Rolando Santiago, director
In “My Loyalist Origins” (2015), Herb Swartz, retired Bible professor from Eastern Mennonite University, tells the story of one of his American Mennonite ancestors, Christopher Schwartz, who emigrated from southeastern Pennsylvania to Ontario, Canada, after the Revolutionary War. He, along with other Mennonite, Quaker, and Tunker (River Brethren) families, migrated to Canada to be under the rule of a king as God commanded and because land was available for purchase, especially for members of religious groups who did not bear arms during the war for American independence.
According to Samuel J. Steiner, author of “In Search of Promised Lands: A Religious History of Mennonites in Ontario” (2015), Pennsylvania Mennonite and Amish male “nonassociators” who refused to join American militia groups were assessed heavy taxes throughout the Revolutionary War, starting in late 1776. Those who refused to give “assurance of allegiance” to the Revolutionary government, a requirement of the Test Act of June 1777, were not allowed to vote, hold office, sue for debt, or transfer real estate by deed. During the war, overzealous local Revolutionary committees confiscated or destroyed property, and even jailed those who did not give assurance of loyalty.
The Revolutionary War tested the commitment of Mennonites and Amish to follow Jesus’ teaching to “love your enemies.” Some faltered, joined other denominations, and fought with majorities who enrolled in the Revolutionary militias.
In today’s troubling times, how firmly are we willing to follow Jesus, especially his call to love our enemies?
But even more basic, how do we define today the enemy whom Christ wants us to love? Is the enemy a Muslim, an immigrant, a national leader opposed to our Anabaptist values, a person identifying as LGBQT, someone committed to kill in military uniform? We often do not agree on who the enemy is. So we ask deep within ourselves: Who is a follower of Jesus?
Will you help create Anabaptist communities of faith that ask God’s Spirit to dwell among us, study Scriptures together, and discern in community how to follow Jesus faithfully and how to love our enemies around us, no matter who they may be?