Truth or Ideology?
That is the choice. There is no in between. You cannot have both. You must make the choice.
In Anabaptist origins and early history the choice was truth. That truth produced our Biblical culture. As time went on, our Biblical culture began to slip into ideology. Why would that happen?
Truth is difficult to maintain. It requires a great deal of hard and diligent living and teaching. Once established, a culture can quickly become an ideology. Once it becomes an ideology it is then defended for its own sake. When ideologies are challenged, they simply re-entrench and build more walls and tighter boundaries to preserve the threatened concepts.
Truth does not need to do that. Truth is not afraid. Truth can stand on its own two feet without the mental or political or religous gymnastics needed to support ideology. Truth welcomes challenge because it is always growing more and more toward God and His Word and His Truth.
This is not just an Anabaptist problem. It is a truth problem. The problem is not our culture. Our culture has been good because it is the result of deriving a lifestyle directly from the Bible. The problem is allowing our culture to become an ideology and thus becoming idolatry.
Ideologies produce impressive spokespersons with impressive arguments. They produce impressive looking and sounding systems. The longer they persist the stronger they become. The problem is that truth is not their highest objective. Their objective is preservation of the system. Right or wrong, the system must be preserved.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the Anabaptist world was challenged with the problems of international conflict and its aftermath. Many Anabaptists became citizens and patriots. As conservative Mennonites, we re-entrenched. We set up parameters of behavior and dress. If a little was good, more would be better. Each generation tightened the discipline a bit more.
We looked better but we lost some heart. Our historic Biblical culture began taking on regional and conference oriented idiosyncrasies. These were easy to maintain. They could be objectively identified. They provided a comfortable culture now easily transferred to the next generation who would include more specifics.
Historically the Brethren have also had a battle between the system and the truth. The system has won the battle. The system is an ideology and it functions that way. When conservative Brethren allow the system to direct them, they are being unfaithful to what it means to be Brethren and they are acquiescing to the ideology of a system.
It is easy to identify a truth system. A truth system defends truth. A truth system welcomes all truth. A truth system rejects all error.
It is easy to identify an ideology. An ideology defends itself. An ideology does not welcome anything that does not fit into its mold. When presented with truth, an ideology reinforces its boundaries and prevents truth from entering. When exposed as error, an ideology defends its error and tightens its boundaries.
What can we do? What is the answer? We can return to the concept of deriving a Biblical culture from the diligent study of the Scripture through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. We can invite that wisdom to control our personal lives and the lives of our homes and families and churches. We do not need to fear the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is faithful to teach us all things.
If we do that, we will keep cultural idolatry at bay. In the Scripture and in the Holy Spirit of truth we will find a center of truth that will serve us and our children well for the next generations. Our Biblical culture will unite us instead of dividing us.
Cultural ideologies will die hard. But sin must go. Defending rum-springa just because “we have always done it that way” will not fly. Insisting on or forbidding beards will have to give way to an examination of a Biblical understanding. Practice must reflect and represent principle.
Submission (not subjugation) must be re-defined to comport with the teaching of the Word of God. Worship must be re-visited to reflect the Biblical concepts and the longings of the human heart. Leadership must return to the servant concept.
Community must be re-established to include all believers; not just those who comply with specifics in appearance or conveyance. We are establishing the Kingdom of God here on earth. We are the Kingdom. We are the representatives of that kingdom. We live and treat others equitably and we deal in honesty. We are here so the people of this world can see what Jesus’ Kingdom is supposed to be. That is our opportunity and our responsibility.
When people see us and observe us, they should confronted with and be drawn to the message of Jesus and His Kingdom. If they are not, then we are not living the gospel of the Kingdom. Some will accept. Many will reject. That is how it was when Jesus was here. That is how it will be now.
We best exemplify that Kingdom by our love for each other. That love then spills out to the world as we share Jesus with them. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently. I Peter 1:22
Our Biblical culture can be a wall or a door. As long as it is an ideology it will be a wall. If it truly is a Biblical culture lived out in our lives, it will be a door. Our blessings shared with the world around us: building, repairing, cooking, housekeeping, and gardening skills can be doors of opportunity to share what God has given us with the hurting world outside our doors.
It is time to trade fear for heart and Spirit. It is time to trade self-protection for service. It is time to eliminate the idolatrous ideologies. It is time to foster grace, love, mercy and peace with the truth that God requires. It is time to keep the feast without the leaven of the ideological systems.
Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.
Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of SINCERITY and TRUTH.
I Corinthians 5:7-8