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Religion > Christianity > Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies

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An Amish Paradox Cover

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An Amish Paradox

Diversity and Change in the World's Largest Amish Community

Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell

Holmes County, Ohio, is home to the largest and most diverse Amish community in the world. Yet, surprisingly, it remains relatively unknown compared to its famous cousin in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell conducted seven years of fieldwork, including interviews with over 200 residents, to understand the dynamism that drives social change and schism within the settlement, where Amish enterprises and nonfarming employment have prospered. The authors contend that the Holmes County Amish are experiencing an unprecedented and complex process of change as their increasing entanglement with the non-Amish market causes them to rethink their religious convictions, family practices, educational choices, occupational shifts, and health care options. The authors challenge the popular image of the Amish as a homogeneous, static, insulated society, showing how the Amish balance tensions between individual needs and community values. They find that self-made millionaires work alongside struggling dairy farmers; successful female entrepreneurs live next door to stay-at-home mothers; and teenagers both embrace and reject the coming-of-age ritual, rumspringa. An Amish Paradox captures the complexity and creativity of the Holmes County Amish, dispelling the image of the Amish as a vestige of a bygone era and showing how they reinterpret tradition as modernity encroaches on their distinct way of life.

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Daily Demonstrators

The Civil Rights Movement in Mennonite Homes and Sanctuaries

Tobin Miller Shearer

The Mennonites, with their long tradition of peaceful protest and commitment to equality, were castigated by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. for not showing up on the streets to support the civil rights movement. Daily Demonstrators shows how the civil rights movement played out in Mennonite homes and churches from the 1940s through the 1960s. In the first book to bring together Mennonite religious history and civil rights movement history, Tobin Miller Shearer discusses how the civil rights movement challenged Mennonites to explore whether they, within their own church, were truly as committed to racial tolerance and equality as they might like to believe. Shearer shows the surprising role of children in overcoming the racial stereotypes of white adults. Reflecting the transformation taking place in the nation as a whole, Mennonites had to go through their own civil rights struggle before they came to accept interracial marriages and integrated congregations. Based on oral history interviews, photographs, letters, minutes, diaries, and journals of white and African-American Mennonites, this fascinating book further illuminates the role of race in modern American religion.

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The Hutterites in North America

Rod Janzen and Max Stanton

One of the longest-lived communal societies in North America, the Hutterites have developed multifaceted communitarian perspectives on everything from conflict resolution and decision-making practices to standards of living and care for the elderly. This compellingly written book offers a glimpse into the complex and varied lives of the nearly 500 North American Hutterite communities. North American Hutterites today number around 50,000 and have common roots with and beliefs akin to the Amish and other Old Order Christians. This historical analysis and anthropological investigation draws on existing research, primary sources, and over 25 years of the authors' interaction with Hutterite communities to recount the group's physical and spiritual journey from its 16th-century founding in Eastern Europe and its near disappearance in Transylvania in the 1760s to its late 19th-century transplantation to North America and into the modern era. It explains how the Hutterites found creative ways to manage social and economic changes over more than five centuries while holding to the principles and cultural values embedded in their faith. Religious scholars, anthropologists, and historians of America and the Anabaptist faiths will find this objective-yet-appreciative account of the Hutterites' distinct North American culture to be a valuable and fascinating study both of the religion and of a viable alternative to modern-day capitalism.

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Latino Mennonites

Civil Rights, Faith, and Evangelical Culture

Felipe Hinojosa

Felipe Hinojosa's parents first encountered Mennonite families as migrant workers in the tomato fields of northwestern Ohio. What started as mutual admiration quickly evolved into a relationship that strengthened over the years and eventually led to his parents founding a Mennonite Church in South Texas. Throughout his upbringing as a Mexican American evangélico, Hinojosa was faced with questions not only about his own religious identity but also about broader issues of Latino evangelicalism, identity, and civil rights politics. Latino Mennonites offers the first historical analysis of the changing relationship between religion and ethnicity among Latino Mennonites. Drawing heavily on primary sources in Spanish, such as newspapers and oral history interviews, Hinojosa traces the rise of the Latino presence within the Mennonite Church from the origins of Mennonite missions in Latino communities in Chicago, South Texas, Puerto Rico, and New York City, to the conflicted relationship between the Mennonite Church and the California farmworker movements, and finally to the rise of Latino evangelical politics. He also analyzes how the politics of the Chicano, Puerto Rican, and black freedom struggles of the 1960s and 1970s civil rights movements captured the imagination of Mennonite leaders who belonged to a church known more for rural and peaceful agrarian life than for social protest. Whether in terms of religious faith and identity, race, immigrant rights, or sexuality, the politics of belonging has historically presented both challenges and possibilities for Latino evangelicals in the religious landscapes of twentieth-century America. In Latino Mennonites, Hinojosa has interwoven church history with social history to explore dimensions of identity in Latino Mennonite communities that points to a new way to think about the history of American evangelicalism.

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Mennonite German Soldiers

Nation, Religion, and Family in the Prussian East, 1772-1880

Mark Jantzen

Mennonite German Soldiers traces the efforts of a small, pacifist, Christian religious minority in eastern Prussia—the Mennonite communities of the Vistula River basin—to preserve their exemption from military service, which was based on their religious confession of faith. Conscription was mandatory for nearly all male Prussian citizens, and the willingness to fight and die for country was essential to the ideals of a developing German national identity. In this engaging historical narrative, Mark Jantzen describes the policies of the Prussian federal and regional governments toward the Mennonites over a hundred-year period and the legal, economic, and social pressures brought to bear on the Mennonites to conform. Mennonite leaders defended the exemptions of their communities’ sons through a long history of petitions and legal pleas, and sought alternative ways, such as charitable donations, to support the state and prove their loyalty. Faced with increasingly punitive legal and financial restrictions, as well as widespread social disapproval, many Mennonites ultimately emigrated, and many others chose to join the German nation at the cost of their religious tradition. Jantzen tells the history of the Mennonite experience in Prussian territories against the backdrop of larger themes of Prussian state-building and the growth of German nationalism. The Mennonites, who lived on the margins of German society, were also active agents in the long struggle of the state to integrate them. The public debates over their place in Prussian society shed light on a multi-confessional German past and on the dissemination of nationalist values.

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Mennonites, Amish, and the American Civil War

James O. Lehman and Steven M. Nolt

During the American Civil War, the Mennonites and Amish faced moral dilemmas that tested the very core of their faith. How could they oppose both slavery and the war to end it? How could they remain outside the conflict without entering the American mainstream to secure legal conscientious objector status? In the North, living this ethical paradox marked them as ambivalent participants to the Union cause; in the South, it marked them as clear traitors. In the first scholarly treatment of pacifism during the Civil War, two experts in Anabaptist studies explore the important role of sectarian religion in the conflict and the effects of wartime Americanization on these religious communities. James O. Lehman and Steven M. Nolt describe the various strategies used by religious groups who struggled to come to terms with the American mainstream without sacrificing religious values—some opted for greater political engagement, others chose apolitical withdrawal, and some individuals renounced their faith and entered the fight. Integrating the most recent Civil War scholarship with little-known primary sources and new information from Pennsylvania and Virginia to Illinois and Iowa, Lehman and Nolt provide the definitive account of the Anabaptist experience during the bloodiest war in American history.

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Mennonites in Early Modern Poland and Prussia

Peter J. Klassen

At a time when religious conflicts and persecution plagued early modern Europe, Poland and Prussia were havens for Mennonites and other religious minorities. Noted Anabaptist scholar Peter J. Klassen examines this extraordinary example of religious tolerance. Through extensive archival research in Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands, Klassen unearths rich material that has rarely, if ever, been studied previously. He demonstrates how the interaction of religious, political, and economic factors created a situation in Poland and Prussia that permitted a diversity of religious beliefs and practices. Mennonites in Early Modern Poland and Prussia focuses on the large Mennonite community in these countries. Klassen reveals how the Anabaptist groups were treated and explores whether the uncommon religious freedom they enjoyed gave rise to a flourishing of their faith or a falling away from its central tenets. Early modern Poland and Prussia are virtually ignored in most studies of the Reformation. Klassen brings them to light and life by focusing on an unusual oasis of tolerance in the midst of a Europe convulsed by the wars of religion.

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Nonviolence - A Brief History

The Warsaw Lectures

John Howard Yoder

Few theologians have done as much as John Howard Yoder to articulate the case for Christian pacifism. The eleven lectures collected in Nonviolence—A Brief History were presented in 1983 in Warsaw, Poland, and this is their first publication together.

Despite their apparent diversity, the lectures trace a single trajectory: the increasing relevance of nonviolent thought and action. They argue that nonviolence aligns with the inner logic of the world and, therefore, with human social existence. A quarter century after they were delivered, Yoder’s remarks seem prophetic, heartfelt, and essential.

For those unfamiliar with the life and thought of John Howard Yoder, these lectures, together with their accompanying brief contextualizing summaries, provide an easily accessible introduction.

A Peculiar People Cover

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A Peculiar People

Iowa's Old Order Amish

Now back in print with a new essay, this classic of Iowa history focuses on the Old Order Amish Mennonites, the state’s most distinctive religious minority. Sociologist Elmer Schwieder and historian Dorothy Schwieder began their research with the largest group of Old Order Amish in the state, the community near Kalona in Johnson and Washington counties, in April 1970; they extended their studies and friendships in later years to other Old Order settlements as well as the slightly less conservative Beachy Amish.

A Peculiar People explores the origin and growth of the Old Order Amish in Iowa, their religious practices, economic organization, family life, the formation of new communities, and the vital issue of education. Included also are appendixes giving the 1967 “Act Relating to Compulsory School Attendance and Educational Standards”; a sample “Church Organization Financial Agreement,” demonstrating the group’s unusual but advantageous mutual financial system; and the 1632 Dortrecht Confession of Faith, whose eighteen articles cover all the basic religious tenets of the Old Order Amish.

Thomas Morain’s new essay describes external and internal issues for the Iowa Amish from the 1970s to today. The growth of utopian Amish communities across the nation, changes in occupation (although The Amish Directory still lists buggy shop operators, wheelwrights, and one lone horse dentist), the current state of education and health care, and the conscious balance between modern and traditional ways are reflected in an essay that describes how the Old Order dedication to Gelassenheit—the yielding of self to the interests of the larger community—has served its members well into the twenty-first century.

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Plain Diversity

Amish Cultures and Identities

Steven M. Nolt and Thomas J. Meyers

Plain and simple. American popular culture has embraced a singular image of Amish culture that is immune to the complexities of the modern world: one-room school houses, horses and buggies, sound and simple morals, and unfaltering faith. But these stereotypes dangerously oversimplify a rich and diverse culture. In fact, contemporary Amish settlements represent a mosaic of practice and conviction. In the first book to describe the complexity of Amish cultural identity, Steven M. Nolt and Thomas J. Meyers explore the interaction of migration history, church discipline, and ethnicity in the community life of nineteen Amish settlements in Indiana. Their extensive field research reveals the factors that influence the distinct and differing Amish identities found in each settlement and how those factors relate to the broad spectrum of Amish settlements throughout North America. Nolt and Meyers find Amish children who attend public schools, Amish household heads who work at luxury mobile home factories, and Amish women who prefer a Wal-Mart shopping cart to a quilting frame. Challenging the plain and simple view of Amish identity, this study raises the intriguing question of how such a diverse people successfully share a common identity in the absence of uniformity.

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