Security in Mennonite Identity Lends to Exploration

This past Easter Sunday, I was baptized. Since I was six years old, I have attended Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, and I finally decided to commit to this faith community. The sunrise service echoed the early church, bring- ing friends and family together.

I write this article three days later, and carefully reflect on my twenty-two-year old decision. As I committed to the Mennonite faith tradition on Easter Sunday, I ask: why did I receive baptism? What do the baptismal vows mean? Equally important, how do I embody the foundational paradox of my faith as I inevitably dialogue with individuals from other faith and non-faith traditions?

Beginning my formal spiritual journey within the Mennonite faith tradition, I seriously wonder: why did I commit to the Mennonite faith tradition? I could have committed to any other faith or non-faith traditions, such as Catholicism, Islam or Buddhism, among many alternatives. Each tradition holds different, valuable perspectives of the divine. I dedicated myself to the Mennonite faith tradition, however, because I best understand this one. I have sixteen years of experience with its rituals, people, and structure, and can create the most change within a tradition I know.

Additionally, naming the Mennonite lens as home frees me to more fully explore, learn about, and converse with other faith and non-faith communities.The exploration brings me to interfaith dialogue. The inevitable dialogue in light of the Mennonite baptismal vows invites a life of paradox, prompting further questions. After being “invited to rise and walk in the newness of life by the same power that raised Christ from the dead” and after deciding to “turn to Jesus Christ as [my] savior,” I recognize the foundational contradiction. Christ’s death and resurrection founds my faith on a paradox. As I converse with individuals from other faith and non-faith communities, what does turning to Christ as my savior mean? What does walking in the newness of life mean?

I have no answers; how might I embody this paradox of death and resurrection? Thomas Merton offers advice. “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

In other words, I must love individuals from other faith and non-faith traditions by creating space for diversity. While this response may seemingly answer the question, love requires a continual examination. This love looks like a willing listening ear, a helping hand, and gracious hospitality.

As I respond to these daily opportunities and contemplate the significance of my faith, I challenge my faith. I hope founding my belief on a paradox shows how constant questioning of faith naturally exists. The paradox of Christ’s death and resurrection invites a continual re-evaluation of how I communicate with others of faith and non-faith traditions.

This assessment of my faith leads me to inquire: What questions are you asking? What faith or non-faith communities point you toward the divine? How do you live out your faith?

Nels Åkerson,
Contribtuing Writer

Even though Nels cherishes open conversation about the relevancy of faith and what questions individuals consciously embody, he likes lentils.

Categories: Opinion

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