A Weekly Journal Chronicling My Life
As It Intersects With The Garbage Dump Community Near La Ceiba, Honduras

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mennoniting-Their-Way?

Was reading through Genesis for the first time in ages and I came across something that I had underlined years ago because it struck me as funny in a very "Mennonitey" type of way. Genesis 46:28a reads:
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"Now Jacob sent his son Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen."
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Those of you of a Mennonite persuasion out there will see the mild humor in this almost immediately, but for those of you who can't relate to our cliquish and culturally cloistered world, let me explain.
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Goshen, Indiana is one of the "centers" of Mennonite activity in North America right alongside Lancaster County, Pennsylania, Harrisonburg, Virgina, Kitchener, Ontario, Holmes County, Ohio and Hesston, Kansas. In Indiana they even have their own Mennonite university in Goshen College. There's always a lot of talk about Mennonite surnames and all of us being related but rarely do we talk about our first names. I've noticed over my tenure as an Anabaptist that Mennonites, especially the Old Order types and the older generations among us, are notorious for giving their children not only biblical but also very uncommon names that ring "funny" in the ears of modern Americans who don't have much contact with the Mennonite and Amish world. I think this stems from not only their/our nonconformity to the world, which up until recently was a very rigid and near-universal doctrine in the church, but also their/our tendency to only move within Anabaptist (Amish, Mennonite & Brethren) circles which had/has the effect of closing us off, to some degree, to the larger society and reinforcing our odd culural norms; like for example, naming your child Zebulon or Rebekah. Thus many Mennonites I have known and loved growing up have either had biblical names like Elam, Titus, Aaron, Seth, Noah, Phillip, Josiah, Dorcas, Naomi, Naphtali, Mary or Esther, or just "older" names like Lester, Leon, Urban, Harold, Myron, Gerald, Raymond, Fanny, Alta, Lois, Velma or Phyllis...not all of these people were or are octegenarians mind you, some are my age or slightly younger.
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All of that to say that if you took Genesis 46:28a completely out of context it could read like something out of a story about an Old Order Mennonite roadtrip to Goshen, Indiana. Or a tale about a Mennonite-Your-Way adventure that just went all wrong.


"Now Jacob sent his son Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen."
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As a quick aside, I remember that I too was once on a roadtrip through Indiana on our way to South Bend to see a Notre Dame football game and we stopped at Goshen College to see what all the fuss was about. I can't remember much about the college other than the lifeguard at the pool and her inquiries as to whether or not Kevin Boyle and myself were prospective students. I was too young to even know what that word meant but neither of us could muster up the courage to respond as we were too enamoured of her beauty and the whole lifeguard get-up. My father and Kevin's had to do the talking for us.

Peace!
-mlk

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