During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the global Mennonite church developed an uneasy relationship with Germany. Despite the religion's origins in the Swiss and Dutch Reformation, as well as its longstanding pacifism, tens of thousands of members embraced militarist German nationalism. Chosen Nation is a sweeping history of this encounter and the debates it sparked among parliaments, dictatorships, and congregations across Eurasia and the Americas.
Offering a multifaceted perspective on nationalism's emergence in Europe and around the world, Benjamin Goossen demonstrates how Mennonites' nationalization reflected and reshaped their faith convictions. While some church leaders modified German identity along Mennonite lines, others appropriated nationalism wholesale, advocating a specifically Mennonite version of nationhood. Examining sources from Poland to Paraguay, Goossen shows how patriotic loyalties rose and fell with religious affiliation. Individuals might claim to be German at one moment but Mennonite the next. Some external parties encouraged separatism, as when the Weimar Republic helped establish an autonomous "Mennonite State" in Latin America. Still others treated Mennonites as quintessentially German; under Hitler's Third Reich, entire colonies benefited from racial warfare and genocide in Nazi-occupied Ukraine. Whether choosing Germany as a national homeland or identifying as a chosen people, called and elected by God, Mennonites committed to collective action in ways that were intricate, fluid, and always surprising.
The first book to place Christianity and diaspora at the heart of nationality studies, Chosen Nation illuminates the rising religious nationalism of our own age.
Benjamin W. Goossen is a scholar of global religious history at Harvard University.
"A breakthrough book that addresses a vital topic of interest in great detail. . . . It has the potential to rekindle old conversations about the crises and fatigues of identity in religious communities, given that history is a major source of insight and direction for those communities, and for this reason--in addition to its historical research--it is an impressive and illuminating work."--Maxwell Kennel, Reading Religion
"Chosen Nation is a remarkable exploration of the entangled histories of nationalism, race, and religion since the nineteenth century. Goossen tells the story of how Mennonites came to think of themselves as a German diasporic community in concert with the construction of the German nation. Based on stunning archival research, this is a beautifully written book."--Tara Zahra, author of The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World
"This is a fascinating, deeply researched account of a transnational religious group's encounter with modern German nationalism and its ongoing reinvention as an ethnicity, nation, race, and confession. Presenting a new unflinching scholarly voice from within the Mennonite community, Chosen Nation explains and reflects on the origins and consequences of the disastrous mid-twentieth-century Mennonite attraction to German nationalism, acceptance of Nazi racial ideology, and, in some cases, participation in genocide."--Terry Martin, Harvard University
"Chosen Nation is a tour de force. In crystalline prose, Goossen argues that Mennonite and German identities were never stable, but created over time and deployed in specific historical circumstances, with the Mennonite articles of faith in tension with yet often supporting the modern nation-state--even during the Nazi period. This is an eye-opening guide to the vexed history of German Mennonites in the modern era."--Helmut Walser Smith, Vanderbilt University
Table of Contents:
Note on Translation xiii
1 Becoming German The Geography of Collectivism 18
2 Forging History Anabaptism and the Kulturkampf 45
3 Raising the Faith Family, Gender, and Religious Indifference 71
4 World War, World Confession International Violence and Mennonite Globalization 96
5 The Racial Church Nazis, Anti-Semitism, and the Science of Blood 121
6 Fatherland War and Genocide in the Mennonite East 147
7 Mennonite Nationalism Postwar Aid and the Politics of Repatriation 174
Archival Sources 213