Goshen College and Anabaptists in general are a bizarre entity.
If you don’t think so, read the national coverage of last week’s premiere playing of the national anthem on campus. Then, read the comments below and blogs that also continued to remark on the situation.
I was quoted in two USA Today articles last week, one which mentioned I was crying “tears of pain” at the anthem’s premiere. I was actually running around interviewing people. I wouldn’t have had time to cry that day, even if I would have felt so moved. The other states that I am against the anthem decision because of its violent lyrics. That too is misleading, but those were the comments that provoked many readers to not only comment below the article, but to seek me out in other ways.
I received several comments through my personal e-mail account, the Record’s e-mail account and through my Facebook account. Some were long explanations for why they disagreed with me or the college’s previous tradition of not playing the anthem. More were short, one-line angry thoughts. I didn’t want to disregard what these people had to say though, and so read everything sent to me, as well as most of what was posted below the articles.
Much of the discussion below the articles could be cleared up with a little bit more understanding of Anabaptist views on pacifism and peacemaking, and the history of Anabaptism—how even when worship wasn’t allowed, did follow through in their believes and did often die for it.
I’m not sure if all the publicity of Goshen College over the last few weeks really explained much about Mennonites to the general public. More likely it added to their confusion about these “relatives” of the Amish.
On top of that, though, I think it likely took away from our peacemaking on campus and further away. Because of the lack of explanation in national articles, many people simply grew angry at Mennonite tradition, obvious by the messages I received, instead of any sort of understanding. It also took away from other efforts. The energy put into discussing, or in some cases arguing, about the anthem, could have been put into other peacemaking efforts to do with the wars the U.S. is currently involved in. The Depot, a local Mennonite Central Committee Resource Center was desperate for more volunteers this last week to send more relief kits to Haiti. I wanted to help out, but was overwhelmed with anthem coverage. Of course, class assignments also played a role in the amount of time I had available. Still, the question remains: what kind of peacemaking do people want to be known for? Fully explaining one’s views and listening to others do the same is critical when discussing the anthem decision, but is this the most pressing area in our lives where peacemaking is needed?
It seems like most of the national attention is over, for now at least. With less attention from the media, hopefully now people can use that energy once used by encouraging or discouraging the anthem into peacemaking beyond just that one issue.