Nonconformity and Now

conformityNonconformity!  I recently heard this old Mennonite word spoken nostalgically, I think. The word intrigues me, so I turned to my kindle version of The Kingdom New Testament, a translation by N.T.Wright. I wanted to know what this contemporary scholar saw in Romans 12:2. He translated “be not conformed like this: “don’t let yourselves be squeezed into the shape dictated by the present age.” If we applied this teaching to ourselves now we would try to identify the forces trying to squeeze us into a shape dictated by this present age.

Here is the beginning of my list: We are being squeezed into believing 1) we all need a gun for safety’s sake, 3) greed is essential to prosperity, 3) big government is an enemy of small business, and 4) public services should squeezebe privatized. This may stimulate you to add to my list, or to scrap my list and make one of your own.

I lived in Florida for 57 years and I’ve squeezed the juice out of many oranges. I know the meaning of squeeze.

My father believed in the doctrine of nonconformity. Every year he purchased a new plain black suit. He arranged his suits by the year purchased. I still have the hanger used for his 1969 suit. He preached, taught and traveled in a black suit. His suits were important to him,  but his nonconformity went beyond the style of his coat.

A prime example of his nonconformity was his choice of gardening practices. He would not allow himself to be squeezed into the common shape of the farmers of the world who used chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Suppose my father had lived in a time when organic farming was the accepted way to farm and every farmer was being squeezed into organic farming. Would he feel compelled to farm with chemicals in order to be non-conformed to the worldly way?  I doubt it!  He would be happy to farm like the world because it would be the right way to farm.

A gentle word for gays and lesbians

A gentle word for gays and lesbians

The pope of Rome recently spoke kind words on behalf of gays and lesbians. The Supreme Court appears to be about ready to confirm decisions by lower courts that favor those who want to marry same sex partners. Will Catholics and US citizens respond positively to this kind of pressure?

Perhaps, “how will Mennonites respond to what seems like new squeezes from pope and court?” is the better question.  Will we respond according to a few words uttered by Moses and written by Paul, or as Jesus consistently behaved toward minorities and outcasts?

The Old Fool welcomes any squeeze from whatever source that pressures him to be and behave like Jesus.


About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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2 Responses to Nonconformity and Now

  1. Mary Bew says:

    We appreciate your words! But my instant comment is re: the photo where Autumn is pictured as another Spring. Love the colors and all.

  2. Donald Blosser says:

    I agree with the principle that you mention in “nonconformity”, but I still prefer the concept of being conformed to Christ rather than non-conformed to the world. If Jesus is the basic shaping power in our lives we do not have to react to society, because we are shaped by Jesus. Thus I do not have to test, reflect upon, decide about every issue that comes out of the culture around me. As I am conformed to Christ, often there will be no conflict. But having conflict—or avoiding conflict—is not the issue. Being conformed to Christ might mean that sometimes we will have tension with society. When that happens, it happens, but even then, our decision making is simplified because we are conformed to Jesus… thus I can keep right on living by the values I choose to live by—without being “reactionary” to the culture. The culture may see it that way, but that is their problem not mine. This does make life a bit simpler—isn’t that good?

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