For example, one of these questions is: “Do Mennonites use electricity?” The answer is yes.
Mennonites are permitted by their faith to use electricity and other modern conveniences, the same as someone who is Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or any other modernist branch of Christianity.
But there’s more to this question than a one-word answer. Why is it so common for people to wonder whether Mennonites use electricity? And if they can, does this mean that Mennonites are more similar to modern Americans, or are do they abide by older rules that bind them to more “traditional” ways of life?
I’ll answer all of this (and a bit more) in this blog from my perspective as an ex-Mennonite who chose to be baptized into the faith when I was younger.
Let’s start by taking a look at why this question is asked so often.
Why Do People Ask if Mennonites Use Electricity?
Mennonites are a surprisingly diverse denomination of Christianity with roots in the Anabaptist movement and congregations throughout the world.
But more often than not, they’re considered one of the “quaint” idiosyncrasies of life in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, among other locations in Virginia, Ohio, Kansas, and more. This also leads many people to associate them with the Amish.
They’re also categorized as one of the “Plain People” by historians and anthropologists. By their definitions, plain people are defined as any Christian group that is defined by their willing separation from the modern world, their dedication to modest clothing, and outward identifications of someone’s sex (like having women wear a bonnet).
The most famous and extreme group of plain people is the Amish. The Amish are well-known for their refusal to take part in what they believe to be luxuries that display some form of pride on their behalf, ensuring they can stay humble and spiritually pure in the eyes of their community and their god.
This same concept extends from the Amish to the Mennonites as well. This happens because many people believe that Amish and Mennonites are the one and the same, despite little-known factual evidence to the contrary.
However, despite their differences in age, the two groups are still so closely associated in popular culture that many assume Mennonites to either be a synonym for Amish or to be a group that essentially follows the same rules.
Simply said, this assumption is not true.
While categorized as plain people, Mennonites are significantly less strict in their interpretation of the Bible and their faith-based rules.
They have churches (the Amish don’t), they drive cars, they can wear different kinds of clothing, and — more to the point — they can freely use electricity without the threat of community repercussions.
But here’s where it gets tricky — there are several different sub-denominations of Mennonites. One of these groups is the Amish, who are an offshoot of Mennonites.
But there are also Old Order Mennonites, Weaverland Mennonites, Reformed Mennonites, Holdeman Mennonites, Conservative Mennonites, Old Colony Mennonites, and a whole lot more.
(For example, I grew up in an Atlantic Coast Conference Mennonite church.)
Each of these groups has a slightly different understanding and interpretation of the ideology originally established by Menno Simons.
They may also have varying rules on what followers can and cannot do in daily life. But generally speaking, none of them restrict someone’s access to electricity.
So do Mennonites use electricity?
But could this idea vary depending on the denomination of the Mennonite who’s answering the question?
Are Mennonites More Similar to Amish or the Modern World?
This is a challenging question to answer.
Ideologically speaking, Mennonites are highly similar to Amish in their understandings of the Christian teachings and values that they hold.
One of these values is a calling to be “in the world, not of the world” — meaning that Mennonites, Amish, and all other manner of Anabaptists are encouraged to live among the rest of society, but to acknowledge and respect their ideological roots.
Incidentally, this is also a big reason that Mennonites and Amish are both considered “plain.”
In the example of the Amish, they practice this separation in their everyday lives through the ways they dress, what they do for a living, how they transport themselves, and more.
For Mennonites, the separation is more based on philosophy than practicality.
The Mennonite belief in being “in the world, but not of the world” reflects on their beliefs in forgiveness, grace, loving their enemies, and living in a manner that emulates Jesus himself.
Whether this is actually practiced by every single Mennonite is another story. Despite the ideological foundations of Anabaptism and Mennonites, there are still Mennonites who support military service, the idea of war, and other concepts that conflict with their religious ideals.
Despite these contradictions, Mennonites hold that their primary difference from the rest of the world is that they don’t act like the rest of their world. They think differently, believe differently, and behave differently — and this helps make the world a better place.
Electricity is comparatively minor to these ideals. Because the idea of electricity doesn’t conflict with the other notions that Mennonites hold, Mennonites use electricity.
So, with all of that said, modern Mennonites have a lot more in common with mainstream society than they do with the Amish.
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