Not everyone knows this, but Mennonites are a lot like Wizards.
Just without the magic.
It’s been almost two decades since the first Harry Potter book was published and over the course of these years, various Mennonites have heaped both scorn and praise on the franchise. We’ve looked at the values taught through the books and the version of Christian morality presented. We’ve wondered about the Anabaptist values of Harry Potter. We’ve written sermons on it.
Sure, there’s a good chance that J.K. Rowling has never even heard of Dirk Willems or any of our other Menno heroes. But, still. The books tell a story about a Potterverse that is remarkably like the Mennoverse. Let me count the ways.
1. Sartorial Non-Conformity
In many of the Harry Potter books (not so much in the movies), wizards and witches are notorious for dressing in a manner that just doesn’t fit in all that well with the non-magical world around them. Sometimes they annoy the muggles around them by their dress; sometimes they confuse them. In any case, they completely avoid dressing to conform to the fashions of the world.
We get it.
Mennonites are so notorious for dressing in non-conformist fashions that many non-Mennos think that we are all required to dress in nineteenth-century garb. We’re not. Nonetheless, whether we dress plain or just wear less than the most fashionable pair of blue jeans, we tend to resist complete fashion conformity. We’re like wizards that way. Some Mennonites, like some wizards, can blend in with the mainstream/muggle world better than others. But that doesn’t make them any better or worse as Mennonites.
2. Peculiar Relationship to Technology
Not uncommonly, people who know nothing about Mennonites nonetheless think they know that we are all anti-technology. Most of us aren’t, really, but we do have a certain suspicion of all those muggle devices. That’s a little different from wizards. Wizards aren’t so much suspicious of technology as either ignorant or quaintly condescending about it. That’s a difference. You won’t find any self-respecting Mennonites making a hobby out of collecting electric plugs.
Still, there is a similarity. Wizards, apparently, avoid muggle technology because they simply have no need for it. Mennonites who reject particular technological advancement likewise claim that they do not need it; that they live rich communal lives all the better for its absence. And, yes, you can be pretty sure that if we had magic, we’d tie ourselves up in knots over which bits of it we should and which we shouldn’t use.
3. Anti-Capitalist and really, really Bureaucratic Society
Wizards don’t appear to farm at all but in other ways they seem to be living in a pre-modern kind of world. There’s not even any of the early forms of capitalism that characterized sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. Their so-called bank is really just a building for hoarding gold and other treasure.
Mennonites aren’t keen on the whole modern banking world either. We call our hoarding tendencies “frugality” or “stewardship” and will sometimes invest in good causes and/or give away parts of our hoard but we’re mostly not huge fans on the excesses of capitalism.
Without all those finance industry jobs, wizards’ career options appear to be limited to journalism, teaching, medicine, the service industry, and the scarily large bureaucracy. Without magic to somehow eliminate the necessity of agriculture, Mennonites have a special regard for farming, but also tend towards careers in journalism, teaching, medicine the service industry and the scarily large Church bureaucracy.
4. Separation from the World
One of the big political questions of the wizarding world is its relationship with the muggle world. All over the place, wizards are in the world but not of the world. They mix but they don’t mix with the muggle population. They live in isolated villages and settlements and avoid interacting with muggles. Wizards take the whole idea of separation from the world far more seriously than we Mennonites.
For Mennonites, separation from the world goes back to the Schleitheim Confession. The separatists among Mennonites have typically evoked an idyllic Quiet in the Land lifestyle while the more assimilated Mennonites point to the duty to witness peace and social justice. You know, for the Greater Good.
It’s not quite as dire among Mennonites. Though we are divided over just how much we should mix with the non-Mennonite world, our non-violence keeps us from going to war over the issue. Or from hanging Non-Mennos upside down from their ankles and torturing them for our amusement.
I like to think we wouldn’t do that even if we had magic.
5. Purebloods, Muggleborns and Squibs
Everyone knows that it is not necessary to be born into a Mennonite family in order to be a Mennonite. It’s a basic premise of the Church that membership rights to the Mennoworld are based on adult choice, not lineage. Sure, some of us are Pureblood Mennonites who can trace our lineage all the way back to the Age of Martyrdom but that’s not what matters. Yes, we have our special foods and secret languages, but we’ve never ever thought about setting up a Registry of Muggleborn Mennonites or considered depriving them of their hymn books and/or rights to sit on Church committees. It ought, also, to be admitted that even us Purebloods have a bit of
non-Mennonite blood flowing through our veins if you study our genealogies carefully.
We also have Squibs — people who were born and raised Mennonites but didn’t have enough
magic belief to receive their Owl-delivered letter inviting them to Faith Exploration classes. Or something. Unlike Squibs in the wizarding world, many of these Menno-non-Mennos live happy and fulfilled lives out in the muggle world and never feel particularly disadvantaged for not being able to see a Dementer or, er, grasp the importance of seven years of discernment over issues of sex and Church governance etc. They get to partake in the culture without the mess. Many a MennoSquib shows up at their local relief sale, can play Rook and Dutch Blitz on demand, and break into four part harmony when the occasion requires it.
Which is close enough to magic for me.
The Heir of Schleitheim
There are plenty of Harry Potter themed cocktails out there. One calls for a mojito variation as the drink for Slytherin. Were Mennonites to be sorted into houses, we would, of course, need far more than four houses. Nonetheless, this drink is based on the Slytherin cocktail but Menno-ified a bit by the addition of large quantities of rhubarb.
- 4-6 fresh mint leaves (preferably from your own garden) + more for garnish
- 1 oz rhubarb simple syrup
- 1 1/2 oz white rum
- the juice of 1 lime
- 5-6 dashes of rhubarb bitters
- 1 oz sparkling water
Put mint, rhubarb simple syrup, rum and lime juice into a cocktail shaker and muddle. Without a bona fide muddler, I use the back end of a wooden spoon to release the mint from the leaves. Add bitters and sparkling water. Pour over ice. Garnish with mint leaves.