The *Believe Me* Book Tour Rolls Through Elkhart, Indiana and Holland, Michigan

Hope College

During the Q&A session at Taylor University on Tuesday night someone asked me if my work at a college with Anabaptist roots (Messiah College) influenced what I wrote in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald TrumpIt was a great question–one that I have thought a lot about.  Historian Jared Burkholder made the same observation a few months ago.

This question was on my mind again on Wednesday afternoon when I spoke to a group of faculty, students, and staff at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana.  During the conversation following my talk, I realized that a lot of my thinking about religion, politics, justice, and public life is very compatible with the views of my Mennonite brothers and sisters, especially when it comes to the Christian nationalism that drives so many white evangelicals.  I felt at home at AMBS.  At the same time, I also realized that Anabaptism and Evangelicalism are quite different, especially when it comes to the theology of the atonement and the role that doctrine plays in Christian identity.  After talking to folks at AMBS, I realized that I need to go back and re-read Burkholder and David Cramer’s book The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptists.

Fea at AMBS

Thanks to Janna Hunter-Bowman for the invitation and thanks to everyone who came out for the talk, including David Cramer and AMBS president Sara Wenger Shenk.

After the AMBS visit I drove up to Holland, Michigan for an evening talk at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.  We had a great turnout and one of the more engaging Q&A sessions of the tour.  Thanks to Jeanne Pettit of the Hope history department for the invitation.  It was also great to see my old friend and Hope historian Fred Johnson and meet so many Hope professors, including Lynn Japinga, Aaron Franzen, Wayne Tan, Mark Baer (who is leading a church reading group on Believe Me), Janis Gibbs, Steven Bouma-Prediger, David Ryden, and Virginia Beard.

I tweeted about my favorite moment of the night:

On to Calvin College for the meeting of the Conference on Faith and History. See you there.

3 thoughts on “The *Believe Me* Book Tour Rolls Through Elkhart, Indiana and Holland, Michigan

  1. Thanks for the clarification!

    While I am on the subject, I might add that I have sadly noticed a pronounced departure from historic Christian doctrine within certain Mennonite academic circles in the past forty years. While many of these changes have not been reflected in officially approved statements, the situation is comparable to what has been happening within mainline Protestant academies beginning early in the 20th Century. In both groups heteropraxy has followed heterodoxy. As someone who had experience with the older traditional Anabaptist community, the slippage makes me a bit heartsick.


  2. True, James. I was responding to a couple of folks who were very vocal and critical of evangelical views of the atonement. Since then I have heard from several folks who have made similar comments to yours. I stand corrected if I painted with too broad a brush.


  3. John, I realize you are now busy on your tour, however, when you get some time i’d appreciate you expanding on how the Anabaptist view of atonement differs from that of mainstream evangelical belief on the subject. You commented briefly in your October 4th remarks about that matter.

    As someone who has had some past exposure to the Mennonite ecclesiastical community, I realize that Anabaptist doctrine today is far from monolithic. In fact, it can vary considerably from congregation to congregation. Like most of the denominational bodies coming out of 16th Century Europe, Anabaptist theology has splintered uncontrollably. With that being said I never thought that classic Anabaptist thinking on the atonement was all that novel.

    Anabaptists, to a fault, attempt to be “nice” toward everyone. Obviously, we all like people to treat us that way. The downside in ecclesiastical practice is that there is a strong tendency within Anabaptist circles to tolerate doctrinal aberration leading to heterodoxy and even worse. Jesus Christ often acted toward others in a manner which was far from our current American standard of niceness.


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