The Very Model of an Educated Mennonite

by Richard Stoltzfoos

Deus propitius esto mihi peccatori

I am the very model of an educated Mennonite,
I’ve read the works of Lewis and I know the books of N.T. Wright,
I have a couple children and I’m raising them on Dutch and Greek,
When talking with Republicans my words are always tongue-in-cheek.

I think folks reading Tolkien more would benefit the common good,
I’ve been to college seven years and haven’t left the brotherhood.
I think if you’re not learning more, it’s basically a moral sin;
I’d rather not be strict about the universe’s origin.

I parley with a reasoned middle course on any quodlibet,
And make the hymnal’s wording theologically appropriate.
In short, in matters Biblical, ecclesial, and erudite,
I am the very model of an educated Mennonite.

I read some K.A. Smith each night to help my mind recuperate,
I demonstrate my wisdom by the books that I accumulate,
I like the way the Bible Project stimulates my intellect,
I’ve got some reservations on the danger of the Internet.

With women’s rights and gender pronouns I’m inclined to coexist,
I think that Christian charity is by its nature socialist.
I’m tolerant of Catholics, and I’m snobby to the Protestants;
I listen to some Peterson and view it as reconnaissance.

I’ve humanistic sympathies and call myself a hedonist,
I’d rather keep an open mind than try to be a legalist,
In short, in matters Biblical, ecclesial, and erudite,
I am the very model of an educated Mennonite.

I’m fond of our tradition yet I’m glad I’m not an Amishman.
I’ll use the number three and love to baffle a Muhammadan,
I give my soul to Beauty ’cause it’s basically Divinity,
And organize my chores in threes to imitate the Trinity.

I use small words in talks for greater comprehensibility,
I give spontaneous lectures on the value of humility,
And I can tell a gnostic from a Marcionite or Manichee;
I do some manual labor cause it’s good for my humanity.

I read shape notes in four-part songs; I’m pretty good at volleyball.
I’d rather if communion supper used a form of alcohol,
But still, in matters Biblical, ecclesial, and erudite,
I am the very model of an educated Mennonite.

Richard Stoltzfoos is the son of Adin,
son of Wilmer,
son of Elam,
son of Moses,
son of Samuel,
son of John,
son of Christian,
son of Nicholas Stoltzfus,
who in the year 1766 emigrated from Europe,
being born of Christian Gottlieb Stoltzfus,
of the Saxon line of that name
which began in the year of our Lord 400,
by the provision of God, in German Saxony.

Photography by Kenneth Godoy

13 thoughts on “Richard Stoltzfoos: The Very Model of an Educated Mennonite”

  1. Very interesting view on Christianity, or better said, a modern one, which I rarely found at Mennonites. My question is how being hedonist and Mennonite work together? I can understand the erudition, the admiration for Peterson, but hedonism…? Isn’t it related often to decadence and imorality?

    1. Thank you for your question Lidia. I believe the poet to be speaking somewhat self-deprecatingly or in irony, highlighting a certain mindset which is close to some of us in the current Mennonite world. He doesn’t seem to be condemning all these things, or unreservedly praising all of them either. I’m guessing that “hedonist” is being used as the opposite of “puritanical”–he says he calls himself that (perhaps to be a little shocking?). The Latin before the poem is: “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

    2. I assume the “hedonist” comment is a nod to John Piper.

      The author did well at hitting on most of the held values of the modern educated Mennonite who is thankful he is not like other men who beat upon their chests.

      Lots to think about.

  2. Lots of snickers and mild discomfiture as this one makes the rounds here at Faith Builders. Brilliant.

  3. My bitterness at not having thought of this first is eased by my delight that someone did. As someone who aligns with the majority of this, I could it refreshing to hear a slightly satirical poke coming from *inside* that world. I seems healthy to not take yourself too seriously.

  4. Dear Anabaptist churches,
    Faith Builders exists to “disciple people toward humble, joyful, Christ-centered participation in the Kingdom of God.” Oh, and also, there’s a good chance they will come back like this.
    I love it. Brilliant.

  5. Also I propose another stanza:
    I go to therapy each Friday night to analyse my triggers,
    I find it quite disturbing how climate change brings sniggers,
    From all my Fundy uncles at the family gatherings.
    And I’m disturbed by all the MSG that on their turkey they are slathering.

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