Mrs. Kikuko Fukuoka (June’s and my good friend from Fukuoka, Japan, whom I wrote about here four years ago) came to visit us again this month. I can’t remember why, but on her first evening here we talked some about the Amish.
What my Amish friend said
Fukuoka-san had never seen an Amish person and was interested in learning more about them. So the next day we drove up to the Jamesport (Mo.) area where I had gone in September. Among other things, we were able to talk briefly with Melvin Yutzy, my new Amish friend whom I wrote about on Sept. 30.
During our brief chat on Nov. 4, I asked Melvin about whether he and the other Amish in his community were going to vote on the following Tuesday. He quickly replied that he and all the Amish he knows have never voted and didn’t intend to this year.
(I had seen articles this fall about Amish voting—and voting Republican; for example, see this. But another article I saw said that perhaps only 10% to 15% of them do vote.)
There have been many Anabaptists through the years—and the Amish are clearly rooted in Anabaptism—who have taken a negative view toward not only voting but toward any active involvement in politics. At the beginning they even held that a Christian should not become a “magistrate.”
Unlike the Lutherans or the Reformed Church from which they separated, Anabaptists largely rejected Luther’s two kingdoms doctrine and opted for identifying wholly with the Kingdom of God and living as fully as possible by the values of that Kingdom—which notably included peace and justice.
Maybe the early Anabaptists and most of the current Amish are right: maybe we who are followers of Jesus Christ should be living in and working for the Kingdom of God rather than becoming involved in the “kingdoms” of the secular world.
Jesus, after all, called his followers to be salt, not the whole bowl of porridge.
When the followers of Jesus were a small minority, perhaps that was the optimal stance. But things changed. Christians came to make up a larger and larger segment of society. Of course, that led to what the Anabaptists have often called the Constintinian fall of the Church.
Accordingly, the 16th century Anabaptists refused to entangle themselves in political affairs in the same way the first followers of Jesus did.
More than six years ago I posted an article about Arthur G. Gish, a former Amish man (and then a member of the Church of the Brethren) who was the author of The New Left and Christian Radicalism (1970). That was one of the most influential books I read in the 1970s—or maybe have read in my lifetime.
In his seminal book, Gish writes about his Anabaptist forefathers with great appreciation—but then talks about the definite need now for those in that tradition to become more intentionally involved in the larger society. And that has, indeed, increasingly happened over the last 45 years.
Quite some time ago I started, but sadly never finished, writing an article about Neo-Anabaptism. Such is what Gish was advocating, for what I thought were legitimate reasons.
Rainbow Mennonite Church (in Kansas City, Kan.), the progressive church I belong to now, is a good example of a Neo-Anabaptist church, and I am happy to be a part of it.
So while I briefly wondered last week whether perhaps Melvin and his Amish friends are right about not voting, I have decided (again) that no, most probably they aren’t.