I was stunned yesterday when Tony Schrock brought to my attention the following quote from an article in yesterday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune ("Defendant: God ‘wants me to get rid of’ the judge"-April 22, 2008):  "God needs us to be like Gideon against the Mennonites– 300 vs. 120,000 men. We rise up and God will take care of us." I was stunned that our tiny denomination was even mentioned by a big ticket newspaper. Then I was stunned that we were mentioned in connection with tax evasion, potential murder for hire, intimidation, citizen’s courts and sentencing against duly elected and appointed civil officials, and all in the name of God. We’re about anything but all that. And, to be fair, the person who said it placed us in the opposition category. But what he meant to say, or should have said, was "Gideon against the Midianites," unless Judges chapters 6 and 7 are mistaken. As would be all the church historians who find no record of Mennonites and Anabaptism before 1525. Our unsought publicity (at least it was free) spurred the following letter to the editors of the Star-Trib, which has so far not been published (along with the other 2,378 other multi-volume tomes I have sent them–not).

Dear Editor,

As pastor and member of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in St. Paul, I was taken aback this morning to find myself in the news, when Robert Beale was quoted as saying, “God needs us to be like Gideon against the Mennonites [sic], 300 versus 120,000 men,” (“Defendant: God Wants Me To Get Rid of the Judge” April 22, 2008). I wasn’t aware of ever having had a controversy with Gideon. His beef was with “the Midianites, in chapters 6 and 7 of the Old Testament Book of Judges. Was Beale mistaken, or the reporter who quoted him, or am I, in not having known that there were fellow Mennonites that far back? If so, I’d very much like to meet all 120,000 of us, since our average Sunday morning attendance is around 65, and our particular denomination (Mennonite Church USA) is not quite as big as the Midianite army. Nor can I figure out why Gideon would go forth to battle against us since we are a historic peace church. Gideon’s army would find us praying, preaching, doing humanitarian service, sewing quilts, baking pies and building cabinets to raise money for mission and world relief; that’s our way of fighting. Sorry we can’t live up to our billing in an otherwise white knuckle front page article. But seriously, we’ll pray for everyone named therein, the judge, the accused and all their friends and family. May they all know peace.


Mathew Swora, pastor

Emmanuel Midianite Church



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