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Mennonites in the Global Village

Aaron Gillett

marshall McLuhan would be surprised, raising his head from a game of checkers on the porch, to see Mennonites stopping in the square of the global village, shaking the travelling dust off their shoes and briefcases. Mennonites are arriving in the global village, the modern world, the cities, the universities. But these moves are changing Mennonites, so Leo Driedger examines "the impact of professionalism and individualism on Mennonite communities, cultures, families, and religion", focussing on the post 1970's. As a professor of Sociology at the University of Manitoba, and as a practicing Mennonite, Driedger is the perfect man to write this 232 page look at Canadian and American Mennonites: Mennonites in the Global Village.

Mennonites in the Global Village book cover Driedger shifts through the streets from Danzig to Oslo, straightening the historical context of each Mennonite denomination so we can understand the vibrant strains of these groups in Canada. Each denomination is more or less open to urbanization and influence depending on country of origin and past experience. For instance, if you were a Mennonite from the Netherlands, a crowded merchanting country, chances are you would be fairly urban and open to the influence of other groups. However, if you were a Swiss Mennonite fleeing with the axe into secluded mountains, you would develop the habit of avoiding other people. And thus, the dies were cast for Mennonites who moved to Canada.

In each chapter Leo relies on his own smarts and findings as well as the work of others. In the chapter "Individualism Shaping Community", Driedger peeks into Mennonite traditions of individualism. Not one to skimp, Leo introduces the reader to various theories and models of individualism from Alexis de Tocqueville (1969), to Robert Park (1950), and Robert Bellah (1985). Once we know more about individualism than anyone thought possible, Driedger escorts us into the outreach programs and individual leadership activities of the Mennonite Central Committee, the effects of service in both World Wars on individualism, and even Mennonite artists, musicians, and writers.

Mennonites in the Global Village is sliced into three parts. One delves into individualism shaping communities, beliefs, occupations, and values. Also, Part One looks at the emerging Mennonite Urban Professionals (kindly referred to as 'Muppies' who 'surf' waves of values and influences), one of several analogies that add life and voice to this book. Part Two analyzes changes in the Mennonite villages; "the relationship between media exposure and ethnic identity, beliefs, and values"; and the politics of homemaking and career. In Part Three, the author scopes out Mennonite teens, the blending of religion and business in Mennonite schools, the emergence of female leaders, and how different denominations think of 'peace' and everything related, from military service to theological treatises.

What's best about this book is the tables and diagrams. Mennonites are examined in almost every way conceivable, and the data is thoroughly filtered. These people are dissolved into denomination, age, occupation, country of origin, mobility, household income, who voted Liberal or NDP, etc. Leo shapes information into 'regular' tables, Venn-ish diagrams, trees, diverging lines, grids, graphs, and maps. He even measures demonstrations of affection by Mennonite parents. As a touching piece that brings Mennonite experience to life, Driedger even includes a section on the struggles of his family, including photos and emotional excerpts from letters.

This book provides a detailed and complete overview of the phenomena surrounding Mennonites and how they approach the ever changing world. Driedger's personal presence in the text enriches an important and increasingly relevant area of study. His scholarship is important to understanding how individuals face the new reality of world that both contracts and expands at the same time, creating a global village we all must come to terms with.

published by u of t press
ISBN 0-8020-8044-8


Aaron Gillett teaches in Creston, BC

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