In this issue we return to the question that Dr. Harley Stucky addressed in the January 1959 issue of Mennonite Life"Should Mennonites Participate in Government?" Stucky was a professor of history at Bethel College. He said that Mennonites are "first of all" citizens in Christ's Kingdom, and secondarily citizens of the nation. Based on that priority, Stucky favored limited political participation.
We are now two-thirds of a century distant from Stucky's reflections, and Mennonites in the interim have vastly increased their political involvements. But the tensions among Mennonite values and the political world continue to evolve and create vibrant, productive conversations in Mennonite-related institutions and homes and occupations. This spring John D. Roth, professor of history at Goshen College, in the C. Henry Smith lecture, raised the question once again. Roth put the accent on political withdrawal, dramatizing his case with a call for a Mennonite five-year "sabbatical" from partisan politics. In this issue is Roth's original lecture, followed by appreciative and critical comments by six respondents (Elizabeth T. Harder, Ray Kauffman, Lin Garber, Marion Deckert, Karl S. Shelly, and Linda Gehman Peachey), and a concluding response from Roth.
Miriam Toews' novel, A Complicated Kindness, a female coming of age story in small-town (Steinbach) Manitoba, is the literary work that elicits the greatest passion among Mennonites today. That novel won the 2004 Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award in Canada. In this issue four Mennonite scholars (Al Reimer, Phyllis Bixler, Jeff Gundy and Robert Kreider) take a deeper critical look at A Complicated Kindness and its reception in the Mennonite world.
Mennonite scholars who contribute to our ongoing "How My Mind Has Changed" series reveal their own theological coming of age stories. J. Denny Weaver, long time professor of religion at Bluffton University, has had a leading role in establishing a tradition of Anabaptist/Mennonite theological discourse. In this issue he shares with us how his mind has changed over the years.
We present two particularly thoughtful poems about life choices to center our summer issue in reflections on family, history, and our circles of relationships. The first poem, by Rachel Yoder, examines a photographic capture of a historical moment and compares it to family images and questions. The second, by Dave Janzen, examines a landscape marker as part of the processing of life issues during an annual reunion of college friends.
The Mennonite Bibliography, 2004, consists of titles published in 2004 that were acquired by the contributing libraries. Also included are titles acquired in 2004, published prior to that year, but not included in previous Mennonite Life bibliographies. We are pleased as always to note the expanding field of discourse represented by this extensive bibliography; we extend a special thank-you to the many cooperating libraries for this fine resource.
This issue concludes with book reviews by Marlin Adrian, John Thiesen, and Dwight Roth.
Our thanks go to our many contributors. As always, we invite our readers to propose essays on topics of interest to the hybrid and evolving nature of Mennonite life.