Believe it or not, Mennonites like to laugh, it’s just that our list of laugh-worthy topics is more limited than others. In other words we have more taboo subjects than most. Writing Mennonite satire has helped me learn what some of these are. Be sure to walk on eggshells whenever the following topics come up in conversation. If you do decide to joke or jest about any of the following, you’re bound to get a stern scolding in a language you do not understand.
- Schisms – Most Mennonites are eager to start a new church whenever they find a doctrinal error in their existing one…or whenever the wrong family seems to have taken over the church board. I’ve heard this described as the “Anabaptist Disease.” It’s true. Just talking about schisms is bound to cause one. Best not to bring it up.
- Dunking vs. Pouring – For years Mennonites poured until the Mennonite Brethren had to come along sometime in the 1800s and say we weren’t using enough water. The Bible says, “he came up out of the water,” they say. It’s true, it does say that. But I come up out of the water after both a bath and a shower, so I’m not sure if that settles the debate. Either way, don’t mention it. It will suffice grandma to know that you’ve been baptized. If she wants to know the details, just distract her by asking about her days in the Kornelsen School.
- Pre-trib vs. post-trib – Knowing ahead of time whether you’ll have to suffer through the tribulation or be spared it is a topic that’s apparently worth fighting about in adult Sunday School. I’m not actually sure what the official Mennonite teaching is on this, because I’ve always avoided talking about it. I’m guessing we’re officially post-trib? That seems to make sense. We like suffering. Anyway, I’m not going to bring it up in Sunday School because I’ve seen Mr. Klassen and Mr. Friesen go at it before and, believe me, it’s ain’t pretty.
- Things that went on in the old country – Whenever you mention the old country you must speak about it with the utmost respect. Mahkno and Stalin jokes are a definite no go. Heck, I’ve heard you can’t even joke about the Great Oak of Chortitza.
- Mennonite: Is it an ethnicity or just a religion? – A Mennonite is literally a follower of Menno Simons’ particular brand of Christianity and, as such, there are Mennonites of all different ethnicities and nationalities. There are more Mennonites of Colour than Mennonites of European descent. That’s the “it’s a religion” argument. Others point to the existence of schmaunt fat and say, “oba, I was born a Mennonite, yet.” Avoid this conversation at all costs.