What Trump’s Popularity Says About Amish And Mennonite Priorities 

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​The whole Trump phenomenon has been amazing to see.  It has caused many lifelong and intellectually grounded Republicans to second guess their party affiliation.  It has also caused a divide in the conservative Evangelical movement.

One thing for sure, most conservative Mennonites I know (who vote quietly, if at all, and tend to be motivated by social issues like abortion and lean right) have been politically orphaned by Trump. 

Most, but not all…

Some Mennonites and Amish love the brash billionaire businessman.  They are loud and unapologetic in their support.  There is an ‘Amish PAC’ paying for billboards to urge our religious brethren to come out in favor of their man.

This post is about why some might be tempted.  It is not a political post so much as it is a diagnosis of how a man as contentious and vile as Trump could have any appeal with members of a Christian sect (Anabaptism) historically known for it’s peace position and repudiation of excess wealth.

I would chalk up Trump’s appeal with some raised in Anabaptist tradition to several things.  All of these things having to do with the way those raised in our communities are taught to think (or rather taught not to think) and what we fear.  I write this post as a warning to those with ears to hear it.

1) We like simple concrete answers.

Trump speaks in crude, unrefined and basic terms.  There is little nuance to his language and, even if he contradicts himself twice in the same day, his answers come off as assuringly absolute.

This gives some comfort to those raised in an environment where they were sheltered from the complexities of the current age.  For those of less formal education he is less threatening with his broad terms, overly simplistic narratives and unrealistic yet concrete sounding solutions.

Conservative Mennonites and Amish have an anti-intellectual bent.  Many of us (as those who value manual labor over mind work) mistrust academics and professionals.  Providing by the sweat of our brow seems more honest than the alternative.

Unfortunately this attitude can lead us to being too dismissive of intellectual pursuits.  It causes some to ignore the warnings of the better informed and makes them extra vulnerable to charlatans.  

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-25)

We need all types to be at our full strength as a body.

2) We equate business success to moral superiority.

Trump flaunts his wealth, exaggerates his self-worth and business acumen.  On the surface this might seem antithetical to a culture that values modesty and simplicity, but in actuality it exposes something about our true priorities.

Amish and Mennonites are both frugal and industrious.  Many are small business owners; some have done quite well for themselves and are proud of their accomplishments.  They see Trump as one of them and the guy they can trust to guard their accumulated wealth.

There is this unspoken understanding (perhaps a result of some denominational cross-pollination or just human tendency) that wealth is always a blessing from God.  Those with money in the church can buy their power and influence over even ordained leaders.

Sadly this is completely out of step with what Jesus taught and the early church practiced.  It grieves me that many in our conservative Anabaptist circles seem to value profits over people and think in terms of bottom line rather than love.  

“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.   But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (1 Timothy 6:9-11)

Be on your guard against the allure of those promising worldly greatness and wealth.

3) We prefer authoritarian leaders.

Trump is an authoritarian.  He promises to take care of business unilaterally and without apology.  With him it is get in line or be run over and this is what many want.  They want their own ideals railroaded even at the cost of consistency or conscience.

Many conservative Mennonite and Amish churches have departed from true brotherhood and rely on the heavy handed leadership of a bishop.  Not having to decide for themselves gives some a feeling of security, a person can find their place without much effort or thought.

Thinking requires effort.  Being involved in a community that disciples requires a huge commitment and added potential for frustration.  Teaching temperance would require time we would rather spend on our own personal pursuits.  So we outsource, we turn to strict rules (and roles) are easier to enforce and look to forceful leaders to impose our values.

This, again, is something condemned by Jesus.  Our leaders are not supposed to be the tyrants of worldly example; they are supposed to be examples of self-sacrificial love and submission.  But, instead of leading in this way, many look for someone to hitch their wagons to and do their work for them.

“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.” (Matthew 20:25-26a)

Be different.  Take responsibility and serve as Jesus did.

4) We fear strong and outspoken women.

Trump is many things, but his chauvinism is something that stands out.  His attacks on women who dare question him seem to be especially personal and nasty.  

This, at first glance, seems incompatible with a religious culture that avoids harsh words.  However, some conservative Anabaptist men are unaccustomed to women who stand up to them or question them directly.  It is a threat to them and they see a hero in Trump because he says what is on their mind.

Trump is a chauvinistic like them.  They don’t want a woman who questions or rivals them.  Even highly qualified conservative Mennonite women are treated with too apparent distain by some male coworkers who think all women should be at home, in the kitchen, and raising children.

But this is not reflective of the attitude of Jesus.  Men are supposed to be examples of humility, not entitled selfish brats.  A good man is able to bite his tongue, withstand criticism and treats all people with respect even when they are undeserving.

“Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” (Luke 8:3)

Women of faith in Scripture did more than sit at home waiting on their husbands tending children.

So, where do we go from here?

Those who disagree or like Trump may have already dismissed me as one of those highfalutin liberal weenies they love to loathe.  However, I want to confession some of my own guilt for not always leading in the example of Jesus Christ.  It is too easy for me to be defensive when confronted and feel justified.

Truth be told, whether you like Trump or despise him, we all can learn to do better.  Life is sometimes complex, sometimes good people suffer while the wicked prosper, but we should avoid running from the challenge and reacting in fear rather than faith.  

Politics is about power and control, that has a strong visceral appeal, but we (as people of faith) should desire something better.  Our fulfilment should come in loving others as Jesus told us to love and our hope built on something more.

This world will pass, but true faith will endure from now into eternity.  Put your investment where it counts, invest in the love of Jesus, forgive your enemies and be good to those who persecute you.

Jesus is the answer, not some bloviating businessman making promises of temporal greatness.  Find security in God not governments and reject politics as usual.

“Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” (2 Peter 3:17-18)

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27 thoughts on “What Trump’s Popularity Says About Amish And Mennonite Priorities 

  1. Lucinda J

    This comment is not so much about Trump as it is about “Anabaptist chauvinism.” I’m a conservative Anabaptist, and I have very rarely found the conservative men around me to be chauvinistic, defined as “the belief that members of your own sex are always better than those of the other.” ON THE CONTRARY, I like Anabaptist men. They care about their families, they generally hold a high view of and respect for womanhood, and I never hear them making stupid wife jokes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it is subtle. Anabaptist men tend to overcompensate by heaping on praise for their wives and women. However, when a woman steps out of line and challenges their idea of her appropriate role, there can be an uglier side. I know some examples.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lucinda J

        I don’t agree…and I even go so far as to believe a woman’s role in the home and in the church should be one of support rather than leadership…so maybe that’s a good place to leave the conversation. We don’t have to agree.

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    • Lucinda, the fact that you “never hear them making stupid wife jokes” doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t happen. I’ve heard plenty myself and I shudder to think what is said when no women are around. Of course, there are always the exceptions and I’m happy for you if this has not been your experience. Just know that simply because it is not your experience does not mean it doesn’t happen.

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      • Lucinda J

        I am blessed to have some pretty awesome men (and women) in my life, Rosanna. I know everyone has a different set of experiences and different story.

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  2. Lucinda J

    Ivanka, Trump’s daughter and one of his top advisers, states in a recent Times article, “When I hear criticism of him as it pertains to women, it takes me aback, because he raised me to never even think about gender.” There’s no doubt that Trump can be nasty…but maybe he’s just nasty all around to anyone who gets in his path, regardless of race or gender.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, of course she would say that, but the fact is that Trump has objectified women, including his own daughters, and that is easily researched. But, point taken, he is pretty equal opportunity in his insults.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Terrific insights here! Thank you for this. It truly scares me how blithely Trump’s narcissism and misogyny has been overlooked and/or ignored in the conservative communities, and it makes me wonder if people actually see it and don’t care or if they truly don’t know what they’re seeing.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Your point 4 is a blanket statement that is not accurate across the board. How Anabaptist people, both men and women, view strong outspoken women varies greatly from community to community and even within the same community this can be a great variance. I have seen the situation you posit, but I have also seen and personally experienced the complete opposite. And I have seen these same things in people who are totally removed from Anabaptist settings.

    Conservative Anabaptists tend to be practical people who appreciate the ability to get things done in a straight forward manner. Perhaps that is one reason CA’s support Trump.

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    • Correct. I don’t speak for every situation and know there is great diversity within the conservative Anabaptist community. However, I have seen first hand how educated and dedicated professionals are not fully appreciated by their conservative Mennonite employers. The expectation is that a woman find her place in the home. But not every woman will marry and deserve the same recognition for their abilities as any male employee.

      My point is not to make a blanket statement that applies to all. What I am doing is giving some ideas as to why a man that seems the antithesis to Anabaptist values is embraced by some. I believe that Trump’s attitude towards women is attractive to some conservative Mennonite men. I think they do enjoy seeing a woman being treated badly. There is resentment towards women in the hearts of some men and I try to be on guard against it.

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    • I’m glad you have not observed it amongst your conservative crowd. However, I know a few outspoken Trump supporters who are members of Mennonite churches in good standing and many others who are sympathetic.

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  5. Paul

    Interesting. This is exactly why I don’t vote. While I do hope that Hilary doesn’t win. Of the two evils I’ll let God decide! I also think Trump is a better person then people like to paint him. But we all know he’s not a godly man. But hey guess what ? The government isn’t a church it will not work like a church it’s ugly and sinful. While a country the abides by Godly morals will be a but help to the country. I get so confused when Mennonite and others that believe similar. Get so evolved in politics we don’t vote we say that we believe our kingdoms not of this world etc. But somehow I don’t always see that. But I will say the writer of this article was kinda making Mennonites look bad. Hello trust me I know they are bad Mennonites but please just because some might think Trump is better then hillary may have very little to do with them agreeing with his character and liking the way he thinks! I’m a Mennonite I don’t like trumps personal life. I do realise some people have turned their back on the bad In somethings for material gain! While everyone is tempted with at least one of your points. I really doubt there is many Mennonites that are would be found guilty of all of them. Mennonites are generally very nice people with high morals and try hard to follow the bible completely. While it’s normal for the women to not have full time jobs after they have kids. Mennonites teach very well that men aren’t better then women but believe me we are different. God designed it that way and it only works, when you follow the roles that God gives both.

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    • First, thank you for your response. I am a Mennonite born and raised. My words aren’t meant as a judgment on anyone and are rather just a warning about our tendencies. As far as Trump being better or worse than Hillary, who knows? I don’t know any conservative Mennonites who see her in a favorable light, so I’ve focused on what is relevant to my religious peers and will let criticism of her to others. Also, I’ve voted in the past on several occasions, but I don’t really see it as a big priority and a person of faith should be focused on doing their part. What really matters is how we lead in our lives, not who’s in the White House.

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  6. Todd

    So you are saying Amish and Mennonite priorities are not as golden as your own. Here’s what I’ve observed about Amish and Mennonites: They do appear simple but many times will surprise you by their depth of thought on an issue. Please find an Amishman and ask him why he supports Trump. We would all love to hear the answer! Until then, you are just casting aspersions.

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    • I am conservative Mennonite and I did not segregate myself out from the pack. I actually know several who are outspoken in their support for Trump. My observations are based in what I have encountered. Your own experience may be different and that’s okay.

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      • Todd

        All right then, sorry you got my ire up. I am curious though, what issues make them support Trump, if you know.

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      • My purpose in writing was to speak to some general tendencies in our Anabaptist communities as a warning to all more than a judgment of anyone.

        However, since you ask, the reasons I have heard is that he’s not politically correct, he will protect them, he’s a successful business man and that he’s the only choice other than Hillary. It is basically the same reasons as my worldly neighbors.

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  7. Jay Miller

    Great thought provoking article Joel…
    I’m truly amazed at the amount of hard core support this man has recieved from many conservative Mennonites within my circle of friends and churches here in amish country ( Holmes cty, Ohio).
    The angry accusatorial and visceral backlash I often recieve whenever I post or respond with scripture references in disagreement/rebuttal to a pro trump/ anti Hillary post is astounding to me. Often the worst responses come from some of the most conservative men and one of them actually works for a very well known and widely supported conservative ministry organization.
    Thanks for taking the time and having the courage to say what needs to be said to expose the truths about what may be motivating the Amish/Mennonite trumpism phenomenon …

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. I try to speak to relevant issues and hopefully encourage some thought or action. Anyhow, some of these “widely supported conservative ministry organizations” leave me a bit skeptical.

      Like

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