new Mennonite Life logo    September 2004     vol. 59 no. 3     Back to Table of Contents

The Sayings of Abraham Nofziger III

edited by Dallas Wiebe

Dallas Wiebe was born in Newton, Kansas, on January 9, 1930. He grew up in Newton and attended Newton public schools, graduating from Newton High in 1948. He attended Bethel college from 1948-1951 and again in 1953-54, graduating with a B.A. in English Literature. He then moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he began graduate study in English and American Literature. He recieved his M.A. in 1955 and his Ph.D. in 1960. He then taught for three years at the University of Wisconsin from 1960-63. He moved to the University of Cincinnati in 1963 and taught there until 1995 and retirement. In 1951 he married Virginia M. Schroeder of Halstead, Kansas. Virginia, who passed away in 2002, graduated from Bethel College in 1951. They have two children and five grandsons. Since his retirement in 1995, Dallas continues to read and write poetry and fiction. His Mennonite novel "Our Asian Journey" came out in 1997. His most recent book is "Vox Populi Street Stories," published in 2003 by Burning Deck Press. He is at work on a volume of poems called "Aging and Dying" and a book of poems that are meditations on the cross.

There are no extant photos of Abraham Nofziger.
Abraham Nofziger

Addenda: The following list of the sayings of Abraham Nofziger is made up of additional sayings sent after the first and second compilations of the sayings were put together. These sayings, like the others, were collected, transcribed and sent to me by Agnes Stolzfuss, née Pannabecker. Some of these sayings came late, according to Agnes, because of the extreme difficulty in reading the handwriting of Abraham Nofziger. I don't believe that. She never had that trouble before. I don't know it for a fact, but I suspect that Agnes Stolzfuss, née Pannabecker, withheld these sayings because of their radical nature. She probably finally sent them because, as she wrote in her last letter, she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

1. Abundance is the soul of wit.

2. Suffering is overrated.

3. Crime is the perfect example of free will in operation.

4. Crime is incipient capitalism.

5. Each person should be a criminal to a small extent.

6. Each person should break the law once in a while.

7. Crime is an exercise in free will.

8. God has given me time for penitence.

9. Violence is obscene.

10. Violence is a form of obscenity.

11. Depression is the rejection of forgiveness.

12. If you are spiritually empty, you are, in effect, dead.

13. Literature thrives on moral ambiguity.

14. Each of us must be charismatic, at least to ourselves.

15. Meditation is not inherently good. It can lead to holiness or it can lead to blasphemy.

16. When meditation leads to humor, the human has set aside the sacred.

17. Humor is human; holiness is divine.

18. The "divine comedy" is a contradiction in terms.

19. Comedy was invented when Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

20. Comedy is a mistake in the divine plan.

21. Certainty is a chimera. Even facts elude our grasp.

22. "The fact of the matter" is a dishonest statement.

23. Honesty and sincerity are nothing without thought.

24. Praising God is never a mistake.

25. There is no error in grace.

26. Grace makes no mistakes.

27. Grace comes without error.

28. Belief without doubt is fantasy.

29. Doubt is easy; faith is difficult.

30. Do not overeat; the mouth was made to praise God.

31. Abstain from work often and rest; the hands were made for prayer.

32. Ignorance is not a passive state; you have to work at it.

33. We could solve all the problems of this world if we'd put as much effort into doing good as we put into doing evil.

34. The logical result of logic is suicide.

35. It's amazing how commonplace one's peculiarities are.

36. The Old Adam is your fear of manifesting what is holy in you.

37. The crickets in my house are like the angels who sang at Bethlehem.

38. Preserving the earth is an act of worship.

39. Belief should not be comforting; it should result in agony for a short while.

40. Conscience is holiness permeating your mind and action.

41. Conscience is outside the law.

42. When a child is born there is only the future; when an old man dies there is only the past.

43. God always has the last laugh.

44. Only in the darkness after death can we understand infinity.

45. Only through self-deception can poetry assuage grief.

46. There's a certain finality about death that's hard to imagine.

47. Written revelation is always in the next sentence.

48. If a man is happy, let him be; if a man is sad, let him be.

49. Children should be seen and heard.

50. Jesus never played golf, tennis, chess, the recorder or the dulcimer.

51. We turn our world into chaos and crime just for the hell of it.

52. Wolves show mercy to their own kind. What does that say about humankind?

53. We have invented an infinite number of reasons as to why we shouldn't show mercy. Why can't we invent an infinite number of reasons for showing mercy?

54. Mercy is defined in its exercise.

55. Sobriety before God is an insult to His divinity.

56. Sew on a button with grace; button your coat with forgiveness.

57. Shoes were invented to encourage attendance at church.

58. Shedding your blood for a belief does not make the belief correct.

59. Martyrs are usually wrong.

60. Martyrs usually die for wrong reasons.

61. Belief should not be suicidal.

62. The Anabaptists restored God to religion. That's why they were burned at the stake.

63. Virtue begins in abstinence.

64. Abstinence is not inertia.

65. When Australia drifts down and becomes part of Antarctica, then we will know that there is justice in this world.

66. Boredom is an Australian virtue.

67. Australians know only one song.

68. No one ever leaves Australia.

69. No one ever returns to Australia because no one ever leaves.

70. Australia is the only good place to test thermonuclear weapons.

71. To flee from evil is not cowardice.

72. God is not part of an investment strategy.

73. God does not enter a stock portfolio.

74. The Pentagon is not a residence of God.

75. God is not one of our market forces.

76. We do not blame God for mechanical failure.

77. If your car does not start, you don't blame God.

78. Your automobile starts independent of God's will.

79. We have eliminated God from natural law.

80. Engineers do not consider God a factor when they design machines.

81. Weapons manufacturers do not recognize the presence of God.

82. God was not a factor in the designing of the nuclear bomb.

83. Only the rich can afford to be Christians.

84. Heaven is for the rich. That's why there are golden streets and pearly gates.

85. It's difficult to believe in God if you are starving.

86. It's easy to believe in God if you are warm and well-fed.

87. Rich people believe in God because they know that wealth does not come from virtue.

88. There are no rich atheists.

89. The best way to overcome poverty is to be born rich.

90. Poor people deserve their poverty because they should have selected their parents more carefully.

91. If you take poverty away from the poor they will have nothing left.

92. The war on poverty is over. The poor have surrendered and suffered defeat again.

93. The war on poverty has been won by the rich. The poor are still poor.

94. The greatest success of capitalism is poverty.

95. The profits of capitalism create poverty.

96. In a capitalist society, the best the poor can hope for is sympathy.

97. Rich Christians help the poor by sympathy.

98. Try eating sympathy for breakfast; try heating your house with sympathy.

99. It is easy to feel sympathy for the poor when you are warm and well-fed.

100. The most efficiently produced product of capitalism is poverty.

101. Capitalism produces enough poverty so that all can participate in it.

102. All members of a capitalistic society can fully share in the absence of wealth.

103. Attributing human characteristics to God turns divinity into travesty.

104. This world is too crowded. There's no room for race hate and ethnic prejudice.

105. If your religion does not produce good on this earth, then to hell with it.

106. Visions are filled with clichés.

107. Visions are inventories of clichés.

108. God speaks to us in Sunday School clichés.

109. It's amazing how trite most religious revelation is.

110. Contrary to popular belief, truth is not bitter. It is liberating.

111. Wisdom is everywhere. Why aren't you learning?

112. Ignorance is not a passive state; it is a form of aggression.

113. The most important spiritual crisis of our time is our loss of piety.

114. The destruction of our environment is just good business.

115. Every day in your life should be a holy day.

116. Who are the meek who shall inherit the earth if not you and me?

117. If there is no afterlife then virtue is an act of heroism.

118. Irony is useless against gravity.

119. Irony is useless against fanaticism.

120. Irony is useless.

121. If it weren't for irony, we'd all be poets.

122. Irony is suffering without pain. Irony is grief without suffering.

123. Fascism is the absence of irony.

124. Fundamentalism is the absence of irony.

125. If there was no irony we'd all commit suicide.

126. A saint is a person with no sense of irony.

127. St. Paul had no sense of irony.

128. There is no irony in the Eucharist.

129. Christ rode to victory in a world without irony.

130. Immorality, not crime, destroys social order.

131. Immorality precedes crime.

132. Crime is defined by man; immorality is defined by God.

133. Prisons are a failure of all mankind, not just of the prisoners.

134. If men loved God there would be no prisons.

135. Go to the prisons and ask yourself, "Is your property more important than human life?"

136. Every moment of your life should be a Eucharist.

137. Salvation is the Passion in you.

138. What is tolerance if it is not God's will in our lives?

139. The first step to salvation is the daily bestowing of love on one's fellow humans.

140. Salvation is the soul's consenting to the wisdom of God.

141. Salvation happens every moment of every day, and it never ceases.

142. There are no prophets in Australia.

143. To create a Mennonite ethos through my sayings.

144. An old and well washed flannel shirt is a gift from God.

145. To convert the Mennonites to Christianity through my sayings.

146. Folly is the theatre of the pure in heart.

147. The logical extension of Anabaptist thought is that each person becomes a church of one.

148. I'm the only Mennonite I know.