Mennonites in America are unique in the breadth of their religious experience.
From those using horse transportation to others embedded in society as professionals, the name Mennonite carries a distinct identity in the eye of the American public. Media references to the term ‘Mennonite’ have become common. Mennonite faith and practice have become part of the cultural lexicon. Representations follow predefined stereotypes. For instance:
“My God, they made her look like a Mennonite!” (from the 2014 movie, “Gone Girl,” referring to a promiscuous coed having an affair with her professor when her handlers dress her for a televised interview in which she confesses her affair to the public.)
“A fiesta of Quakers. An Imam jamboree. A bacchanal of Mennonites.” (Paul Salopek, describing the drunken revelry of a conservative Jewish sect in Jerusalem in the December 2014 issue of National Geographic.)
But is there something more fundamental about Mennonites that the macro culture is missing?
- Did the Swiss Brethren’s insistence on the separation of church and state mark the beginning of the modern age as some European scholars are claiming?
- Did Mennonites really play a central role in redefining how society viewed the treatment of the mentally ill? Were they leading the charge for change? Or were they just caught up in changes that were already washing over the nation? How did one impact the other?
- Is universal conscientious objection to war a result of Mennonite’s along with a few other faith group's refusal to fight? Or are Mennonites simply beneficiaries of a broader cultural shift that was happening in spite of them?
- How important was/is the way of peace to Mennonites? Is there any relevancy in their insistence to live peaceably for the rest of us? If they believe in peace, how successful are they practicing that among themselves?
- Why are there American flags in some Mennonite churches, and not in others? Is it a lack of patriotism by some? A turning away from their historic creed by others?
- Why are Mennonites some of the first to show up at a national disaster? What’s in it for them
- Why are there Mennonites doing community development work in so many foreign countries? Is it just a clandestine way of gaining recruits from populations unaware of Mennonites? Or is there another motivation?
The documentary will explore the symbiotic relationship that exists between American culture and the practice of religious faith by a small minority group that seeks to live outside the cultural mainstream.