A health care crisis in the United States prompts the featured forum in this issue of Mennonite Life. How should Mennonites respond to the problems of financing adequate health care? Does the communitarian tradition of conservative Amish and Mennonites have some answers for us? Fred Fransen’s essay, "A 'Two Kingdoms' Approach to Health Care," argues that Anabaptists, following the Amish, should provide for their own health care needs, while lobbying not for government insurance for all, but rather government provisions that would more easily allow the self-insurance of Mennonites in their community. Fransen argues for state-level libertarianism, and faith-community communitarianism. It is a visionary proposal that allows readers to think about foundational values as well as practical possibilities.
Four distinguished scholars respond—James Harder, Herman Bontrager, Joseph Kotva and Tim Jost (the latter two collaborating). Their critiques raise issues of theology as well as of feasibility. Mennonites are integrated into the American health care system in ways that challenge their foundational values. Once again we reflect on the relevance of Amish resistance to modernity.
Our regular “How My Mind Has Changed” feature marks an event of loss and sadness. Daryl Schmidt, who came from the Mennonite community in Freeman, South Dakota, and became a prominent scholar of Biblical studies, died on March 21, 2006. Schmidt was John F. Weatherly Professor of New Testament at Texas Christian University and an active fellow of the Jesus Seminar. The autobiographical essay in this issue originally appeared in the May/August 1995 issue of The Fourth R and is reprinted here by permission.
Dallas Wiebe’s fictions often show how genealogical language functions in multiple ways in community contexts: repeating forms indicating a belief in group rather than individual identity, humorous family creativity and word play, and a set of traces of intentions with biblical proportions undermined by the quotidian realities of the ethnographic past of mid-twentieth-century Kansas Mennonitedom. Wiebe’s fictions continue to identify and play with the social fictions of many forms of Mennonite life.
The landmark American presidential election of 1912 in its own way revealed Mennonite engagement with the public order. The Republican party split in that election, with ex-president Theodore Roosevelt challenging president William Howard Taft. That split enabled the Democrat candidate, Woodrow Wilson, to be elected with a minority of the votes. John Thiesen’s article shares information (including photographs from the archives) on how that election, in the midst of what is known as the “Progressive Era,” played out on the campus of Bethel College.
These two poems are part of a larger body of writing that chronicles the tensions that exist between the Pennsylvania Germans and their rapidly changing rural landscape in central Pennsylvania.
As always, the editors thank our book reviewers and are happy to present reviews by John D. Essick, Ardie S. Goering, and John E. Sharp.