioned by the ethnic and religious transformation of Canadian Mennonites.
This fine volume will appeal especially to people who relate to history via the biographical genre. Such a collection of biographies tends to attract insiders, but even those not very familiar with Mennonites in Russia will benefit by learning about some of the major historical themes and events in the lives of these leaders from Russia, Europe and North America.
Akron, Pa. DAVID J. REMPEL SMUCKER
Voices of the Turtledoves: The Sacred World of Ephrata. By Jeff Bach. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press. 2003. Pp. 282. $35.
To present-day tourists in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the picturesque buildings of the Ephrata Cloister create a familiar sight. After a tour of the ?Saron? and ?Peniel? (communal residence and meetinghouse), as well as a stroll through the cemetery, the average visitor walks away with a vague sense of an odd community of Protestant monastics, dominated by a madcap hermit, all served up in a quaint Pennsylvania Dutch setting. For most, this is perhaps enough. But the more reflective might leave, wondering what the Seventh-Day German Baptists at Ephrata were really all about.
Hitherto, if they turned to the scholarly literature on Ephrata, they could have found studies on its material culture, specifically its archeology, architecture, fraktur and music. However, they would have discovered little to elucidate the piety of the Ephrata community. Most modern scholars, perhaps sensing something arcane and mysterious, have either skirted the question or have relied on Julius F. Sachse’s flawed The German Sectarians of Pennsylvania: A Critical and Legendary History of Ephrata Cloister and the Dunkers (1899-1900). Bach’s Voices of the Turtle Doves has finally addressed this deficiency, by unlocking the door into Ephrata’s ?sacred world.?
To do so, Bach depends on the tools of theology or intellectual history, but also calls upon literary theory, gender studies and the sociologies of sect and folk groups, as well as on material culture studies. His emphasis is on ?Ephrata as a community of mystical Christianity, whose unique language for the search for the immediate presence of God influenced choices about how its members organized their lives, their space, and their time? (8).
In an eighteen-page overview, Bach sketches a brief life of Conrad Beissel (1691-1768) and the history of the community he founded. Placing him squarely in the context of eighteenth-century radical Pietism, Bach describes the eclectic mix that influenced Beissel: the Dunkers, Inspirationalists, Labidists, Mennonites, Philadelphians and the Kelpius circle. However, in the first chapter on Beissel’s religious thought, it becomes clear that the Sophia mysticism of Jacob Boehme, as mediated through Johann Georg Gichtel, exercised the most profound effect on Beissel’s thought.
Beissel believed that Adam fell from his original androgynous state when he rejected Sophia, the divine female characteristic, in favor of Eve, a physically ?gender-differentiated? mate. Then in a second fall, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, which ?gave them a false wisdom, resulting in sexual desire.? Jesus Christ, as the only virginal man who also possesses ?heavenly femaleness,? reversed this through his obedient death and faithfulness to Sophia. Believers could participate in Christ’s death by becoming mystically impregnated. Then they could experience rebirth by the Spirit through Sophia ?the eternal mother.?
Communally, this led to a ?priestly, celibate life of penance, prayer and service,? which guided seekers to reject sexual desire (a result of the wrathful male will) in favor of mystical union with Christ/Sophia. Thus Ephrata’s asceticism can be viewed as a corporate attempt to restore the missing female aspect of the soul in anticipation of a final restoration of androgyny.
In Chapter 2, Bach elaborates on these themes, as he discusses two other Ephrata writers, Johannes Hildebrand and Ezechiel Sangmeister. Despite their serious personal difficulties, all three men shared the same ?core mystical elements of Ephrata’s religious thought,? which Bach identifies as ?mystic death, spiritual marriage of the soul with God, and spiritual rebirth through mystic impregnation? (57).
In the remaining chapters, Bach describes how Ephrata’s rituals, architecture, art and use of ?hidden knowledge? connected with its Boehmist theology. For example, trine adult immersion baptism, which they borrowed from the Dunkers, symbolized ?the quenching of sexual desire in water, a betrothal to the divine Sophia, and the watery birth from her femaleness? (75). Ephrata’s buildings incorporated the numerical symbolism of Christian cabbalism. The spatial arrangement of the buildings also revealed a dichotomy between the hermits who preferred the path of solitude (Beissel, Hildebrand and Sangmeister) and those who desired life in a gathered community. (Bach attributes both the use of cabbalism and the tension between the eremitic life and community to Ephrata’s roots in radical Pietism.) Pietist-origin symbolism also abounded in Ephrata’s fraktur art. Equally important was the time-consuming discipline of the scribes? art, which helped them ?to train the appetites to desire Christ rather than the pleasure of sex or food? (168). Finally, the hidden knowledge of ?alchemy, astrology, numerology, magic and Christian cabbala? provided extra-biblical metaphors to explain ?the unmediated presence of God? (171-172).
Bach’s book is a hard read, but not because he does not handle his subject deftly and with competence. Rather, as Beissel’s successor Peter Miller observed about the mystical language of Ephrata, ?Those who speak it are hard to understand.? Thanks to Bach, their voices (likened as they are to the cooing of turtledoves) become much more intelligible.
Shippensburg, Pa. EDSEL BURDGE, JR.
The Earliest Hymns of the Ausbund: Some Beautiful Christian Songs Composed and Sung in the Prison at Passau, Published in 1564. Translated, Annotated and with an Introduction by Robert Riall. Edited by Galen A. Peters. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press and Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2003. Pp. 468. $38, U.S.; $44.50, Can.
The Ausbund has cast a long shadow in the history of Mennonite peoples. Usually remembered primarily as a collection of Anabaptist martyr ballads and spiritual songs that because of contemporary Amish use is often noted to be the oldest Protestant hymnbook in continuous use, this remarkable text can also be seen as an early venture in Anabaptist ecumenism. The 1583 edition of the Ausbund contains not only a large selection of songs drawn from all of the major streams of European Anabaptism’Swiss, South German-Austrian and Dutch’but also hymns written by members of all the major Christian factions of the Reformation era: Bohemian Brethren, Spiritualists, Reformed, Lutherans and Catholics.
The subject of the book in hand is an earlier, less diverse collection of songs, which appeared as early as 1564, and which was incorporated into the 1583 and later editions. These songs are not the earliest songs in the Ausbund, as suggested by the book’s title, but rather the earliest known published group of songs that was to become part of the Ausbund. The authors of the songs in this earlier collection were imprisoned members of a communalist Anabaptist group led by Philip Plener. These Philipites’who wrote the songs while in the dungeon at Passau’were shaped by the mystical bent of the South German Anabaptist tradition as well as by the emerging emphasis on community of goods that characterized Anabaptist conventicles in Moravia and Austria. That mystical orientation is highlighted in the introduction and footnotes of this new translation of the Passau songs by Robert Riall, tracing its roots to such sources as Johannes Tauler’s texts, Luther’s edition of the Theologia Deutsch and writings by South German Anabaptist leaders such as Hans Hut and Hans Denck.
Riall has written a much larger, unpublished treatise on the theology and spirituality of this song collection, entitled First Suffering, Then Joy, from which the main thrust of his presentation of these translated songs derives. Riall’s thesis is that the Passau writers expressed the sources of the certainty they felt in their radical and marginal posture through a spiritual identification with both the written and the living word of Christ (not taking up a mere sola scriptura position), through the experience of holiness or freedom from sin, through sharing with Christ in his suffering and through the ecstasy of joy and resignation given in the unity of the Spirit. This thesis is summarized in the introduction to the translation and developed convincingly through the extensive footnote apparatus that accompanies the translation. The footnotes also helpfully trace many of the phrases and concepts that appear in the songs to their origins in earlier mystical or Anabaptist texts. However, the helpfulness of these lengthy footnotes would have been enhanced had the publisher placed them at the bottom of each page rather than compiling them at the end of each song, which requires the reader to keep paging back and forth between the text and notes.
A deliberate and unhurried immersion in these translations, as well as a careful reading of the accompanying scholarship, provides a great deal of insight into the motivation and persuasion of Anabaptists in the South German-Austrian milieu. Still, while the spiritual and theological themes of the Passau songs are clarified helpfully by Riall, along with explanations of numerous textual ambiguities and corruptions of different editions of the Ausbund, the reader can best enter the world of the Passau writers by returning again to the original German text of this collection found in the second part of the Ausbund, where the rhythms and rhymes of a popular poetic piety provide form and body to the spiritual claims being made and the stories of suffering being told. Riall’s translations can thus be best utilized as a kind of handbook or guide to reading the German text of the Passau songs.
The preface by C. Arnold Snyder rightly claims these songs as valid sources for a more thorough understanding of Anabaptist spirituality and theology. And Riall’s translations and annotations constitute an enormously helpful groundwork for future research and analysis. For example, his work could contribute greatly to a full-bodied analysis of Anabaptist piety that incorporates the complete range of communication genres and popular arguments used by Anabaptists to cultivate and spread radical faith. One specific direction for such an analysis is hinted at already by Riall’s inclusion of information about the contemporary use of these songs by the Old Order Amish. This arouses curiosity about the reception of the Rhineland mysticism apparent in these texts by the more sedate Swiss Brethren who adopted them and by the Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites who have sung these songs through the centuries. Indeed, simply the act of incorporating this collection of Passau songs into a larger book that included songs derived from communities with different spiritual emphases no doubt changed the meanings experienced by those who sang these songs. How is the ecstasy of spiritual union with Christ inflected through the more concrete ethical orientation of Swiss Brethren texts? How might the emphasis on suffering and resignation apparent in the Passau texts have been received as a feature of nineteenth-century Mennonite and twentieth-century Amish humility theology? How have the various communities who sang these texts appropriated the moderate Philipite commitment to community of goods articulated in these songs, ranging in emphases, for example, from Hutterite communitarianism to Mennonite mutual aid? What is the relationship between the spiritual emphasis on joyful resignation stressed by the Passau writers and the ethical commitment to defenseless discipleship highlighted in earlier Swiss Brethren hymns? How are all of these Anabaptist convictions reshaped when contextualized amidst hymns borrowed from the Lutherans or the spiritualists for the 1683 edition? Such questions, when they are answered in the future, will rely for their answers on Riall’s painstaking work in this book.
Bluffton University GERALD BIESECKER-MAST
Faith, Life and Witness in the Northwest, 1903-2003: Centennial History of the Northwest Conference. By T. D. Regehr. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press; copublished with Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2003. Pp. 524. $45, U.S.; $49, Can.
As the title indicates, this book gathers and presents a multitude of faith stories that tell the history of the first century of the Northwest Conference of the Mennonite Church (formerly known as the Alberta-Saskatchewan Mennonite Conference). From humble beginnings in three small and completely rural congregations, the history unfolds through the ?pioneering? stage, expanding vision and growing pains, and toward increasing education, migration to the cities, and an embrace of other ethnicities. Through careful research of meeting minutes and reports, Regehr produced a narrative of how these Christians of the Swiss (Old) Mennonite tradition understood their call and ministry and how they sought to communicate its message.
Pioneering, settling and seeking to create church community were not without struggle. One of the major challenges for pastoral work, especially in the early decades, was connecting geographically scattered congregations and their members. This was more difficult because innovative means of communication ?via telephone and electric wire? were considered worldly influences. In these beginning years the church existed largely as isolated communities of Mennonite settler families. Their spiritual life was nurtured through evangelistic and revival meetings, as well as through Bible conferences led by teachers who had received non-Mennonite Bible college education.
At the same time, the Mennonite emphasis on ?bringing your whole life under the lordship of Christ? versus ?emotional conversions? preached by some non-Mennonite itinerant evangelists put Mennonites at odds with other Christians in many rural communities. They also suffered hostility from neighbors due to their stance as conscientious objectors. However, these conflicts and neighborly resentment prompted them to take a different look at their separation and place in society.
The Mennonites of this conference tradition had long understood their mission in terms of group migration and the establishment of new communities in remote areas. During the 1960s and 1970s, Voluntary Service units changed the mission program, priorities and identity of the conference. A mix of Voluntary Service, Mission Board and salaried congregational workers started educational endeavors, community witness and businesses in rural settings and growing towns. The social development of the 1960s, however, meant that the government began providing such services instead of the church. Moreover, although the Mennonites who had been involved in these mission and voluntary service efforts had some formal education, they lacked cross-cultural training that would have allowed them to understand better those they had been trying to serve, a situation that left unfortunate community legacies, in some cases.
Meanwhile, as the younger generations of these Mennonites moved to cities and acquired formal education, the conference’s rural churches began to suspect apostasy among the new urbanites. Differences in conference and congregation governance, theological approaches and styles of worship, collided when rural became urban. The church wished to take a stand against sin and worldliness; however, traditional interpretations of faithfulness within the Alberta-Saskatchewan Conference needed to be revisited. Old ways of doing things were being challenged, and more complicated skills and specialization were needed. Changes in administration and educational expectations led to a range of new developments, such as a new constitution, which took approximately twenty years to adopt. From a conference composed only of bishops and ministers to the participation of laity, from lay pastors to salaried ones, changes were slow in being accepted. Meanwhile, church planting efforts seemed to illustrate the biblical story of the sower: only some produced abundantly.
By the late 1970s Hispanic/Latino immigrants coming from South America to Alberta gave the conference significant cross-cultural encounters as congregations composed of these immigrants affiliated with Northwest Conference. The newcomers brought, along with their Latin culture, different approaches to the Gospel. Their louder and more effusive worship contrasted sharply with styles familiar to most longtime members of Northwest Conference. Misunderstandings, sour discussions and financial difficulties mark the minutes of many meetings that sought to nurture cross-cultural connections. Persistence paid off, however, and the fruit of this cross-cultural exposure emerged as enriched relationships and, ultimately, stronger diversity for the conference.
Conference administrative matters and denominational relations have undergone significant changes in the last thirty years. Trying to balance the spiritual and administrative life of the conference led to many structural changes that are still in the works as Northwest Conference considers its future and the nature of its affiliation with other Mennonite groups. (Once part of the former Mennonite Church, the conference chose not to be part of the new Mennonite Church Canada.) Collective congregational identity has been difficult to maintain in recent years; however, the faithful support of Mennonite Central Committee work, voluntary service and organized mission endeavors are an intrinsic part of conference life as members seek to apply the teachings of Jesus to all aspects of their life.
An initial reading of this book tends to leave the reader with the sense that the conference’s story has been nothing but conflict, controversy, dissension, quarreling and division. But human frailties, mistakes and failures are part of any story. No doubt there will be those who will not agree with every interpretation given in these pages, but we must remember that every story has at least three different accounts: that of the person who tells it, that of the ?other side,? and that known to God alone! By this, I simply mean that it is impossible to deal with every detail that might present a different picture of any given situation. On the other hand, we should not forget that behind these stories there was the vision, as well as unimaginable efforts, sacrifice, dedication, commitment and enthusiasm, of leaders and laity who believed they were giving their all for the love of God and his kingdom. For me, as a former Northwest Conference pastor, it is especially delightful to read and know more about the labor, dedication and commitment of the Northwest Conference people, many of whom I have the privilege to know and work closely with.
Faith, Life and Witness in the Northwest summarizes well the history of thousands of Northwest Conference members during the past century. The book’s many illustrations are clearly identified and cited. Regehr extensively researched the minutes and reports of the conference, and conducted many oral interviews. It is a wonderful compilation of material and a valuable contribution to Mennonite historical scholarship and the life of the church.
Goshen College RAFAEL E. BARAHONA
The Amish and the State, 2nd ed. Edited by Donald B. Kraybill. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2003. Pp. 350. $55, hb; $19.95, pb.
This collection of essays, first published in 1993, has been reissued with some new material, though most of the content is unchanged. The book uses case studies to explore Amish conflicts with government (usually the U.S. federal or state governments) over everything from military conscription to schooling to health care. The book opens with a theoretical essay by Kraybill (slightly revised in this edition) that introduces the model of negotiation as a way of understanding these church-state encounters. New to this edition are chapters by Herman D. Bontrager, secretary of the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom, which surveys Amish interaction with government during 1990-2002, and a chapter by a University of Oregon law professor, Garrett Epps, on the implications of the landmark 1972 Wisconsin v. Yoder U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legitimated Amish exemption from high school. Epps argues that ?the high court struggles with the scandal of Amish particularity’trying but failing’to absorb the Yoder case into its legal doctrine.?
The Upside-Down Kingdom, twenty-fifth anniversary edition. By Donald B. Kraybill. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2003. Pp. 310. $16.99, U.S.; $26.79, Can.
Donald Kraybill’s widely read presentation of the ?upside-down? teachings of Jesus appears in a new, third edition. Using images such as ?free slaves,? ?luxurious poverty? and ?successful failures,? Kraybill presents for a popular audience the social, economic and political implications of Jesus, especially as portrayed in the synoptic Gospels. Although the order and organization of the chapters remains much the same as in previous editions (1978 and 1990), their content has been revised and extensively rewritten. The text and supporting citations include references to recent New Testament scholarship, and to newer popular and scholarly works in biblical theology and ethics (e.g., Walter Wink). Other revisions include more material on social class in first century Palestine, as well as examples of current peacemaking initiatives (e.g., Christian Peacemaker Teams) that did not appear in earlier editions.
Unionists and the Civil War Experience in the Shenandoah Valley. Vol. 1: Mt.Crawford and Cross Keys, Rockingham County, Virginia. Compiled by David S. Rodes and Norman R. Wenger. Edited by Emmert F. Bittinger. Dayton, Va.: Valley Brethren-Mennonite Heritage Center and Valley Research Associates. 2003. Pp. 742. $49.95.
After the U.S. Civil War, the federal government established a Southern Claims Commission to investigate and compensate the property losses of loyalists in the former Confederacy. The documentation of those claims, along with transcriptions of interviews and cross-examinations, was then lodged at the National Archives where it has remained in forms difficult to access. This book reproduces hundreds of pages of these primary sources, opening a window onto the Civil War experience in Rockingham County, Virginia, and especially of its sizable Mennonite population. The first in a projected series of volumes, this collection details the experiences of thirty-seven families, about a third of whom were Episcopalians or German Reformed Church members. The balance were Mennonites and Brethren. A helpful introductory essay by Emmert Bittinger provides tools for understanding the documents, as well as historical context and explanation of the motives behind the ?peace church loyalists? and ?secular Unionists.? Although the petitioners were trying to win the good graces of the Commission, their testimony genuinely points to the neighborly tension and profound suffering they endured as loyalists (often pacifist loyalists). The documents are also rich in anecdotal material detailing household financial information, commercial market interaction and community life in the 1860s.
Discipleship as Political Responsibility. By John Howard Yoder. Translated by Timothy J. Geddert. Foreword by Stanley Hauerwas. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press. 2003. Pp. 69. $9.99, U.S.; $13.99, Can.
This translation offers two 1957 addresses by John Howard Yoder that represent the opening rounds of Mennonite-ecumenical dialogue on peace theology. They also suggest some of Yoder’s early thinking on church-state issues, discipleship and social responsibility. Yoder presented the first address, ?The State in the New Testament,? to the International Mennonite Peace Committee. It ends with ten theses, including the assertions that ?one form of political responsibility is to refuse . . . to participate in the life of the state . . . where the state’s responsibilities differ from those of the Christian? but also that ?there is no justification for Christians . . . to rest self-justified and proud of their own piety, and leave the world to ruin? (44, 46). In the other lecture, ?Following Christ as a Form of Political Responsibility,? delivered at the second Puidoux Conference, Yoder contended that the basic message of the New Testament against the sword still stands, despite changes in context and the state’s new role in social welfare.
Hans Landis, Swiss Anabaptist Martyr in Seventeenth Century Documents. Translated and introduced by James W. Lowry. Edited by David J. Rempel Smucker and John L. Ruth. Millersburg, Ohio: Ohio Amish Library. 2003. Pp. 234. $14.95.
This volume presents transcriptions and translations of twenty-five documents related to Hans Landis, the Swiss Anabaptist martyr of 1614. Some of the documents have never been published, while others have been available only in obscure sources. Transcriptions appear on the left-hand pages, with English translations (from German, Latin and Dutch) on the facing pages. Fourteen of the documents detail Landis’s imprisonment, interrogation and execution, while others reflect on the execution or describe the fates of his widow and other contemporaries. Three later documents from 1639, 1643 and 1669 make reference to Landis’s death. The volume also includes, as an appendix, an Ausbund hymn about Landis’s life. Eighteen illustrations and maps provide context for the events described in the documents. A brief introduction, comprehensive bibliography and index round out the book.
A History of the Amish, Rev. ed. By Steven M. Nolt. Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books. 2003. Pp. 380. $9.95.
This book traces Amish history over three hundred years in Europe and North America. The organization of most chapters has remained the same as in the 1992 edition, but the content has been rewritten, as well as revised and updated in light of new sources, statistics and interpretations. Chapters 1-3 and 5 cover European themes, from Anabaptism and the Amish division through the mid-1800s. Chapters 4 and 6 describe immigration to and life in North America. Chapter 7 discusses the mid-nineteenth-century ministers? meetings that helped crystallize several Amish church branches, from Old Order to various progressive strands. One chapter then follows the progressive Amish Mennonite groups through their organizational identification with Mennonites, while the final three chapters trace the Old Order and Beachy Amish from 1880 to the present. New sections include discussion of European Amish relations with their neighbors, the role of ?plainness? in nineteenth-century America, the so-called Amish mission movement of the 1940s-1960s and recent occupational shifts away from farming. The book includes a fourteen-page bibliography and an extensive index.
Amish Enterprise: From Plows to Profits, 2nd ed. By Donald B. Kraybill and Steven M. Nolt. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 2004. Pp. 286. $55, hb; $19.95, pb.
This book updates and expands a study exploring the rise of nonfarming occupations among the Old Order Amish, and gives attention to the social and cultural implications of this economic shift. While the scholarly literature on ethnic entrepreneurship has highlighted the role of ethnic resources in entrepreneurial success, this study introduced the concept of ethnic restraints in the development’and success’of Amish businesses. The first edition, published in 1995, focused on the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Amish settlement. The new edition incorporates some qualitative comparisons between the Lancaster settlement and other Amish communities, and includes an entirely new chapter on Amish economics in the Midwest, exploring the role of cultural resources and restraints in different economic contexts. Other new material includes discussion of evolving attitudes toward certain technologies, changes in government regulation of Amish firms and shifting Amish attitudes toward wealth and investment, leisure, family life and gender roles.
Goshen College, Goshen, Ind. STEVEN M. NOLT
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