Thursday, March 15, 2007


The other evening I gave a talk about my column and book to a small group of retired folks. Afterwards they had lots of questions about How are the Amish different from the Mennonites, and so on.

Then one guy said, "Why is it that the Mennonite farms are always so neat and tidy and kept up so nice? I mean, you drive up Peoria Road, you can tell exactly where the Mennonite farms start and exactly where they end. Why is that?"

A bunch of others nodded in agreement that yeah, they too had noticed all the neat Mennonite farms.

I had never been asked this before. I said, grasping, "Well, it would be a cultural thing rather than a religious belief, but we believe in working hard and doing well at what we do. . ."

He wasn't satisfied with that. "But why?"

I didn't know what to say.

He said, smiling, "Is it a competitive thing?"

I said, "Well, it could be. . . in fact, yeah, it probably is." I added that I am a black sheep in this regard because I don't have perfect flower beds and the children leave more stuff in the yard than most proper Mennonites would allow.

(But I often make them do a Saturday-night pickup before all the other Mennonites go by on their way to church on Sunday. . .a clue perhaps)

Later I thought I could have said that Mennonites often focus and make judgments based on how things appear--clothes, hair, kitchen floors, flower beds, cars, and farms. But again--why?

So, help me out, all you Mennonites out there with no weeds in your fence rows--why?

Quote of the Day:
"I could relate to so much of what you were saying, with all the traditions and stuff."
--Aruna from India


  1. Trust me on this one... You dont want to EVER find out what will happen if you should ever happen to get behind on the up-keep!! :)

  2. Those that can see so much on the outside, can they minister to, and see the hurt and loneliness, in the heart of those they are watching on the outside.? Do they know of the allnight prayer for a lost soul, while the weeds grew up overnight? Are they willing to help a busy mother with little ones, while she cleans her house. I agree that we should not be sloppy, but if would spend more time looking on the heart instead of the outside, there might be more understanding and less misunderstandings. God Bless !

  3. I don't think the roots of this tradition are religious as much as ethnic.

    When you travel in Europe, one of the things you notice when you enter Switzerland is the compulsive neatness. The flower boxes in the windows, the carefully manicured properties, the picturesque houses, and the attention to detail and cleanness.

    The Swiss are noted for precision. In their watches and other goods they manufacture.

    One Swiss Mennonite man told me that the famous position of Swiss military neutrality is not so much a position of nuetrality as it is a statement of arrogance. He said, "We have not ever found anyone that measures up to our standard and who is worth being allied with".

    I think you will have to dig back into the ancient European history to determine why the Swiss have developed neatness, attention to detail and beauty as a way of expressing their worth.

    Maybe for us today it is one area in which we can be expressive. It may actually be an art form. We certainly are not going to paint our church ceilings with Michealangelo type art, but we can express beauty in our homes and farms.

    I believe that God created the world with beauty and that as image bearers we have an internal craving to create beauty as well. One of the acceptable ways for us to do that is in functional things, such as quilts, cornfields, fine furniture, and lovely meals.

    Anyway this got really long. Sorry about that!


  4. I was going to write about it being more of German/Swiss cultural thing but Merle said it better than I would have.


  5. In addition to Merle's comments,
    there may be an element of caring for God's creation in response to the command given in Genesis. There is also the undercurrent of being a consistent, good witness to the community.

    I visited in search of more information on Swiss culture and was amazed to find so many descriptions that could have been written about the community I grew up in. Here is a sample of info from that site:

    The Swiss are probably the most law-abiding people on earth and bad behaviour, even if it is not strictly illegal, is likely to cause offence so, for example:

    Do not drop litter;

    Do not make excessive noise late on Saturday evenings;

    Do not wash your car or mow your lawn on Sunday mornings.

    The Other Sharon

  6. How else do they keep the ten children in line if they cant be kept busy?

  7. I'm late on this one but I always try to keep things neat because God is a God of order. His universe is ordered and runs smoothly and thus as christians our homes, yards and loves must be in order.

    I think theres probably culture involved but how many times do we tell our children "whatsoever your hand finds to do; do it with thy might." This verse and others like it result in cleanliness and order.

  8. Uh that was suppose to say that our lives must be in order not our loves..but then I guess our loves have to be too, hu? :)