Ask a Hutterite

The blog of a real, live Hutterite.

Confessions of a Hutterite blogger

11 Comments

Chocolate Cake

May I have my cake and eat it too?

I am very self-conscious that the tone and content of my writing may project the image that I am a super-Hutterite. I am not. I do struggle with some of our communal values, traditions, and beliefs. I occasionally cause problems in my community. I, and those who are acquainted with me, know this to be true: I have my personal demons; I have to guard myself from falling into destructive habits because of my slightly OCD personality; I am a classic conflict avoider; I hurt people too, and sometimes I think being right is more important than being kind.

That said, here is some background: I write from the the perspective of one who has spent the last 4-5 years immersed in the writings of the early Hutterite church. Editing modern editions and translating some of these texts has brought me face-to-face with core ideals and the powerful faith of those who have gone before us. I confess that sometimes the dichotomy between the vision of our forefathers and mothers and the reality I see today, within and around me, is frightening. I have to constantly remind myself to focus on changing my own inner landscape first and foremost.

The late Henri Nouwen, who’s writing on community I appreciate, struggled with the same thing and I love what he has to say about the words we speak and write:

Flesh Become Word
The word must become flesh, but the flesh also must become word. It is not enough for us, as human beings, just to live. We also must give words to what we are living.  If we do not speak what we are living, our lives lose their vitality and creativity. When we see a beautiful view, we search for words to express what we are seeing. When we meet a caring person, we want to speak about that meeting. When we are sorrowful or in great pain, we need to talk about it. When we are surprised by joy, we want to announce it! Through the word, we appropriate and internalize what we are living. The word makes our experience truly human.

Growing into the Truth We Speak
Can we only speak when we are fully living what we are saying? If all our words had to cover all our actions, we would be doomed to permanent silence! Sometimes we are called to proclaim God’s love even when we are not yet fully able to live it. Does that mean we are hypocrites? Only when our own words no longer call us to conversion. Nobody completely lives up to his or her own ideals and visions. But by proclaiming our ideals and visions with great conviction and great humility, we may gradually grow into the truth we speak. As long as we know that our lives always will speak louder than our words, we can trust that our words will remain humble.

Deep, huh?

It is this posture of humility that I want to assume in my writing regarding my personal life and the state of our church-communities. This, not the the pretense of perfection, gives me the courage to keep talking about difficult issues.

And while I’m confessing my shortcomings, I may as well say that I’m eating a generous portion of 4-layer chocolate caramel cake courtesy of Jenny. At 9:30 in the morning.

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11 thoughts on “Confessions of a Hutterite blogger

  1. Yes, Kenny, Life isn’t always a piece of cake, especially for us outspoken types – there are always the calories, as it were, to deal with.Thanks for your honest confession. I enjoy your posts! Keep ’em comin’ and welcome to the blogging world.

  2. Wonderful faith filled article Kenny.

  3. Right Kenny, don’t we all struggle to match our living to our ideals. Those 2 quotes give you the right to speak for what you know and strive for.

  4. Wow, not everybody can be or is so honest! but, there is being honest and there is being downright rude, and I have learned there is never a reason to be unkind, if we can do that, I think we can live with being honest, 🙂 One of my favorite quotes is: “You don’t have to prove anybody wrong to do what you know to be right!” and it is so…took me awhile to understand or live up to that quote, anyways, we can’t be silent to wrong, so if you feel you have to speak up, go for it!

  5. Could you elaborate on the apparent dichotomy of past and present? Anything specific?

    • Let me begin with a personal one. When I read the texts from the early Hutterites I am struck by their courageous and vocal battle against mammon, government and institutionalism. They spoke out with conviction no matter the cost. And then I contrast that with my own life, and I fall short. I dream of a day when I will not consider personal consequences before speaking truth.

      On a church-wide level, I would say the most obvious dichotomy is the closed nature of modern Hutterite communities. It doesn’t take an in-depth study to realize that Hutter, Riedemann and Wiedemann would not recognize the church they helped gather. Ehrenpreis possibly would. 🙂 In studying the early years, an awesome welcoming spirit is tangible…one that says, “Come and share you life with us! Count the cost!” Keep in mind that being a Hutterite in the early period was not a popular choice.

      So, I pray for courage and I pray for a church without walls that hold people in or keep people out. May we become, in the words of Menno Simons, “Everything to all men.”

  6. Hello,
    Just found your blog today. Appreciate your thoughts here. As a someone who is not an ethnic Anabaptist I find it sad that so many who have grown up in the ethnic Anabaptist churches “don’t know who they are nor where they came from.” Every revival movement grows stale after a while (although Anabaptism has probably the longest continuous history of radical Christianity in the history of the church), so dont get too discouraged to find staleness within the Hutterite colonies–each generation has to find the reality of a walk with God.
    My concern is that you dont do as so many have done: abandon the kingdom gospel for the typical North American Evangelicalism. I dont say that because I have have seen something in you to make me say that. I have just seen it happen 100 times already in the Amish and Mennonites that I know (I live in Lancaster County at the moment, and have lived in Holmes County, OH as well.)
    I love Peter Riedemann’s writings. The next issue of our Christian magazine (The Heartbeat of the Remnant) will have the first part of “Love is Like Fire” in it. We recommend his larger confession as “must read.” After I read it, I told a friend, “I was a Hutterite and didn’t know it!” 🙂
    Well, there is a lot to chat about. One thing I would like to recommend is a recent sermon by John D. Martin about the difference between the kingdom gospel (like what early Anabaptists preached and lived) and typical modern Evangelicalism. I am building a page for it at http://www.elcristianismoprimitivo.com/english/embracing-the-gospel-of-the-kingdom.htm. At present only the video and audio versions are up, but I hope to quickly make pdf, mobi, and epub versions.
    Oh, one other thing. I think you are the one who is involved at the Book Centre, not? I bought one of those Hutterite source DVDs about a year ago (and no, I havent read it all yet! 🙂 ).
    For the Kingdom, Mike

  7. Do you ever feel like you would like to live a “normal” lifestyle? I often wonder what it would be like to live the simple lifestyle. What Hutterite beliefs do you strongly believe in ?

  8. “When we meet a caring person, we want to speak about that meeting. ”

    I’m impressed by your idea of flesh becoming word. I have a tendency to talk about my encounters with kind people.

  9. Thanks Kenny for your thoughts, concerns and longing. Let us keep pressing on to the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus.
    Enjoyed your article about Samuel-fetter. I would have loved to meet that gentleman.

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