Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Mennonites Speak, In A Way

You need to read this New York Times article first to understand my somewhat related ramblings:

Sect Pastor Is Convicted of Assisting in Abduction.  Aug 14, 2012

That did not take long.  The real issues of same-sex “marriage” come to light.  That is, the disputes in this country about legalizing unions between same-sex partners do not really show their effect until there is an issue such as custody or money.  And some of those who define marriage differently than the majority or the prevailing law and will find themselves jailed.

In the mean time, the message from the religious in the midst of homosexual union debates have been either (1) it is important to define marriage along traditional lines, to affirm the moral problems involved in deviating from man-woman relationships, or (2) it is important to show love and acceptance to any and all, whatever their preferences and behaviors might be in the realm of sexuality.  Much has been said and written along both of these lines of thought.  There is a strong draw is to ally one’s self with one or the other position, and then go a the world with more of the same message.  To fight the opposite side.  To advocate for laws reflecting one opinion or the other. And leave it at that.

The church of Jesus Christ must wrestle with this issue and stand for the truth where it is found, to affirm the moral standards known to be true.  And to cry out at all times “Lord have mercy,” for our imperfect, nay sinful selves, decisions, institutions, governments, peoples.  I believe in standing up and stating the truth:  that normal, healthy relationships are between men and women.  That the goal and model is one man, one woman in a covenant.  But this message is a secondary message.  A message to the world as to how to form and set up laws that are best for society.  A society that I believe will always be imperfect and temporary.  A society that will be judged and destroyed, whether there is a law for or against any particular relationship. 

The Mennonites have taken a different approach, as they often do.  They have said:  we don’t care what your law  says; your law will never be correct, and your methods of improving the world are corrupt to the core.  We don’t accept your laws, your way of life, your world view whatsoever.  That disconnectedness leaves them free to do what they think is right in this situation:   to help a woman leave a life of perversion and protect her daughter from a twisted worldview. 

The approach of the Mennonites has annoyed societies since the 1500’s.  It has also meant that they have historically been on the move to escape those who would have them conform to their worldview, be it in the realm of religious rituals, worship styles, or willingness to fight wars (they are pacifists). 

The rest of Christendom could once again do well to learn a thing or two from the Mennonites:  that helping a needy  woman and going to jail for it looks a lot more like “what would Jesus do” than marching with hateful signs that serve only to cause pain, misunderstanding, and anger.  And though I don't think I agree with the methods used in this particular case, I do think that the time will come when such methods will be needed more and more, as the moral perversions become more and more blatant.  And only those willing to sacrifice will have any impact whatsoever.


Sarah said...

Seems to me you are somehow condoning a sort of group vigilantism whereby subcultures define and uphold their own moral and societal values and laws regardless of the laws of their external society. This is noble in good in some cases but I do not agree that the kidnapping in this case is somehow justified. It leaves a shunned mother out there wondering why her former spouse has stolen her child. How confusing it must be for her to think that her daughter's kidnapping has the approval of religious groups who want to punish her for being different from the majority...

Paul Bunge said...

Instead of arguing, which would be choosing a side as I mentioned in the original post, I would rather explore the challenging and interesting points of this case and the people involved.

First, is Lisa Miller, the woman who birthed a baby girl. She became pregnant with donated sperm and had a child. Her “partner” at the time, another woman named Janet Jenkins, supported her through this process and they agreed to raise the child together, as illustrated by the union they legally agreed to.

The two women then parted ways, leaving an issue of custody, such as in traditional marriage unions. Lisa decided that sharing custody was something so abhorrent to her that she would risk having her child totally taken away from her to avoid it. And she would risk her friends’ freedom as well. This decision, made by Lisa, in the setting of a community of Mennonites, will be thought of as selfish or unselfish, wise or foolish.

Who wins, who is punished in this case? Losers all. Lisa is on the run and living in secrecy. Certainly Janet is shunned, always missing the child as you mentioned (who she would of course consider her child just as much as Lisa would). The Mennonite Pastor is in jail. All suffer. What a mess! Not unlike other divorces!

You are correct that I must not advocate vigilantism and I do not want to. From what I understand (and that is limited), it seems some sort of compromise within the law would have been best for all involved (though still a mess and with suffering). To resort to breaking the law, and removing a child from the country while in a custody battle should be an absolute last resort and does not seem appropriate in this case.

It is interesting the response and choices of the Mennonites in this case. Did Pastor Miller know that he was aiding someone in “kidnapping?” If he did, he likely did not consider it kidnapping, but rather freeing someone from an inappropriate law. As I mentioned, this group took the risks on themselves seeing things differently than most would.

Anonymous said...

Okay, good points. Thanks for the clarification and thoughtful response.