No Longer Stillen im Lande
Active Peace at Bethel College, 1966-1969
By the mid-1960s, opposition to the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War had become a broad social peace movement that found considerable support on college campuses. As the nation’s youth fervently and peacefully demonstrated their convictions, students of Bethel College, a small Mennonite-affiliated liberal arts college in North Newton, Kansas, felt called to join the national peace movement themselves, organizing marches and demonstrations of their own. While some of these peace activities, specifically the tolling of a bell for each of the American war dead, attracted brief national attention, the students of the Peace Club not only were sending a political message to the nation, but they were also sending a bold theological message to their denomination. By speaking to the state and using peace as a means of demonstration, Peace Club members challenged traditional Mennonite two-kingdom theology and the commitment to nonresistance. Historically, Mennonites were a people in the world but not of it, committed to be quiet and non-engaging citizens who remained in their own rural communities. For those committed to this identity of Stillen im Lande, “Quiet in the Land,” the actions of the Bethel College Peace Club were deeply troubling. These peace activities came to be politically and theologically divisive throughout church and college. The difficult conversations within the Mennonite community that came out of the Vietnam War, and the Bethel College peace activities specifically, proved to be fruitful. By the early 1970s, Mennonites worked to adapt their pacifism and separatism by professing and acting upon their commitment to a more peaceful society.
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