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Spring 2004 · Vol. 33 No. 1 · pp. 85–101 

American Mennonites and Nonviolence

Landon Fulmer

Since their beginning in sixteenth-century Europe, Mennonites have resided within the borders of some of the most militaristic and dictatorial countries the world has ever known. Often they were persecuted for their unwillingness to take up arms and fight, a call based upon the nationalistic claims of their homeland’s leaders and perpetuated by their neighbors.

American Mennonites still have much internal diplomatic work to do if they are to present a unified approach in regard to nonviolence.

In 1945, just following the end of World War II and facing the possible enactment by the United States government of a broadsweeping Universal Military Training program (UMT), the General Conference of the Mennonite Church of North America issued a decree. They stated their position regarding UMT by first describing their historical commitment to nonresistance:

Our forefathers came from several countries in Europe, and through the course of the last four centuries have been compelled to migrate frequently. They lived in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Poland, Austria, and Russia. Economically they fared well in virtually every country, and each time they were forced to migrate they left behind fertile fields with well-improved farms, factories, and industries that were well established; but for the sake of conscience they were forced to leave. Their migrations spell {86} one long “trek for conscience” throughout the more than four centuries of their existence; each time they left they sought for a new home of freedom from military training and from participation in war. 1

Prior to the mid-twentieth century and in places other than North America, Mennonites had not for the most part experienced broad social acceptance that entailed all three of the following freedoms: (1) the right to practice their religion by objecting to military service, (2) the right to sufficient individual autonomy, and (3) the right to freely participate in matters of public governance (i.e., running for office or voting).

Numerous times they had been granted two of these three. In Russia, Empress Catherine II invited German Mennonites to settle the sparsely populated Ukrainian steppes and promised them complete religious freedom if they acquiesced. 2 As it so happened, those who immigrated to South Russia attained both (1) and (2), but they were required to remain segregated from the rest of Ukrainian society to do so.

Almost as often, however, Mennonites experienced none of the aforementioned freedoms. Indeed, those who founded the Anabaptist movement in Switzerland saw it nearly squelched by a vicious surge of religious persecution. 3 Because of this, Mennonites saw themselves as being on the fringe of society, daily experiencing Jesus’ teaching that the world would hate them because of their love for the Christian life. 4 Strict doctrines of separation from the surrounding culture both geographically and politically were soon formulated. 5

Even in pre-World War II America, Mennonites often faced persecution for their objection to military service. Stories abound regarding the ill-treatment by the military of young Mennonite draftees during World War I. Between the world wars, however, the social climate shifted to one of tolerance toward groups who objected to warfare. During World War II, many alternative service and noncombatant military positions were made available to those who, because of conscience, could not rightly serve in the armed forces. 6

In post-war America, then, Mennonites suddenly found themselves in a position rarely experienced by their doctrinal ancestors: their religious qualms regarding warfare were tolerated and sometimes even lauded. They were, for all practical purposes, completely acculturated, thus receiving all of the benefits due to participants in the American experiment. Notably, this included the right to enter into political discussions regarding the future of their cities, states, and country. {87}

This change of circumstance presented a significant challenge to the historical Mennonite position regarding the state. They were now viewed by the broader society in which they lived not only as legitimate but also as an integral part of the social fabric. Faced with the possibility of influencing American culture in favor of a more peaceable existence, some began to claim that their call was not to be a community despised by and separate from the world. Rather, it was one which was supposed to reach out and bring God’s message of peace on earth to American government and society.

In this essay, I will contend that this shift toward a pacifist message has become strong among American Mennonites, but that the old separationist viewpoint remains embedded in the collective Anabaptist mind. 7 Thus, I will be arguing that post-war American Mennonites have not been able, for all of their attempts, to agree upon a unified approach regarding their relationship to the state. I will distinguish two positions, labeled nonresistance and pacifism, trace some of the debate between their respective adherents, and conclude by noting some attempts to reconcile the two groups.


Before going any further, we must understand the differences between the doctrines of nonresistance and pacifism. The two are sometimes equated. Leo Driedger and Donald A. Kraybill, for example, apply both labels to the same foundational Mennonite belief. 8 Throughout their book, Mennonite Peacemaking, they argue that Mennonite pacifism/nonresistance has become more aggressive because Mennonites themselves have become culturally acclimated. 9 I propose that their failure to distinguish between these two terms leads them to make an incorrect inference regarding the nature of pacifism. They claim that pacifism itself begins to dwindle when the groups who hold to it become an integrated part of the society in which they reside. 10 While this claim may be true of some groups, I propose that for American Mennonites, pacifism itself has gained in appeal as the group has become part of at-large American society.

Less than a decade following the end of the second World War, John R. Mumaw penned a small but intelligent essay highlighting the aforementioned distinction. He begins his essay, titled “Nonresistance and Pacifism,” by asserting that there are many who mistakenly group nonresistant Christians with general pacifists on the ground that adherents of both categories object to military induction. 11 However, Mumaw asserts that nonresistance is {88}

a vital faith in the teachings of Christ and in the doctrinal assertions of the New Testament. . . . [It] involves a trustful belief in the overruling providence of God to care for those who are compelled to submit to unjust and unreasonable coercive powers. 12

Pacifism, on the other hand, “envisions an international organization based upon international law to establish amicable relations among all people.” 13 Mumaw believes that nonresistance is the appropriate Mennonite stance, and that pacifism is a “deviation.” 14 Let us consider the entailments of the nonresistance school’s approach to state-sponsored violence.


Mennonite historian John B. Toews, in an unpublished essay titled “Nonresistance and the Gospel,” outlines the major components of the nonresistant approach to world conflict. From the beginning of his essay, Toews makes it very clear that nonresistance is a doctrine supported only by Scripture and attainable only by those who live disciplined, godly lives. While those who make no pretense to follow biblical dictates have ethical standards to which they must adhere, those who have placed themselves under the new law of Scripture find themselves subject to a higher morality. 15

One tenet of this higher ethical standard is the call to cast away from oneself all forms of violent conduct. 16 This position follows from Jesus’ teachings that one should love his or her enemies and do good to those with harmful intentions. 17 Basically, the theory of nonresistance juxtaposes the life of a Christian against that of a citizen of the “world.” Everybody begins life in the latter camp; no person immediately has the strength to be completely nonresistant to every form of aggression. Only by making a personal commitment to such an end can a person experience the love that can come only from the regeneration of Christ. 18 The Christian, therefore, is a person called to live a holy life and thus always finding him- or herself at odds with a world that has a moral system all its own.

The world’s moral principles, however, are not entirely bankrupt; in fact, so Toews asserts, God has established authorities to deal with the problems that arise in association with man’s fallen condition. He claims that “The Gospel recognizes the needs of . . . order for the preservation of human society and claims many benefits arising from the institution of human government which beareth not the sword in {89} vain.” That being said, Toews now is able to assert that the Sermon on the Mount, in which many of the foundational teachings relating to nonresistance are to be found, was not meant to relate to those who have not made a commitment to follow Christian moral principles. Indeed, it would be foolish for Christians to take strides toward eliminating warfare because “the Gospel offers no hope of a warless world as visualized by pacifism”; thus, “the Church [should] not [be] committed to work for such an objective in the present world order.” 19

Nonresistance only claims that Christians have a moral duty to not engage in any physically destructive warfare because the primary objective of any military is to disable the enemy by way of killing and maiming. And Christians, because of their professed love for everyone, cannot participate in such an activity. 20


More recently, other Mennonite theologians have spoken out against the pacifistic position and in support of nonresistance. Notably, John D. Roth, in his book Choosing Against War: A Christian View, argues that ideological separation from the world is the first step for the Christians in their attempt to distinguish their way of thinking from that of society at large. “Christians,” he argues, “are citizens of not one, but two kingdoms: that of the nation state and that of the universal body of Christ,” and the latter always supersedes the former. 21 Although each Christian will be a citizen of a country, carry a passport, and purchase goods with their homeland’s currency, his or her ultimate allegiance is to God and his kingdom. Thus, when the two conflict, the Christian should follow the moral assertions contained in Scripture, one of which is to refuse to resist evil by physical means.

Further, Roth claims that followers of Christ should never put themselves in a position that would be conducive to breaking their commitment to the godly life. A Christian, then, should never buy into national pride (or patriotism) because

for most of modern history, patriotism has served as a kind of social glue unifying its citizens around the ideals of freedom and democracy, but always with the reminder that these ideals will require its citizens to die (and to kill) whenever the nation is at war. 22

Also, Roth says, Christians should not involve themselves directly in the political process by running for election or serving in an {90} appointed government position because they might be asked by their superiors, or by those who have elected them, to subvert their Christian principles. 23 Rather, the follower of Christ should become a peacemaker on the home front, fighting injustice with love and comfort wherever it is found. 24


However, Roth is quick to point out that he does not “denounce the world of politics.” 25 On the contrary, he believes that the powers are established by God. He asserts that “the social stability secured by the government’s coercive authority is far superior to the alternatives of chaos and anarchy,” 26 and even goes so far as saying that “in a fallen and chaotic world, those human institutions that bring order and justice do, at least, point in the direction of shalom.” 27 This realm, however, cannot be the arena of the Christian because holding political office entails that one compromise his beliefs for the advancement of the general will. 28

Thus, the nonresistance position is based upon four tenets:

  • First, it asserts that Scripture rather than appeals to the human condition must be the basis for Christian lifestyle. 29
  • Second, it claims that Christians exist in a world controlled by sin but transcend it by living according to the teachings of Christ.
  • Third, it holds that the teachings of Christ prohibit a loyalty to the state that entails killing for it during times of war, but asserts that adherents be respectful to the ruling authorities by contributing economically and socially to society’s betterment.
  • Finally, it argues that one should not seek power or platform but rather live in complete subservience to the state.


Christian pacifism, on the other hand, accepts tenets two and three, while partially rejecting tenet one and completely rejecting tenet four. Mumaw asserts that the general pacifist position sees humanity as having a bend toward doing the right thing when such an option is present, and doing so on the basis of reason apart from any sort of religious belief. 30 Of course, religious pacifism argues that religious belief plays an important role in regard to their position, but argues nonetheless that all should desire the peaceful resolution of geopolitical conflicts. Since they believe their religion to be true for all people of all times, it is also easy for them to argue that the best way for people to live, both in and outside of the religion, is according to its principles. {91}

According to the Christian pacifist, the government can be reasoned into doing those actions which accord with the teachings of Christ, and so can be an instrument for the realization of God’s kingdom on earth. 31 Mumaw claims that

The pacifist view of the Christian’s relation to government is expressed in terms of civic duty. It holds the pacifist is responsible to exercise his franchise and to influence legislation by various political means. 32

Christian pacifism rests upon the following tenets:

  • The goal is the abolition of warfare.
  • The motivations are scriptural teachings and a desire to make human interaction more conducive to humanity’s fundamental characteristics.
  • The tool is political influence.


Those who hold to such a doctrine find validation for their opinions in the example of Christ. Harley J. Stucky, in his essay, “The Doctrine of Love and Nonresistance,” claims that Jesus lived at a time during which nationalism and materialism were more rampant than they are today. 33 Regardless of this, however, he lived to influence those with whom he came into contact (including political leaders), and actively sought out the role of the peacemaker. He taught

a way of life which His followers were to teach and live out in their communities, with their neighbors, and even with their bitterest enemies, be they individual or corporate groups, such as the scribes and Pharisees, or political states. 34

According to the pacifist, the goal of each Christian should be to influence the world at whatever level in favor of justice and nonviolence.

The political interactions desired by the pacifist are achieved by way of either running for office or lobbying. John H. Redekop, in his essay regarding the political involvement of Canadian Mennonites, catalogues all those who ran for election to the Canadian House of Commons from the time of Canada’s confederation in 1867 to the penning of his essay in 1991. In all, approximately 315 individuals campaigned during the years studied, with a sharp increase in participation from the 1940s to the 1960s. 35 Thus, it seems as though the acceptance of {92} pacifism, as opposed to traditional nonresistance, has been gaining ground there for quite some time.

More common than direct political involvement, however, is the attempt by Mennonites to influence governmental officials by way of lobbying, and especially by way of academic persuasion. A typical example of such a method is the recent book by James C. Juhnke and Carol M. Hunter, The Missing Peace. In it, the coauthors highlight America’s various wars and offer what they feel would have been valid alternative courses of action that would have averted armed conflict. They state their purpose to survey “the general course of U.S. history from the viewpoint of peace values.” 36 Clearly, the authors of such a book believe that worldwide peace is actually achievable, either apart from or in coordination with Anabaptist values. That is, those who take this approach must hold the state accountable to the same moral standard to which the church is held.


Thus, the differences between pacifism and nonresistance are quite clear. Nonresistance, it seems, is the more basic doctrine, while pacifism holds to some of the former’s tenets while tweaking it just enough to encompass a broader swath of human action. It is also clear why pacifism takes root and thrives in more tolerant social settings. When individuals are barred from any sort of political involvement, one cannot reach beyond his or her small, oppressed community and influence those outside of it in favor of peaceful conflict resolutions. In tolerant societies, such as the one in which we currently reside, political conditions allow for the presentation of many opinions, including those of the pacifist.

While it may be true that the nonresistant position is damaged by broad social acceptance (when the “evil world” no longer spurns you, there is less motivation to call it evil), the failure to distinguish nonresistance from pacifism makes it difficult to discern which is increasing or decreasing in popularity. It is the contention of this author that pacifism has gained ground on nonresistance in the Mennonite mind since the end of World War II. I will now describe events during which this shift became evident.


The traditional Mennonite ideological distinction separating the world from the Christian became blurred by a flurry of articles written over an eight-year span immediately following World War II. During {93} this time the United States government was considering the establishment of a mandatory Universal Military Training program. In 1945, Arthur Just, in an article reporting on a post-war Mennonite peace conference, argued that peacetime conscription would lead the United States down the path toward destruction. 37 He further asserted:

It seems to me that to fail to let our government representatives know how we feel about this great issue is to fail in our duty towards our government which we try to serve. Our task is only half finished if we help to vote a man into office; we must advise him on issues that he must vote on. 38

These admonitions to work with the government in favor of the enactment of Christian principles, and especially those relating to peace, are essential to the pacifist position.

As the gravity of the situation in which Mennonites found themselves in relation to a UMT program began to sink in, the rhetoric in favor of a pacifistic position regarding nonviolence became more direct. Don E. Smucker testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 31, 1948, and argued that God’s judgment stands against any nation that relies on the sword for its existence. Further, he claimed that the United States should always “recognize the judgment of God” while writing policy. 39

Such rhetoric was not limited only to those who were directly involved with the lobbying process; indeed, individual Mennonites were rallying to the cause of pacifism. In his 1949 award-winning speech, Dwight Wiebe argued that the blueprint for a lasting global peace was to be found in the pages of the Bible, and asserted that the United States would crush itself with its own might if it did not seek God and nonviolent conflict resolutions. 40 By the early 1950s the doctrine of pacifism seemed to be the norm among Mennonite groups. Adam Ewert, in his article titled “Why I am a Conscientious Objector,” asserts his belief that “the life of love and peace is God’s plan for the individual and the race.” 41

This overwhelming bend toward pacifism that Mennonites displayed in the immediate post-war years laid the ideological justification for the aforementioned testimonies given by Mennonite peace activists before Senate committees. Generally, these lobbyists expected to achieve nothing more than the allowance by the United States government of alternative service programs into which Mennonite youths could go in lieu of military service. 42 From their writings on the issue and those of other {94} Mennonites it can be seen that those who opted for such a response fully supported the pacifistic approach to worldwide violence.

The nonresistance voice within the larger Mennonite body, although marginalized, still found opportunities to make itself heard. This approach to UMT programs can be summed up by the following quote from a 1953 Christian Leader article:

History bears out the inevitable fact that whenever the Christian church has ceased to study the truth of Christ’s teachings and whenever it has become overly encumbered in governmental affairs it has lost its non-resistant character—and consequently its greatest effectiveness. 43

The argument here is that God controls the events of the world, and so Christians should not be too concerned with the everyday business of the United States government. Thus, those who were in favor of lobbying the government realized that they had to convince a significant minority of the population that their actions were legitimate. We now turn to these attempts at synthesizing the two viewpoints regarding appropriate nonviolent Christian response.


Elmer Neufeld

Following the UMT controversy of the early 1950s, Mennonites made concerted efforts to find a common ideological ground between the pacifistic and nonresistant schools of thought. This time period, falling roughly between the Korean and Vietnam wars, saw an explosion of literature on the issue. Two individuals who took the lead in attempting to develop this cooperative doctrine were philosopher-turned-college president, Elmer Neufeld, and prolific Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) peace activist, Harold S. Bender.

Neufeld’s 1958 essay, “Christian Responsibility in the Political Situation,” is one of those rare gems in which the complex issues surrounding pacifism in the face of warfare and the relationship of nonviolent Christians to the state are carefully analyzed and explained. Traditionally, Neufeld asserts, four basic approaches have been taken by Christians in regard to their relationship with the state. First, some have denied that there is any sort of tension between the two. 44 Those who hold to such an opinion usually equate their particular social agenda with the moral teachings of Jesus, i.e., they refuse to view governmental corruption in light of every Christian’s call to live a godly life. {95}

Second, some argue that while it may be that Christ and culture stand in a paradoxical relationship, the standards for one’s actions in regard to his or her personal and public lives differ. Thus, while all are held to the highest Christian ethical standards in their personal life, their public life falls under the jurisdiction of a different moral code entirely. Third, some see Christ’s ethical teachings as being superior to the evil practices of the world, and so they work to bring about a culture in which Christian principles can thrive. This worldview is utilitarian in that it sees the Christian as often being forced into using the weapons of the world in order to keep the pure Christian community safe from subversion. Finally, there is the traditional Anabaptist teaching that one must completely separate him- or herself from worldly activities. Essentially, this is the viewpoint of the nonresistor. 45

Neufeld, however, accepts none of these as providing all of the answers for Christians who are looking to make a difference politically. Two of them, he believes, are entirely mistaken. The first response is flawed because it is self-evident that the values embraced by any culture do not and will never clearly reflect those as taught by Christ. 46 The third response is flawed because the Mennonite position never allows for a breach of conscience on the grounds of utilitarian goals.

The other two, however, are partially correct but ultimately inadequate. Neufeld asserts that the moral structure of government and that of the church are at odds with one another. Further, none can rightly separate themselves into two individuals, one corporate and one private. Thus, the second response is flawed in that one cannot rightly engage in wars promoted by the government while still practicing Christian charity and nonresistance. This does not mean, however, that the church must be geographically and/or ideologically separated from the world either. On the contrary, such a separation is completely impossible. 47

In light of such a conundrum, what does Neufeld propose? He argues that Christians should participate in politics until it is impossible for them to do so without violating their consciences. 48 He claims that,

Because the Christian’s supreme loyalty is to God rather than to the state and because of the elements of compromise and expediency in political decision making, the Christian who participates must inevitably expect certain tensions and disabilities. In fact, if these are absent it is very doubtful whether he is performing an appropriate function. . . . Political participation for the committed Christian will therefore inevitably have an aspect of contingency; the Christian must {96} go with a sense of Christian mission, and must be ready to return when a complete impasse is reached. 49

Such a broad claim regarding direct political involvement ultimately entails that any type of conscientious lobbying done by or on behalf of Mennonites is entirely acceptable. This assumes, of course, that the highest Christian morals are adhered to by those who lobby, so that they would not bribe, threaten, or otherwise violate Christian standards.

Harold Bender

Another promoter of doctrinal reconciliation was Harold S. Bender. He was mentioned earlier in this essay as a champion of the pacifist position, and this is true to an extent. His early writings on the issue, namely those surrounding the Mennonite opposition to a UMT program, fell nicely into the larger pacifist category. His later writings, however, reflect a more contemplative response to the problems regarding the conflict between the pacifist and nonresistant positions. In his essay, “A Historical Review of the Anabaptist/Mennonite Position and Practice from 1525 to the Present,” Bender explains why it is that the early Anabaptists took no part in government. He also explains why American Christians can take part without forsaking their consciences.

First, he admits that Scripture does not authorize Christians to seek political solutions for their problems; indeed, Christ’s example showed that he harbored an unwillingness to take part in governmental affairs. 50 Further, Matthew 20:25-27 teaches that dominion and lordship are not to be present in the body of Christ. Instead, the greatest will be the servant of all. This radical difference between the principles of the world and those of the church impressed upon the early Anabaptists the need to completely separate themselves from the world’s ethical system. 51 This further entailed that they adhere to a strict two-kingdom theology. Such a theological persuasion was easy to hold to during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when governmental power was inaccessible to most and was constantly used to forcefully push ideological agendas.

While all of this might have been the case, Bender argues, American Mennonites have a social status rarely procured by the early Anabaptists. Throughout the histories of the largest U.S. Mennonite groups (the Mennonite Church, the General Conference Mennonites, and the Mennonite Brethren), no ban has ever been levied against voting. 52 Likewise, for most of American history, individual male citizens have had suffrage. Thus, the two have gone hand in hand for the greater part of two centuries to create a tradition of Anabaptist political {97} involvement nearly as long as that of the earlier noninvolvement. Indeed, American Mennonite groups have never officially regulated or forbidden their members to participate in “governmental functions at any level, except . . . [for] police functions.” 53 From this, Bender argues that we live in a time more suited to political interaction than inaction, and that such participation has the backing of both historical precedent and social context.

His views on the issue and his way of reconciling the two positions became clear during an ink-debate he had with Canadian Mennonite pastor Edgar Metzler in 1959. In an article that ran on the front page of the Gospel Herald, Metzler proposed that American Mennonites should not even register for the draft due to the fact that such an action would in effect ally them with what he saw to be an increasingly militaristic government. Bender, of course, having testified before numerous House and Senate committees in order to procure alternative service arrangements for Mennonite youths in the case of a nationwide draft, saw such a course of action as no way of treating a government that had provided and would continue to provide Mennonites with ways to avoid the battlefield. 54

Thus, Bender responded by claiming that such an action was disrespectful to the federal government because there was no just cause that could be upheld by it. He argued that one must not seek out unnecessary conflict with the government by promoting a wildly separationist course of action, while simultaneously having available a possible legal course of action that would not conflict with the Mennonite conscience. Generally, Bender asserted, Christians should disobey the government only when it required an act that would break the moral code to which they had committed themselves. 55

Responses to Neufeld and Bender

The efforts of Neufeld and Bender did not go unnoticed. In perhaps the most wholehearted attempt to standardize the American Mennonite position regarding nonviolence, the Mennonite Central Committee Peace Section met in Chicago in 1965 to discuss the relationship of the Christian to the state. The results of this study conference aligned with many of the conclusions advocated by the aforementioned authors. First, the Section refused to allow for a privatized faith. “Christians,” they claimed, “do not regard the activities in which they are called to engage as separated into two distinct spheres, the sacred and the secular. They seek to recognize Christ’s Lordship and glorify Him in all of their activities.” 56 Since this is the case, Christians will participate in {98} both sacred and secular activities and must find a way to integrate their adherence to biblical doctrines into every facet of their lives.

As far as public legislation goes, though, the Peace Section said that the state should not use the church to push a particular political agenda, and that the church should not use the state to pursue a theological end; the two, while both existing in the same society, have jurisdiction over different facets of it. A gray middle area does exist, however, because issues of public order and morality often take on a theological and eschatological character. The church, therefore, has a “responsibility to give its prophetic witness on moral issues in our present social and political order.” 57 This responsibility extends only to public discussion or forum; it does not entail that force be used to procure such ends.

Generally, the report also stated, Mennonites have the duty to exert argumentative influence over the society in which they live, but they must always remember that their first allegiance is to God. Thus, any time the local government makes laws that conflict with the Christian conscience, it is the Christian’s duty to passively disobey them. 58


Thus it came about that the most influential consortium of Mennonites in the United States drafted what they felt to be a statement striking the right balance between pacifism on one hand and nonresistance on the other. In retrospect, however, it seems that the work of reconciliation started by Bender and Neufeld and perpetuated by MCC did not go far toward reconciling the two sides. Unfortunately, much of America’s Mennonite population either failed to approve of MCC’s statement or never got word of its conclusions. A strand of strict nonresistance was still in existence even as recently as 1980.

Indeed, Metzler’s position of radical noncooperation with the United States government in regard to draft registration seemed to have actually gained in popularity from 1959-1980. Mervin Dick, in his August 1980 essay titled “Reservations Regarding Noncombatant Military Service and Refusal to Register for the Draft,” argued that noncooperation is the best of all possible options open to draft-age Mennonites. 59 While a survey conducted at Tabor College in 1980 revealed that approximately seventeen percent of the student body would not or would seriously consider not registering for the draft, 60 forty-seven percent of those who took a similar survey at Fresno Pacific College expressed their support for noncooperation with the government. 61

Such evidence suggests an ongoing diversity among Mennonites: while some eagerly embrace either pacifism or the semipacifist middle {99} ground elucidated by Neufeld and Bender, others are still unwilling to compromise the traditional Anabaptist orientation toward nonresistance, noninvolvement, and noncooperation. Because of these broad rifts of opinion, American Mennonites still have much internal diplomatic work to do if they are to present a unified approach in regard to nonviolence.


  1. “A Statement of Position of the General Conference of the Mennonite Church of North America in Regard to Any Proposed Program of Universal Military Training” (Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Hillsboro, Kansas, mimeographed, 1945), 1.
  2. Cornelius J. Dick, An Introduction to Mennonite History, 3d ed. (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1993), 168-70.
  3. Ibid., 53-54.
  4. John 15:19.
  5. Leo Driedger and Donald B. Kraybill, Mennonite Peacemaking: From Quietism to Activism (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1994), 22-24. Also see A. Dueck, “War, Peace, and Nonresistance,” in Bridging Troubled Waters: The Mennonite Brethren at Mid-Century, ed. Paul Toews (Winnipeg, MB and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred, 1995), 6-7.
  6. Ibid., 73.
  7. Throughout this essay, the denominators Mennonite and Anabaptist are used interchangeably.
  8. Driedger and Kraybill, 36-37.
  9. Ibid., 14.
  10. Ibid., 36-37.
  11. John R. Mumaw, Nonresistance and Pacifism (Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1952), 5.
  12. Ibid., 11.
  13. Ibid., 7.
  14. Ibid., 20.
  15. John B. Toews, “Nonresistance and the Gospel” (Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Hillsboro, Kansas, mimeographed, n.d.), 2.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Luke 6:27-36. {100}
  18. Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10-15.
  19. Toews, “Nonresistance and the Gospel,” 2-4.
  20. Ibid., 2.
  21. John D. Roth, Choosing Against War: A Christian View (Intercourse, PA: Good, 2002), 128.
  22. Ibid., 134.
  23. Ibid., 154.
  24. Ibid., 180-82.
  25. Ibid., 165.
  26. Ibid., 131.
  27. Ibid., 143.
  28. Ibid., 167.
  29. Marion Bontrager, “Christian Responses to War,” presentation given in the Tabor College Chapel, Hillsboro, Kansas, on November 11, 2002.
  30. Mumaw, 7.
  31. Ibid., 8.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Harley J. Stucky, The Doctrine of Love and Nonresistance (N. Newton, KS: Mennonite, 1955), 3.
  34. Ibid., 57.
  35. John H. Redekop, “Decades of Transition: North American Mennonite Brethren in Politics,” in Bridging Troubled Waters: The Mennonite Brethren at Mid-Century, ed. Paul Toews (Winnipeg, MB and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred, 1995), 22, 27.
  36. James C. Juhnke and Carol M. Hunter, The Missing Peace: The Search for Nonviolent Alternatives in United States History (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press Canada, 2001), 13.
  37. Arthur Just, “The Christian and Peace: The Newton Post-War Conscription Conference,” Christian Leader, May 1945, 8.
  38. Ibid.
  39. “Peace Section Notes,” Christian Leader, 15 April 1948, 6.
  40. Dwight Wiebe, “What Manner of Men Are We?” Tabor College Bulletin 3 (1949), 5-6.
  41. Adam H. Ewert, “Why I Am a Conscientious Objector,” Christian Leader, 15 June 1953, 9.
  42. For more information as to how Mennonite groups believed these alternative service programs should be structured, see the following: “Principles on Alternative Service Outlined,” Christian Leader, 5 May 1951, 8; Harold S. Bender, “Testimony on UMT Given,” Christian Leader, 15 February 1952, 9; J. B. Toews, {101} “Special Committee Report,” Christian Leader, 15 April 1951, 10-11.
  43. Adam H. Ewert, “Why Alternative Service?” Christian Leader, 1 August 1953, 4.
  44. Elmer Neufeld, Christian Responsibility in the Political Situation (Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1958), 8-9.
  45. Ibid., 9-11.
  46. Ibid., 12-13.
  47. Ibid., 13.
  48. Ibid., 15-16.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Harold S. Bender, “A Historical Review of the Anabaptist/Mennonite Position and Practice from 1525 to the Present” (Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Hillsboro, Kansas, mimeographed, n.d., call code MS), 1.
  51. Ibid., 2-3.
  52. Ibid., 11.
  53. Ibid., 5.
  54. Albert N. Keim, Harold S. Bender: 1897-1962 (Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1998), 487.
  55. Ibid.
  56. “Findings of the Church-State Study Conference, Chicago, Illinois, October 7-9, 1965,” in Church-State Study Conference, ed. V. Preheim (Mennonite Central Committee, 1965), 4.
  57. Ibid., 6.
  58. Ibid., 5.
  59. Mervin Dick, “Reservations Regarding Noncombatant Military Service and Refusal to Register for the Draft” (Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Hillsboro, Kansas, mimeographed, 1980, call code Wesley Prieb File), 6-8.
  60. “Student Poll Results Released,” Tabor College View, 22 February 1980.
  61. J. G. Fast, in “Survey on Registration and the Draft” (Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Hillsboro, Kansas, 1980, call code Wesley Prieb File), 44.
Landon Fulmer graduated from Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas, in 2003 with a double major in History and Philosophy.
An earlier version of this essay was written for the Historiography research course at Tabor College under the direction of Richard Kyle.

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