I recently took my daughter, and one of her friends, to a Free Thinkers luncheon. One of the male attendees had on a tee-shirt imprinted, “You never see a bunch of atheists stoning a gay to death.” The president of the local association came fifteen miles down from the town which is the center of the area Mennonite community. He brought with him a thirty-ish Mennonite female, dressed in a floor-length, shapeless, dull-patterned cotton dress and veil-fabric, hair-modesty, yarmulke-like snood.
This is strange! The more intense a religious sect is, the less likely they allow any thinking, much less free thinking. Mennonites are strict. There are many sub-sects, some much stricter than others. She explained that she had developed free thinking on her own, but kept her opinions to herself, so that she could continue to associate with her friends and family. Like the Catholic Church’s *excommunication*, where the faithful were not allowed to speak or deal with a heretic, the Mennonite faith has *shunning*. She had heard of the Free Thinkers, and found that the local teacher was a leader, and convinced him to bring her to the freedom of a meeting. I don’t know how she explains not being at church with her clan.
Like every other religion, there are divisions, and sub-divisions, and sub-sub….until there are tiny little groups, all convinced that they, and only they, are correct. There are Old Order Mennonites, who use horses and buggies. They will not allow zippers, or even buttons on their clothing. It is all tied closed. They refused to put the glass-crystal, triangular, slow-vehicle signs on their dark buggies, because they eschew any adornment. It took several late-night, coming-home-from-prayer-meeting collisions before the government convinced them that they were not *adornment*, but legally required safety devices to keep them and cars and drivers safe.
New-Order followers buy black or dark cars and trucks, but painted any chrome black, until the government again convinced them that this was another visibility/safety feature. New New-Order buy colored cars, but still wear black hats over zippered and buttoned clothing. I worked with a young new-new-new….whose worship group was about fifteen people, meeting in some guy’s warehouse, because they couldn’t build, or even rent a meeting-house.
It’s like a child’s game of How Much Can I Get Away With? Many of these people are businessmen, building and selling furniture, equipment, farm produce, etc. They shun the secular world, but are forced to interact with it for commerce. They have preachers who tell them that they cannot be connected to the fallen. (That’s you and I.) Yet they must buy and sell goods, arrange shipments, check specs, etc.
When I worked at the steel warehouse there were three farmers who also ran a fabricating shop. Two of the farms were side by side on one concession road, and the third butted against the common border over on the next road. They built a little weather-proof box, and paid Bell Telephone to install a phone where the three farms met. Any one of them could give the horses a rest and make a call, but the phone wasn’t in any of their houses, so it was allowed. If you had to call back with information, you were given a specific time to call. One would be waiting by the phone at exactly 10:00 AM. If you missed your call, you missed an order. I wonder how they tell time. Are watches prohibited?
The mullahs can’t keep up with technology. Cell-phones don’t “connect” them to the secular world, so half the Mennonites have them. Similarly Wi-Fi computer connections from outdoor posts or the nearest urban hot-spot are not specifically banned so Mennonite boys can get porn just like the rest of us.
I recently took the wife fifteen miles out to a Mennonite butcher in a village. As we drove into town, the wife spotted some plants near the edge of the road, with a for-sale sign. We stopped on the way home. The wife was interested, but wanted to ask some questions, and wondered if we should knock on the door or if someone would come out. The answer to both was, no. I spotted an Honor Box.
They put various items out at the side of the road with prices marked, and it’s up to the honor of the customer to leave money. Some even leave money out in the open. You can make your own change if necessary. This one was a large, heavy (?) aluminum box with a slot in the top to insert cash. It would be possible to walk away with the entire box, but probably not un-noticed in the village full of nosy neighbors.
Farmers on the highway put out corn, potatoes, apples etc. and an honor box. Farms where you have to drive in to the house have signs saying, “No Sunday sales”, but the honor boxes can sit out seven days a week. If you wish to stop and remove some produce and voluntarily leave some cash, that’s your business, but if they’re not sitting there accepting filthy lucre, they’re not Doing Business, so it’s moral.
The wife worked for an insurance company for ten years. I find that Scotsmen and Jews have nothing on Mennonites for being cheap. They want everything that’s in the contract, whether they qualify or not, and then they want some free candy off your desk for giving you the business. The young lad I worked with must have asked at least six times in disbelief, if I was sure I wanted to give my excess foreign coins to his immigrant wife for her collection, at no charge.
I think it’s silly to worry about violating, not God’s rules, but some narrow-visioned man’s rules. They think they can remain religious hermits, and still be business-men in today’s society. I think the mental and moral gymnastics are silly and amusing. They think up new ways to circumvent the lifestyle they claim to revere. Look out! Here comes the future!