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Spring 1996 · Vol. 25 No. 1 · pp. 62–63 

Book Review

Canadian Mennonites and the Challenge of Nationalism

ed. Abe J. Dueck. Winnipeg, MB: Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society, 1994. 207 pages.

Reviewed by Linda Matties

This volume consists of essays first presented at a symposium held May 6-8, 1943. They deal with various aspects of nationalism as it has affected Mennonites. A. James Reimer starts off defining the terms and connections between theology and nationalism. He addresses the critical question of whether or not the church ought to speak in judgement to the nation.

James Urry writes about nationalizing forces in Tzarist Russia from above (Rossification) and below (Russification). Many of the patterns of accommodation and/or resistance were repeated in other places and times by various Mennonite groups.

Adolf Ens writes the first essay dealing directly with Canadian Mennonites. He talks about the implications of being British citizens in pre-World War I Canada. Some of the earliest Mennonites in Canada had already become British subjects whilst living in the American colonies.

Rodney J. Sawatsky looks at the effect of the 49th parallel on various Mennonite institutions. While it makes sense to have some trans-national structures, regionalism is a continually competing force, especially in regard to leadership education.

John H. Redekop looks at Canadian Mennonite involvement in non-Mennonite organizations. He points out the lag between individual and congregational or conference involvements. These involvements primarily have a theological base, rather than a nationalistic one.

Larry Miller looks at the spread of Mennonite churches around the world and the interaction between them. He sees the beginnings of and internationalism based on equality in fellowship. More work is needed in this area.

John D. Thiessen relates a fascinating account of the Mennonite response to National socialism (Nazi) in Latin America from 1933 to 1944. It would be interesting to see how the views changed in these communities after 1944 and what some of the same people think today. It could also be compared with responses in other parts of the world.

Royden Loewen examines two Midwestern American communities from 1900 to 1925. While his essay examines a response to nationalism, it is unclear why it is included in a volume supposedly about Canadian Mennonites.

Menno Wiebe looks at the relationship between Mennonites and aboriginal peoples. He sees in Mennonites a natural advocacy role on behalf of aboriginal peoples because they also are culturally distinct within a larger culture. While MCC speaks to aboriginal land claims we do not get a sense {63} of how ordinary Mennonites feel about this issue.

All of the contributors have impressive credentials. One has to wonder to what extent their views and sources reflect the views of Mennonite leaders as opposed to the ordinary Mennonite in the pew or on the tractor and in the kitchen. One also has to ask why there are no women in their ranks and why possible differences between male and female approaches to nationalism are not mentioned. A study of attitudes of contemporary Mennonites in different regions, or different generations, and genders is still needed. Mennonite responses to immigration from non-Christian areas needs to be looked at. John Redekop suggests that Mennonites need not yet fear that their faith is being compromised by nationalism (p. 126). Given the many aspects of nationalism not addressed in this volume, his conclusion appears to be premature.

This volume should be a part of any collection on Mennonite history. Students at Mennonite schools should be encouraged to read it and continue the research. We are all engaged in the task of learning how to be both Canadian and “Mennonite” in changing political, social, and economic circumstances. 1 We need to teach the younger generations how to engage in this task and this book is a helpful aide for beginning the process.

  1. I write this review just days before the Quebec sovereignty referendum.
Linda Matties
Abbotsford, B.C.

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