Ready Reasons

In today's post, we're going to take a break from Dear Princess.

This post is about defending your choices. If you have left, or are contemplating leaving, the conservative Anabaptist culture, I can personally guarantee you that you will be confronted with at least one, and probably all of these questions or comments.

They come loaded with presuppositions and play on your deepest fears, the same fears that have been used to control you for so long.

This post is for you. In it, we will discuss five BIG objections you will face, and responses that side-step the built-in assumptions and insinuations, and focus on the core issues that have led you to this point to start with.

1) What's going to happen to your children if you leave?

This question is probably one of the scariest ones that will face you. It's the one that keeps a lot of people paralyzed for a long, long time. Leaving everything you've ever known is really scary, and there are all kinds of horrors stories that people will tell you, about families that have left, and everything went to pieces.

But this question has a sneaky lie hidden in it. The question assumes that staying will guarantee you a suitable outcome. And we all know that there's no guarantees that your children will "turn out right" if they just stick with the church.

Response:
What's going to happen to my children if I stay

That's it. Flip the question around for both your challenger and yourself. And realize, there are no guarantees of a safe outcome, and based on what you've seen in your church culture, chances are as good outside it as in it.

2) Who are your children going to marry?

This one ties into the last one, and taps into those ingrained fears that have been planted for years.

It presupposes that the only suitable candidates for marriage are within the conservative Mennonite church. And you may struggle to imagine that this is not the case. (Don't worry about arguing this point. This answer assumes that you need your child to marry someone with the same cultural background.)

Response:
Abraham left everything he knew to go and live among the Canaanites, and God found his son an appropriate wife.

Worst case scenario-my son can come to your community, and ask the girls for a drink, until one of them offers to pump his gas.

3) You're trying to run away from problems! You aren't running toward anything.

This one's easy!

Response:
If you wake up in the middle of the night with your house on fire, you don't ask yourself what property you're going to rent if you leave this house.
You get your family and you get out and you worry about where to go next after everyone is safe.

4) You are just bitter because of unforgiveness in your life.

This one is intended to make you feel as though you are the one with the problem. Turn it around. Here's how.

Response:
Are you admitting that I have been wronged by this church? Unforgiveness implies that something needs to be forgiven. What would you like for me to forgive you and the church for? Are you seeking reconciliation by repenting of your offenses against me?

5) You have some good points, but you can't help things change if you leave.

When this one gets dragged out, you know you're almost out of the woods. It sounds as though they see some of the errors of their ways, and want to change. Don't be deceived. This is a delaying tactic. 

Response:
So what are some of the things that you think need to change? How will you help me start to bring those changes about?

6) Where is this going to lead? Other people have been right where you are now, and look at where they end up.

This one is the gift that keeps giving. You will probably be asked this before, during, and after your departure. So get this response ready, and use it a lot.

Response:
That doesn't concern me, but it should concern you. Because I used to be where you are now.  Clearly, that leads to being where I am now.​​

Bonus #1: Have you gone and privately talked to the people who offended you in order to seek reconciliation?

This one is a blatant attempt to shut you up. There are two responses, one slightly more productive than the other.

Response:

Slightly more productive response:

Did Jesus privately go to the Pharisees to seek reconciliation before he called them a den of vipers?


If you have other objections that you have faced, let me know what they were, and I'll address them some other time. If you have responses to these objections that are better than my suggestions, share them in the comments.

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6 thoughts on “Ready Reasons

  1. Darren says:

    Can you define conservative Anabaptist? I understand this to be anyone from Amish to BMA. Is that your definition?

    • By Thy Words says:

      For the purposes of this blog, conservatism Anabaptism is all strains of Anabaptism that are centered around preservation of the Anabaptist distinctives by use of coercive, hierarchical authority structures.

      In the world I come from, suggesting the BMA is part of conservative Anabaptism would have met with derisive snorts.

      Hope this clarifies.

  2. Daniel Uliano says:

    I disagree with some of your gripes on this site, but I appreciate much of your work, too! Thanks.

    Your response to #6 – the slippery slope argument – is delightfully snarky, but not truly helpful. In my experience, this is the most common concern expressed, and I’d love to see a more fulsome, constructive consideration of the question.

    I’m not sure where you’re coming from, but for those who hold to the Word of God as the final authority for life, here are a couple responses:

    *​Where is this going to lead? Other people have been right where you are now, and look at where they end up.*

    1. The Word of God is what keeps me from going down a slippery slope to the heresy and debauchery you fear. That’s what I’m holding on to.
    2. I don’t know fully where this will lead, but I have concerns about where the reliance on these rules/culture/tradition will lead. If there’s a slippery slope with where I’m headed, there’s an equally slippery and dangerous slope with where things are in the current setting.
    3. Other people have *NOT* necessarily been where we are. They may or may not have had different reasons than we do. Our reason is ultimately to follow God’s Word – see my response #1.
    4. Furthermore, some of these other people still love Jesus, have dynamic ministry, etc – I’m not convinced that they are such a bad example as all that. IOW, there are perhaps more important concerns than those that you are aware of. The “others” have maintained their center.

    • By Thy Words says:

      Thank you for your comment, Daniel!

      You are correct, of course, that there are deeper ways of addressing this question, and I love your thoughts. Unfortunately, the questioner is not usually looking for a discussion. They are simply giving a knee-jerk, fear-based response.

      Thank you so much for your excellent fleshing out of these ideas!

      They provide an excellent starting point for a discussion, in the event that the question truly does want a conversation.

      I appreciate your input! Blessings to you.

    • Rachel Dawn Miller says:

      Daniel Uliano, this is very good. I agree with both of you. If someone is truly seeking an answer this is spot on.

    • Joel Horst says:

      Daniel, point #4 is especially good. One of the problems with conservative Mennonite culture and teaching is that anyone who departs is implied to be departing from God. Especially if the women start cutting their hair and wearing shorts and tank tops. And jewelry. We can, of course, debate for a long time about whether or not such actions are disobedience to God. But beyond that point, what seems to be overlooked is the myriad of women who demonstrate much fruit of the Spirit, despite having short hair and short pants. Maybe they’re wrong. But are they sisters in Christ? If the answer is yes, then we should treat them like family!

      I singled out women here, because they are the most distinctively dressed. But the same sort of thing goes for men too.

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