This is an independent blog and is not affiliated with any particular church, group or conference. The term Bruderthaler refers to a specific ethnic or cultural Mennonite heritage, not to any particular organized group. All statements and opinions are solely those of the contributor(s). Blog comprises notebook fragments from various research projects and discussions. Dialogue, comment and notice of corrections are welcomed. Much of this content is related to papers and presentations that might be compiled at a future date, as such, this blog serves as a research archive rather than as a publication. 'tag

Media Recommendations


Devil's Playground (DVD, 2002) ****
Lucy Walker, Director, Stick Figure Productions, USA

    On the ten year anniversary of Devil’s Playground, aka Rumspringa, I endeavoured to see this Amish-oriented documentary for the first time.  As a Mennonite, I had formerly avoided this film and its marketing imagery as probably catering to the larger American media appetite for scandal, questionable morality and iconoclastism.  I was greatly surprised to find a film that was straightforward, respectful without being overly romantic and that one that dealt with very real issues while allowing the characters to speak for themselves.  Part of the strength of the film comes from the self-confessions of the directors and production team that they had experienced difficulty finding an angle or even an “in” for the making of what had begun as a rather undefined documentary project on Amish teens.  Rather, the team comprised of Lucy Walker, Steven Cantor, Pax Wassermann and Daniel Kern was forced to discover the topic while filming and to allow the characters to emerge of their own accord.  No agenda, positive or negative – was possible in that the team had little control over the subject matter.  According to the production commentary, the project evolved more like a news story than a scripted documentary.
    Devil’s Playground offers two strengths to Anabaptists.  First, it is a greatly informative look into the very real lives of Amish teens and the concept of rumspringa.  Though the Conservative Amish are often careful to separate themselves from their Mennonite and Mennonite-Amish cousins, there is much in this story that is shared between the more liberal and more conservative branches of this culture – even more so as you go back one and two generations for the Mennonites.  Secondly, for those who are able to read the “bonnet code,” an informed Anabaptist will see Mennonite and Amish film footage juxtaposed against each other to form a seamless celebration of a common ethnic and religious heritage.
    Caution – though not overly graphic, Devil’s Playground does include a lot of “shocking” or coarse elements such as language, drug use, drinking, body piercings and implied sexual situations – yet no more than your average HBO or Cinemax film.  On the other hand, issues such as drugs, marriage and tradition that face Amish or Anabaptist teens are presented frankly and openly in a way that many Mennonite and Mennonite-Amish congregations seldom openly admit.  Controversially, Devil’s Playground probably has as much to say about Mennonite teens and probably the youth of Anglo-American Evangelicals in general, as it does about the Amish. 
    Arguably, most Mennonites also share in a delayed adolescence and in a struggle between the tradition of their families and communities and the freedom to lead their own lives and make their own ethical, behavioural and lifestyle choices.  The difference is that rumspringa allows the Conservative Amish (and Hutterite) teens to openly explore these choices and to arrive at a relatively noncoërced decision to join the tradition and church of their extended families.  Though often more assimilated, many Mennonite teens seem to have to address these same issues and decisions in secret, repressing longings, dreams and ideas that their churches and families would not accept.  As a youth from a rural Mennonite community – I might also attest that many of the scenes of alcohol, drugs and sex that are shown in Devil’s Playground are just as present amongst their Mennonite peers, if to a lesser extent.
    As a whole – I strongly recommend Devil’s Playground for viewing – even in an informed church group setting.  Keep an open mind as to the realities exposed and engage the subject matter honestly, being prepared to ask and answer difficult questions.  This film is more than thought provoking.


Der Bloedig Tooneel, of Martelaers Spiegel der Doops-Gesinde
Martyrs Mirror, or The Bloody Theatre by Theileman J. van Braght (1659)
Source:  Herald Press, Scottsdale, AZ, USA

Martyrs Mirror is the 17th Century classic history of the early Anabaptist movement, written by Theileman J. van Braght. Also titled The Bloody Theatre, it is essential reading for all students of Anabaptist, Reformation, and European History, not to mention students of theology, the historical use of torture and propaganda, and the interrelationship between faith and values.  Martyrs Mirror traces an unbroken line of suffering for the growth and development of the Christian church, recording the stories of martyrdom from the Early New Testament period to the struggle of the young Anabaptist movement against the Spanish Hapsburgs and the Spanish Inquisition.  Warning:  The scenes and some of the language can get pretty graphic.


And When They Shall Ask (DVD, 1984) ****
Und Wenn Sie Fragen Werden: Ein Doku-Drama der Mennoniten-Erfahrungen in Russland (DVD, 1984)

David Dueck's documentary about Russian Mennonite life in Ukraine is a must see classic. The story-line and imagery are compelling, as is the music score by acclaimed composer Victor Davies. Though probably best proceeded by a brief introduction to Mennonite culture and history, Dueck's film high-lights the issues and events that faced early settlers to the Ukrainian colonies and the subsequent decisions whether or not to relocate to the new settlements in the United States and Canada. This film is also recommended for students of Eastern European history and of the World War periods in Russia as it brings to light the little known histories of the actual communities affected by the German invasions, the Russian Revolution, and 19th Century global migrations. The pros and cons of an active Pacifist stance are also revealed in Dueck's treatment of the dilemma faced by the colonies to either defend themselves or to trust in God's deliverance from their enemies.


"The Lord's Supper in Mennonite Tradition" (PDF)
by John Rempel, New York, New York
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) liaison to the United Nations

"My task is to review crucial issues in the Mennonite practice and theology of communion in historical perspective," (Rempel, John D., Vision, Spring 2001, p.4)

In twelve very short pages, John D. Rempel has managed to succinctly summarize both the faith and cultural histories of the Anabaptist peoples. Simply put, this PDF should be downloaded and distributed to all catechistic and church membership candidates in the Anabaptist churches for review and discussion. Starting in Zurich, 1525, Rempel begins by pointing out that, "Anabaptism came into existence as a movement by means of its renegade celebration of the Holy Supper in January of 1525. It did not become a church through a political or theological declaration but through a liturgical act," (ibid, p.4).
The rest of the paper examines the changing role, symbolism, and practice of celebrating the Lord's Supper in our churches, with significant references to the practices of church membership, baptism, and foot washing. He shows how these changes came about and the impact they had on the faith and culture of Anabaptists across the globe. He also indicates how these practices both separated the Anabaptists from other denominations, and from each other, and how certain changes in practice and thought opened up greater opportunities for either assimilation or isolation. Even if your congregation or family no longer identifies with Anabaptist roots, this short article should go a long way towards helping you understand the faith of your ancestors and grandparents, small disagreements and evolutions in the faith of your parents, and the long, significant faith history that remains part of all of us to this day. It is essential reading.


History of the Mennonites
By Daniel Kolb Cassel, 1888
Globe Printing House, Philadelphia, PA, p. 455.

Daniel Cassel’s book effectively creates a narrative picture of Anabaptist society and faith just prior to the turn of the century.  Cassel’s perspective is of interest in that he compiles his history before the impact is felt from Rüsslander Mennonites and Hutterites who immigrated from the Old World and successfully colonized the Great Plains of North America, radically changing the scope and focus of Anabaptism’s story in the United States, Canada, and Latin America.  Cassel presents a traditional focus on placing the American Anabaptists in the context of classical American history with a strong focus on relationships and similarities between the Anabaptists and the Quakers who founded Pennsylvania.  Today, the focus is often how the Anabaptists reflect a diverse American experience as relative newcomers to North America, and we seem preoccupied not with Mennonite similarities to other traditional peace churches, but with Anabaptism’s current, less traditional, place amongst North America’s growing Evangelical denominations.  Anyone who thinks that History and Truth are unchanging needs to read this book.
    Cassel’s Classical approach to history is especially effective – his style is that of Prescott and other early historians who combine narrative with a compilation of relevant facts and background materials, these being as valuable and interesting as is his narrative.  If more Anabaptists read older histories such as this, most would be more readily convinced of Anabaptism’s unique spiritual experience and perspective.  Sometimes we need to stop and re-engage past histories to more fully understand our present. 
    A side benefit is an uncharacteristic extolling of the many benefits Anabaptists have brought to the new world and the significant impact we have had in North America as one of its founding presences.  We have a lot of which to be proud.  Cassel is a good reminder of our positive influence on others, both material and spiritual.  Image from

If you like this book, I would also recommend C. Henry Smith’s Smith's Story of the Mennonites or Cornelius J. Dyck’s Introduction to Mennonite History.

Mennonite Culture

606 agriculture AIMM Alcohol Alt-Oldenburger Amish Amish Prayer Amish voyeurism Anniversary of Russian Mennonites Architecture Archives Athletes Baptism Bess und Bettag Bible Study Bluffton College BMC Bob Jones University Bruderthaler Burial Customs Camp Funston Canadian Government Catherine the Great CCC Chaco Civil Rights Colonist Horse Congo Inland Mission Conscientious Objectors Consensus Cultural Criticism Death decals Definitions Dialogue diaspora Discipline Discrimination Divorce Drama Drugs Easter Emergent Church Movement ethnic violence Ethnicity Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Evangelical Mennonites Evangelicals exile Famine Fastpa folk art Footwashing Frente Menonita Front for the Defense of the Mennonite Colonies Furor mennoniticus Gardens gay Gay Marriage Gelassenheit Gemeinshaft Gender Studies General Conference German German Bible Gnadenfelde Goshen School Grace School grief Halodomar hate crimes Heirloom Seeds HMS Titanic Holocaust Holy Kiss Horses Hymns Identity Formation identity politics Immigration Immigration Song Inquisition Inter-faith Mennonites Jewish Diaspora Kairos Kleine Gemeinde Krimmer Mennonites Language LGBT Lustre Synthesis Lutheran and Mennonite Relations Magistracy Marriage Martyrs' Mirror MC-USA MCC Kits Mennonite Brethren Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Mennonite Decals Mennonite Diaspora Mennonite farming innovations Mennonite Flag Mennonite Heritage Plants Mennonite Horse Mennonite Identity Mennonite Literature Mennonite Refugees Mennonite Women Missions Molotschna Cattle Breed Movies Music Non-resistance Pacifism photography Pietism Plautdietsch Flag Plautdietsche Poetry Politics Postmodernism quilts Radio refugees Rites Roman Catholic and Mennonite Relations Roman Catholicism Russian Mennonite Flag Russian Mennonites Russian Orthodox Church secularism Shunning Southern Baptists Taxation Television Ten Thousand Villages Terms Viki-leaks Water Dowsing Wenger Mennonites Women's Studies World War 2 World War I


A. F. Wiens (1) A. H. Leahman (1) A. J. Wall (1) Abraham Gerber (1) Abram Groening (1) Adam Carroll (2) AIMM (3) Albert Wall (7) Allison Mack (1) Anne-Marie Goertzen Wall (1) Annie C. Funk (1) Aron Wall (1) B. F. Hamilton (1) Benjamin Mubenga (1) Benjamin Sprunger (1) Bernhard Dueck Kornelssen (1) Berry Friesen (1) Bitter Poets (3) Bob Jones University (2) Brandon Beachy (1) Brendan Fehr (1) Bruce Hiebert (1) C. Henry Niebuhr (1) C. R. Voth (1) Calvin Redekop (3) Carolyn Fauth (3) CBC News (1) Charles King (1) Chris Goertzen (1) Connie Mack (1) Corrie ten Boom (1) Dale Suderman (2) Daniel Friesen (1) Danny Klassen (1) David Classen (1) Dennis Wideman (1) Diane Driedger (3) Dick Lehman (1) Donald Kraybill (1) Donald Plett (1) Dora Dueck (1) Dustin Penner (1) Dwaine and Nancy Wall (1) Edna Ruth Byler (1) Eduard Wust (1) Elliott Tapaha (1) Elvina Martens (1) Eric Fehr (1) Esther K. Augsburger (1) Ethel Wall (1) Frente Menonita (1) Fritz and Alice Wall Unger (1) Gbowee (1) Georg Hansen (1) George P. Schultz (3) George S. Rempel (1) George Schultz (1) Gordon C. Eby (1) Goshen College (4) Gus Stoews (1) H. C. Wenger (1) H. F. Epp (1) Harold S. Bender (1) Heidi Wall Burns (2) Helen Wells Quintela (1) Henry Epp (1) Henry Toews (1) Ian Buruna (1) Isaac Peters (6) J. C. Wall (3) J. T. Neufeld (2) Jakob Stucky (1) James Duerksen (1) James Reimer (1) Jason Behr (1) Jeff Wall (1) Jim Kuebelbeck (1) Joetta Schlabach (2) Johann F. Kroeker (1) John Howard Yoder (1) John Jacob Wall (1) John R. Dick (1) John Rempel (1) John Roth (1) Jonathan Groff (1) Jonathan Toews (2) Jordi Ruiz Cirera (1) Kathleen Norris (4) Kelly Hofer (3) Kevin Goertzen (1) Keystone Pipeline (3) Leymah Gbowee (1) Linda May Shirley (1) Lionel Shriver (1) Lorraine Kathleen Fehr (2) Margarita Teichroeb (1) Marlys Wiens (2) Martin Fast (1) Matt Groening (2) Melvin D. Epp (1) Menno Simons (3) Micah Rauch (1) Michael Funk (1) Moody Bible Institute (2) Nancy Wall (4) Norma Jost Voth (1) O. J. Wall (2) Orlando J. Wall (3) Patrick Friesen (4) Peter Wall (1) Philip Landis (1) Phillip Jakob Spener (1) Rachael Traeholt (2) Randy Smart (3) Rhoda Janzen (1) Rob Nicholson (2) Robin Martins (1) Robyn Regehr (1) Roger Williams (1) Rosella Toews (1) Ruth Lederach (1) Sam Mullet (3) Sam Schmidt (1) Scot McKnight (1) Stacey Loewen (2) Stanley Hauerwas (2) Steven Wall (6) Susan Mark Landis (1) Taylor Kinney (1) Tom Airey (2) Victor Toews (4)