The National Anthem Debate at Goshen College

Dissent and Hospitality, Tradition and Inclusion

This editorial is unusual, but it is based on what is both an editorial principle and a principle of peacemaking at the Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace: while some controversies within religious communities are best contested behind closed doors, among the people most immediately affected, sometimes opening a door to the public can be beneficial. The controversy particular to one community might well have manifestations or implications in other communities as well, so that people outside the situation might gain from seeing how the issues work out in another setting. And sometimes what others see through that open door might inspire them to offer insights useful to those engaged in conflict, which so often mires us in positions more immovable than they ought to be. The open door can suggest and foster ecumenical and interfaith vulnerability, trust, generosity, and receptivity. At the Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace, for example, we have felt honored by the number of Muslim scholars who have offered articles on Islam, violence, and peace, work that might have been done in-house, among Muslims, but instead has been offered in all its particularity to our readers, who are likely to care passionately about how these issues work out across many religious traditions.

In a similar spirit, we wish to open the door for JRCP readers on a controversy current among U.S. Mennonites. The particular issue at stake is should Goshen College, an institution owned by the Mennonite Church, allow an instrumental version of the U.S. national anthem to be played before intercollegiate sporting events on campus? It may seem trivial to some, and readers may wish to approach this simply as a report from a particular religious and political context. We do believe, however, that the themes involved—how to live as a sometimes dissenting minority in a strong majority culture; tensions between nationalism and religion, between specific tradition and broader inclusion—are likely to have relevance and application far beyond the Mennonite circles in which they are being contested in this case. We considered suggesting some of those possible applications ourselves but finally decided to leave that work to our readers.
Transparency requires that I make clear from the beginning that I am no disinterested bystander on this issue, but a highly interested participant. This editorial is both an introduction to a debate and a contribution to it. I was a member of the Goshen College task force that proposed that the college should allow the anthem, and thus I support the decision of the president’s council. I will therefore write in the first person as appropriate, and, as a member of the Mennonite Church and professor of Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies at Goshen College, “we” and “our” will refer to Mennonites and Goshen College.

Background to the Current Debate

Pacifism as an expression of Christian discipleship has been common and often central among Mennonites and their Anabaptist forebears since the sixteenth century. That stance has made us critics of militarism and wary of the excesses of nationalism, especially as those can be seen to demand a loyalty to the nation that Christians owe only to God. Consequently, American Mennonites have often abstained from the national anthem, which, with its battle-derived imagery and reverential rituals, can plausibly be interpreted as a kind of hymn to the nation. Goshen College, one of five colleges associated with Mennonite Church USA, has never played the anthem in any college setting.[1]

The place where Goshen College’s policy becomes most noticeable and public is at intercollegiate athletic competitions. In this circumstance, articulating the rationale for not playing the anthem is most often left to the athletic director, coaches, and other athletic department personnel. It is they, not institutional leaders, who must respond to honest inquiries, snide remarks, and occasional fury from visiting fans, potential recruits and their families, and others startled by Goshen College practice, which stands out dramatically in our midwestern context. One Goshen College basketball coach attempted a kind of compromise or approximation—playing a recording of “America the Beautiful” before games in our flag-less gymnasium, followed by a prayer. This met little or no resistance at Goshen College or in our Mennonite constituency, but Goshen coaches found that the compromise, far from calming the situation, somehow accentuated our anthem-less state and actually inspired a greater volume of angry response from the general public attending games. Weary of that burden, coaches have for years asked the administration to reconsider the college’s stance on the national anthem. And critically, although 55 percent of Goshen College students and half of student-athletes are Mennonite, almost all the student-athletes in the sports most affected—basketball, softball, baseball, and volleyball—are from other traditions, and they strongly favor playing the anthem before games.

In January 2009, the president’s council appointed a national anthem task force, which that spring recommended that Goshen allow an instrumental version of the anthem to be played before games if the coach and team wished to do so. The president’s council took this under advisement and early in the fall of 2009 proposed that the task force recommendation should become college policy; they then set up a process to encourage discussion of the proposal within the college community.[2] The process generated some discussion and debate, but on the whole, campus response to the proposal was rather tepid—attendance by students, profs, staff, and administrators at various forums was disappointing small. With the process behind them, the president’s council announced in January 2010 that they were changing long-standing practice and would allow the national anthem to be played before athletic contests.

If campus discussion had not been very lively, response to the actual decision—from some faculty and students, but especially from alumni, from elements of a larger Mennonite constituency, and even from people with no particular Mennonite connection—might reasonably be called a firestorm of opposition. While there is support for the decision as well,[3] for now the greater energy is with the opponents. A group called Jesus Radicals has been a leader of opposition. Around one thousand people, including theologians of the stature of Stanley Hauerwas and William Cavanaugh, have signed a petition encouraging Goshen College President Jim Brenneman and fellow administrators to reverse their decision, arguing that the anthem bears “a message that glorifies war and violence for one nation’s benefit” and “rejects a higher call to be a transnational body that resists the boundaries set by nations”; if the anthem is allowed at Goshen College, students “will be formed into a practice that gives allegiance to America first. Instead of teaching them the cost of discipleship, this decision teaches them to cave into social pressures at the expense of faithful witness to the way of Christ and the path of peace.”[4]

Early opposition also came from a Facebook page, “Against Goshen College Playing the National Anthem,”[5] which was created by John Zimmerman, a 1991 Goshen College graduate who is now pastor of Pleasant View Mennonite Church in Iowa. Facebook comments are mostly sound bites, of course, but they faithfully convey disappointment, anger, and a sense of betrayal. Recent posts

1) compare Goshen College’s decision unfavorably to biblical resisters of idolatry:

“I think it is interesting that Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego didn’t debate how or why the decision to bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzars’ gold statue was made. They simply decided they wouldn’t do it. When the music started playing they weren't found participating.”

2) contemplate opportunities for opposition to be presented when the anthem is played:

“What if we took this opportunity and didn’t give the national anthem the honor it demands from everyone ... stay seated, show up late, walk out ... treat it as if it were any other song that plays before a sporting event ... treat it like elevator music.”

3) suggest the decision is motivated by covert pressure from college financial supporters:

“Another clue to the decision: Goshen Health Systems is the top contributor to the GC Lecture-Music Series.”

4) encourage withdrawing support from Goshen College until the policy is reversed:

“Given Goshen College’s decision to not consider changes to its pro-anthem policy until June 2011, I think Mennonites and Mennonite churches need to let GC know that donations and other forms of support to GC will be withheld until June 2011.”

5) consider where slippery slopes will leave us:

“Maybe we should begin playing USA national anthem before church services too?”

“First comes the idol worship, next comes marginalization of those who refuse to participate in it.”

“What is next? Playing the anthem before a movie is shown? Before class starts?”

“To be honest, if one takes this decision to the logical conclusion, we will have Mennonite soldiers, the Amish on the internet, Jew and Muslims for Bacon, and and Hindu backed commercials for McCowBurgers.”[6]

It is perhaps especially important to note that these responses do not come from a particular demographic, let alone an elite, but from Mennonites and others representing a range of ages, places, and walks of life.

What Next?

Even after a year spent thinking obsessively about the anthem issue, my decision to support playing the anthem remains something of a surprise to me. I stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance in second grade. I share the critique of militarism and nationalism made by opponents of the anthem decision. I joined the task force with a different position than where I ended up. I do not sing the national anthem or put my hand over my heart, a gesture that gets way too close to devotion for my comfort, although I do stand for the anthem out of respect for those for whom the anthem is important. In fact, in a life full of sport, as athlete and fan, I’ve always considered Goshen College’s no-anthem practice a refuge and solace, a bit of Christ-centered counterculture in a world that sometimes seems saturated with hyper-patriotism.

And yet, facing Goshen College’s specific decision in its particular context, I concluded that we should allow the anthem before athletic contests. Having pulled together the materials that seemed necessary for constructing a decision, I found that what seemed the best ways I could put them together kept me coming back to Goshen allowing the anthem. This did not make me an enthusiastic supporter, more a best-way-we-can-muddle-through supporter. Nor do I imagine that if everyone would just take into account what I believe are necessary elements of the debate, they would then be drawn inexorably to the same conclusion. Even if debated long, hard, and well, this issue is probably too complicated to command unanimity.

I do, however, want to identify the necessary elements of the debate as I have come to understand them. By so doing I mean in general to complexify the terms of the debate, which I believe can help us highlight, and perhaps address, some of the larger issues that the debate sometimes generates. In particular, I mean to challenge critics of the Goshen College anthem decision to complexify the reasoning behind their critique. In what I have read, that reasoning seems to run: the practice of playing the national anthem can be located somewhere on the continuum questionable-bad-evil; the Mennonite church, given its stance against militarism and nationalism, cannot be complicit in playing the anthem; Goshen College is a Mennonite institution; therefore, Goshen College cannot allow the anthem to be played on campus. All these points are central to the anthem debate, but taken alone they are insufficient to guide the college in its decision about the anthem.

Necessary Complications

1. Deeper reflection on what it means to be a Mennonite college. I start here by asking, what is the difference between a Mennonite church and a Mennonite college? The question is not an attempt to drive a wedge between church and college. I am on the whole a conservative on these matters, working with a closer-the-better principle on church-college relations; I would go so far as to say that the United States already has plenty of vaguely liberal small colleges providing high quality education, so that if Goshen were to lose its close relationship with the Mennonite Church, it would do everyone a favor by removing itself from a glutted market. But a church and a college, however closely related, are not the same thing, and reflection on a national anthem policy needs to consider the implications. Instead, protests against playing the anthem at Goshen College proceed almost universally on an apparent assumption that Goshen College is a Mennonite institution in exactly the same straightforward, uncomplicated, direct, and unambiguous way that, say, the biennial Mennonite Church USA Convention, a local Mennonite congregation, and Mennonite Mission Network are Mennonite institutions. Playing the anthem at Goshen College basketball games therefore means the same thing as playing it at Convention meetings, congregational worship, or Mennonite Mission Network events.

One practical difference between church and college is the role in them of people who are not Mennonite. Welcoming as a congregation may be, even willing to blur the line between members and others, in Mennonite church polity the line is still pretty clear, and only members are likely to have a vote in decision-making. Goshen College proceeds differently. To the 45 percent of our students from other traditions, Goshen College says, if you can embrace our core values—that we seek to nurture graduates who are Christ-centered, passionate learners, servant leaders, compassionate peacemakers, and global citizens—even if you can just tolerate and respect the core values, you are part of this learning community. You are not simply suffered, you are invited, welcomed, and included. This must raise questions like: In light of such commitments, what obligations does Goshen College have to students who are not Mennonite? What rights do they have? Who has a voice in what decisions? This is of immediate practical relevance because most of the Goshen College student-athletes involved in the affected sports are not Mennonite, and they want to play the anthem.

I do not desire a commitment to diversity that gives equal weight to every voice, and in fact I do not think any such thing is possible. Every commitment to diversity is a commitment to some diversity and not others: it is inevitably specific, bounded, and limited. To name one such boundary as bluntly as possible, whatever the depth and sincerity of its commitment to diversity, Goshen College cannot be a Mennonite college unless the Mennonite card sometimes, in some situations, to some extent trumps others.[7] But this should never be done without considering the rights and welfare of others and the implications for others; it should be done in conversation with others, and ideally there would be some agreed and explicit decision-making structure to use. Critics of the Goshen College decision to allow the anthem may want to say this is precisely a situation in which the Mennonite card must trump others. But they need to consider the issue and make the case rather than just assuming it.

That critics of the anthem decision should tend to give little attention to the relationship between Mennonites and others in Mennonite higher education is not surprising, because Mennonites have no public discourse on the matter. While Mennonites have done substantial intellectual work on pedagogy, and specifically on what it means to be a Mennonite institution, an observation likely to accompany such work is that Mennonites still have many gaps in our educational philosophy. Writing in 2000, Shirley Hershey Showalter, then Goshen College president, observed in writings on higher education by prominent Mennonite historians Rod Sawatsky (president of Messiah College from 1994 to 2004), Theron Schlabach, and Paul Toews, “a theme of lament,” a “problem of silence,”[8] with reference to what a fourth historian, James Juhnke, called the absence of “a truly coherent philosophy of Mennonite education.”[9]

One such absence concerns the significance of diversity in Mennonite colleges. Sometimes the problem is lack of any reference to diversity. In 1997, Sawatsky wrote a fine essay (“What Can the Mennonite Tradition Contribute to Christian Higher Education?”) that remains relevant and challenging, and yet only one sentence in it reveals, obliquely, to the reader that not all the students at the many Canadian and U.S. schools he is referring to are Mennonite.[10] More often than not in recent years, however, writing on education will make some reference and commitment to the value of diversity in higher education, especially racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. In fact writers may well identify both “supporting Mennonite identity” and “encouraging greater diversity” as goals of Mennonite education, but what I have not yet found is anyone who then goes on to say: “And these two commitments may sometimes be in tension or conflict. We must embrace that tension, and we believe it will be fruitful, but we need to think hard about just what it means to live out a commitment both to sustaining Mennonite identity and to being hospitable to a more diverse faculty and student body.” That is the kind of reflection we need to help us with the national anthem issue and with the many other diversity issues we face.

The ground work is there. At Goshen College we have been working on what it means to live well with diversity since the late 1960s when we attempted to increase our African-American student population substantially. The effort was undoubtedly sincere and well-motivated, but it was naive in assuming that diversifying the campus meant simply enrolling African-American students. We failed to see how deep would be the culture shock for African-Americans, largely urban, moving to an overwhelmingly white school, located in the middle of farm country, at the edge of a virtually all-white small town not far removed from its days as a sundown town. While Goshen’s record since then has mixed success and failure, we have learned a lot, and today we have considerable practical experience concerning the rewarding but tough issues of diversity, gathered from the work of the athletic department, student life, admissions, the Multicultural Affairs Office and the Hispanic-oriented Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning, and the many profs who work hard to create equitable classrooms. This experience and insight has not yet been taken into Mennonite discourse on higher education, however, and so it has little influence on the national anthem debate.

2. Reflection on the practical social location of the national anthem issue at Goshen College. The debate about the national anthem is conducted largely in terms of its meaning for Mennonite witness and identity. This is appropriate as far it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough. One would hope that controversy about a major issue of religious and political identity at a college would be located near the centers of power and responsibility in the institution, so that the burden to debate policy and articulate a rationale would fall on the administrators, professors, and students best trained to do so. Far from it in this case. Instead, as indicated earlier, virtually all the action centers on the athletic department. Intercollegiate competition is where the controversy becomes visible; while half of all Goshen College student-athletes are Mennonites and half others, the sports where the controversy is most evident happen to be those with fewer Mennonites.

Those who must defend and articulate Goshen College policy are athletic department personnel, not those on campus who may be best prepared to do so. Coaches report that recruiting a sixteen-year-old volleyball player from a local high school must often involve an explanation of Goshen College’s anthem policy to the student and her parents, who may well be bewildered by or suspicious of a practice they have no framework for understanding. Because of the strange blend of sports and patriotism in much American athletic culture, the burden of explaining Goshen College anthem policy rests where it doesn’t belong. In my own decision to support allowing the anthem, a desire to relieve this situation figures significantly.

3. What does the national anthem mean? Here I wander into speculation, without drawing any particular conclusion, but believing that reflection on the question is essential to our debate and requires some efforts to complicate the assumptions that seem to underlie it. Someone insisting on the original meaning of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” written more than a century before it became the national anthem, might describe it as an expression of relief and defiance, from a victim of an unprovoked attack by an overweening and overconfident imperial aggressor—the bombs bursting in air are, after all, British. That would hardly do, of course, because history and cultural context matter. The anti-anthem petition at the Jesus Radicals website, mentioned earlier, draws on culture and history to justify its interpretation of the anthem as “glorif[ying] war and violence for one nation’s benefit. … The anthem is used to inspire patriotic fervor. The very habit of playing the song before sporting events arises out of the World War II era, when baseball became a stage for nationalistic displays.”[11] This is one plausible reading. Having observed countless pre-game national anthem rituals, in person and on television, I sometimes speculate that the platonic ideal form of a national anthem ceremony would be sung by a celebrity in the Super Bowl, and accompanied by a fighter jet flyover, a military color guard, and a twenty-one-gun salute. The military implications of the anthem are often front and center.

But there is more to the matter. The debate among Mennonites has been full of “what the anthem means to me” statements, and this too is an appropriate part of determining the anthem’s meaning. One Mennonite service worker, devastated by Goshen College’s anthem decision and associated with long involvement in a country battered by U.S. military power, said that he had carried enough bomb victims that the “bombs bursting in air” imagery left him unable to shake the image of the Goshen College basketball court covered in their blood. A woman, presumably Mennonite, wrote of the flag, in relation to the anthem debate in the Mennonite Weekly Review,

Being able to fly the flag says we are thankful to live in [a] FREE country! Have you forgotten that our fore-fathers came to this land for that very reason? The flag represents a country where we are free to worship in whatever way we believe is right. We are even free to disdain the flag that represents that freedom, and the blood that was shed to give us that freedom. Again, I submit to you that we should be grateful to be Americans, even though we cannot agree with all our Political leaders do.[12]

However, saying what the anthem means to me obligates me to hear what the anthem means to others. For the anthem advocates I have talked to, I would characterize their statements as modest and benign (gratitude for freedoms and love of country) and sometimes bearing a military sub-text (gratitude for the military power that they believe secures those freedoms). I didn’t get much sense of people “glorif[ying] war and violence for one nation’s benefit.” All these points of view must weigh something in the meaning-measuring scales, but it is hard to know how much.

Reflection on the significance of culture and context for determining the anthem’s meaning has left me wondering to what extent Goshen can have the freedom to say, or at least to influence, what the anthem means in the particular context in which it will be played. In fact, more than a month after the initial decision, the college has taken a step to do just that. A press release dated 10 March 2010 describes how the anthem ritual will be carried out and includes a text to be included in sports programs:

Goshen College—affiliated with Mennonite Church USA—is a Christian, liberal arts college that strives to represent its five core values in all we do. These values—Christ-Centeredness, Passionate Learning, Global Citizenship, Servant Leadership and Compassionate Peacemaking—are consistent with our historic peace church heritage. We continue to strive to keep Christ's teachings, and in particular his teaching on peace, foremost in our lives. We are thankful for religious freedom, respect different viewpoints, and welcome all opportunities to share in open dialogue.

As an institution that values diversity and seeks to provide a hospitable place for all to come, learn, and experience, we welcome you to today's game. Prior to the game, we will invite you to stand for the playing of the national anthem followed by a reading of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. We offer this time as space for people to respond respectfully as they wish, recognizing that these rituals represent different things to different people. Thank you for joining us and we trust today's game will be enjoyable.[13]

Would the national anthem at Goshen College, explained as a gesture of hospitality and followed by the prayer of St. Francis, “glorif[y] war and violence for one nation’s benefit”? Probably a text and a ritual have some meaning independent of context and of efforts to shape interpretation. And yet Jimi Hendrix’s Star-Spangled Banner, performed with ironic bombast, is not the same thing as the Army Band’s, and Goshen’s anthem ritual, framed in terms of hospitality, would mean something different than when it is played in other settings.

4. What is at stake in the decision to allow the anthem? Anti-anthem opinion has not signed up to a single interpretation. The general tenor, however, has been one of high alarm at devastating loss, as if the decision indicated a church, already in trouble, betrayed by an institution that is among the denomination’s leaders. I suspect that many might be willing to sign on to the succinct judgment of Michael Hardin, co-founder and executive director of Preaching Peace, who says the Goshen College anthem decision is a “clear indication/sign of the Mennonite church's slide toward Empire and becoming just another form of Constantinian Christianity.”[14] The grief-stricken tone of some opposition and the anger of other would be hard to understand did it not reflect a sense of fundamentally threatened vision, witness, and identity.

Having worked for seven years as professor of Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies at Goshen College, I can recognize various challenges we face, but I position the anthem decision, weigh it against the whole, very differently. What I see in terms of peace at Goshen College is basically an institution in rude good health,[15]
and thus my decision to support the policy allowing the anthem arises in part from the sense that we can afford this. The campus peace culture and the faith underlying it are strong enough that we can make a hospitality-motivated gesture without diminishing our larger peace witness.

5. Other themes. The anthem issue touches on many themes in Mennonite identity that might be discussed here. a) The Mennonite relationship to the state has been vexed from the beginning, and this controversy demonstrates that we remain all over the theoretical map, from pretty standard God-and-country stuff to rejecting all states. b) In Exclusion and Embrace, the Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf discusses the Christian relationship to culture under the headings of distance and belonging.[16] He gives most of his attention to belonging-without-distance, the problem behind Christians’ frequent over-identification with the cultures they live in, and thus a contributor to the problem of ethnic conflict. But Volf also identifies the danger of distance-without-belonging, in which Christians make themselves so separate, so critical, that they cannot engage deeply with their own culture. My Mennonite students regularly recognize this as a real danger in themselves and their circles, and versions of it are not hard to see in some expressions of the anti-anthem discourse. c) In a cogent critique of the Goshen College anthem decision in a Mennonite Weekly Review editorial, Celeste Kennel-Shank, 2005 Goshen College graduate, frames her objections in terms of the “lordship of Christ,”[17]a theme most Mennonites will be familiar with as the theological affirmation undergirding Mennonite allegiance to God and therefore consequent resistance to the excessive claims of nationalism and of states. It is a high value, understood to order everything beneath it, and as such, the lordship of Christ can often be seen to have priority over lesser considerations, such as hospitality. I think this is insufficient. We need to think of hospitality as an aspect of the lordship of Christ, alongside allegiance rather than beneath it. Hospitality is a central value of that community over which Christ is acknowledged lord and is to be honored, promoted, and nurtured in all human relationships. That will give hospitality its proper place and complicate the national anthem debate. d) What are our peace paradigms? In this debate, resistance inevitably gets heavy rotation, but planting, nurturing, and healing are as important, and we can often be confused about how they all fit together.

In an exercise concerning the national anthem, facilitators at the fall retreat for all Goshen College faculty, staff, and administrators put us in groups to discuss a series of questions about our stance on the anthem. The last one was, What are your doubts or hesitations about the position you hold? It’s a great question, especially as conflict intensifies and it seems more and more necessary to insist on the truth of one’s viewpoint and less and less possible to hesitate, re-think, and perhaps even change. I’ll name three fundamental doubts; they don’t haunt me, but neither do they disappear. Blindspots is always a good one. What have I simply failed to see that I must see in order to get this issue in proper perspective? And then there’s just getting it wrong. Imagine that some of my arguments in this essay seem right to readers, or at least worth considering. Nonetheless, I know full well that it is possible to employ good arguments in bad causes. Finally, slippery-slope arguments can be laughable nonsense, but sometimes the law of unintended consequences really can take things where you never imagined, or the arguments you needed to make for one situation get applied in ways you didn’t anticipate and didn’t intend. Trying to find a way forward in which dissent and hospitality meet, peace and welcome embrace proves to be a very great challenge indeed.


  1. 1. That two of those sister institutions, Bethel College and Bluffton College, do play the anthem while two others, Hesston College and Eastern Mennonite University, do not play it is a complication I will not discuss in this editorial.
  2. 2. Every aspect of the process has come in for criticism with varying degrees of merit, from the composition of the task force, to the decision-making structure, to who was and was not consulted. I will simplify my task in this editorial by leaving process issues aside, not because they are irrelevant, but because even the most perfectly constructed and executed process would still leave us with a difficult and divisive decision to make about whether to play the anthem.
  3. 3. See, for example, “Discussion of Goshen College and the National Anthem,” Facebook,!/group.php?v=info&ref=search&gid=320378146715; “For Goshen College Honoring Our Country with the National Anthem,” Facebook,!/group.php?v=info&ref=search&gid=340407031971; and the quite thoughtful exchange of divergent opinions among readers responding to Celeste Kennel-Shank, “The National Anthem and the Lordship of Christ,” The Mennonite Weekly Review (8 February 2010), (all accessed 27 February 2010).
  4. 4. "Resistance to the National Anthem at Goshen College,” Jesus Radicals website, (accessed 26 February 2010).

  5. 5. “Against Goshen College Playing the National Anthem,” Facebook,!/group.php?gid=280721802786&ref=search&sid=595666443.1444374802..1 (accessed 27 February 2010).
  6. 6. All quotes taken from “Against Goshen College Playing the National Anthem,” Facebook,!/group.php?v=wall&ref=mf&gid=280721802786 (accessed 27 February 2010).
  7. 7. It is a side issue in this context, but it may be worth noting that the specificity of every commitment to diversity means at Goshen that we need to consider how our current desire (mostly sincere, I believe) to gain greater ethnic and racial diversity among our faculty and students interacts with our original and continuing diversity commitment, which is to nurture the identity of the small, marginal, and dwindling religious minority that is the Mennonite church.
  8. 8. Shirley Hershey Showalter, “Discovering an Anabaptist Voice: A Philosophy of Education,” in Teaching to Transform: Perspectives on Mennonite Higher Education, edited by Keith Graber Miller (Goshen, IN: Pinchpenny Press, 2000), 42.
  9. 9. James Juhnke, Vision, Doctrines, War: Mennonite Identity and Organization in America, 1890-1930 (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1989), 165; quoted in Showalter, “Discovering an Anabaptist Voice,” 43.
  10. 10. “More recently, this same dynamic has meant for some that to be truly faithful to the church, a Mennonite college must have a particular percentage of Mennonite faculty and/or students.” Rod Sawatsky, “What Can the Mennonite Tradition Contribute to Christian Higher Education?” in Models for Christian Higher Education, edited by Richard Hughes and William Adrian (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 196.
  11. 11. “Resistance to the National Anthem at Goshen College,” Jesus Radicals website, (accessed 26 February 2010).
  12. 12. Amber, contribution dated 24 February 2010, Mennonite Weekly Review, (accessed 1 March 2010).
  13. 13. “Goshen College Announces Plans for National Anthem's Implementation,” press release dated 10 March 2010, Goshen College website, (accessed 11 March 2010).
  14. 14. Michael Hardin, “Goshen College To Play National Anthem,” 9 February 2010, mass email (read 10 February 2010).
  15. 15. I  could name the pieces of evidence: above all, the wonderful students, representing a range of perspectives and religious traditions, I get to teach; the rate and range of activity and reflection undertaken by the student PAX club, which wears me out just to read about it on their list-serve; the work and research of our Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning, and so on. But the significance of the peace theme at Goshen can’t be captured by activity. A friend, who knows Goshen well and had previously worked at other schools with renowned peace studies programs, once told me that the difference between Goshen and those schools is not that Goshen’s peace studies program is better—it’s not. But while those schools, my friend said, value their peace studies programs, to some extent the programs and the students in them occupy a niche. What is remarkable about Goshen is the extent to which the peace theme is part of mainstream college life, woven into the fabric of campus identity. It being hard sometimes to see the obvious, it took an outside consulting firm, hired to help us think about brand and marketing issues, to get us to act on the peace theme in some new ways. After a first intense visit to campus in the fall of 2008, they came back early the next year saying, in effect: We don’t create a brand, we uncover a brand, and it is obvious to us that your brand is peace. Your students know it, your faculty know it, your alumni know it; those inside the community and outside know it; those who like it and those who don’t like it, both know it. The result has been a marketing campaign built on the theme of “Healing the World, Peace by Peace,” which has put peace front and center in our public identity as never before. That consulting firm’s proposal matched my experience perfectly. Hoping that no administrator will hear me and act on it, I tell prospective students that one of the great things about teaching peace studies at Goshen College is that Goshen could be said not to need a peace studies department, because so many profs in varied departments teach peace-related material and courses. I have just finished reading five outstanding faculty applications for the annual C. Henry Smith Peace Lectureship (shared between Goshen and Bluffton College in Ohio, another Mennonite school), two from Communications, one from Bible, Religion, and Philosophy, and two from our Masters in Environmental Education. It could have been any number of departments. Last summer, working on a General Education Review committee, my partner in discussing the implications of the college’s Compassionate Peacemaking core value was the head of our Business department. Our Economics professor teaches so many peace-related courses, not least the Economics of War and Peace, that he might as well have been made up by Peace Studies. The athletics department has perhaps had the greatest difficulty knowing how to incorporate the Peace by Peace theme into their recruiting, and yet their Leaf Relief program is one of the more impressive service efforts on campus. Almost all Goshen students take a peace studies course before they graduate, most of them Transforming Conflict, superbly designed by my PJCS colleague Carolyn Schrock-Shenk as a kind of peace-for-everyone course, giving students practical skills and perspectives on how to live peaceably in day-to-day life, regardless of their background, whether or not they are pacifists.
  16. 16. Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 35-55.
  17. 17. Celeste Kennel-Shank, “The National Anthem and Christ’s Lordship,” Mennonite Weekly Review (8 February 2010), (accessed 1 March 2010).

Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace. Copyright © 2013.
Published by Plowshares: a Peace Studies Collaborative of Earlham and Goshen Colleges and Manchester University. Supported by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation Initiative on Religion and International Affairs.
Readers may duplicate articles and quote from the journal without permission, provided no changes are made in the text and full credit is given to the author.