Like many conservative Christian groups, Mennonites hold marriage to be a sacred and lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. Most Mennonites believe marriage was instituted at the beginning of the human race as a part of God’s plan for humanity, and human nature is designed in such a way that a man and woman can realize complete satisfaction and happiness when they are married. Many Mennonites believe marriage to be the most intimate of all human relationships.
The Sanctity of Marriage
According to Mennonites, married people are expected to leave their parents and live together as a separate social entity until death. Divorce is discouraged, and in some Mennonite communities people who have divorced from their spouses are disciplined, except in cases of prolonged physical abuse. In the end, a marriage is supposed to be instituted by God and is therefore a holy and sacred institution.
Gender Roles within a Marriage
The Mennonite religion states that men and women are of equal importance, although it is still a largely patriarchal society. Men are said to be the heads of their households while women are expected to be submissive to their husbands. The wife’s role is to serve her husband and raise their children, while men can become leaders in the church and community. Unmarried women are to be subservient to their fathers until they are married.
Although Mennonite marriages are not arranged, approval between families is still sought. This approval is often met with either a matchmaker or church official acting as a mediator. The extent of the arrangements varies between different groups, with more conservative families playing a major role in deciding the conditions of a marriage. However, even in more liberal societies, informal marriage arrangements are still made, and couples still seek approval from their families. One constant among various Mennonite groups is the belief that marriage is to be taken seriously as a sacred commitment made before God.
Divorce and Interfaith Marriages
Historically, divorce has been discouraged in the Mennonite faith except in cases of spousal abuse. More conservative Mennonite churches have disciplined couples who get divorced. In recent years, the rules regarding marriage and divorce have been relaxed somewhat as the Mennonite population has become more urbanized and mainstreamed. Marrying outside the Mennonite faith is still largely forbidden and can lead to people being excommunicated from the church. Excommunication usually means being cut off from the community, the church, and even one’s own family.
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