Beliefnet

Floyd Landis, who won the 2006 Tour de France after a stunning come-from-behind performance, is at the center of an ongoing doping scandal. Routine urine testing on the eve of the final day of the three-week-long cycling race showed unnaturally high testosterone levels. Landis, who grew up in a Mennonite family in Farmersville, Pennsylvania, consistently has said that he did not take performance-enhancing drugs. Beliefnet senior editor Alice Chasan spoke recently to Donald B. Kraybill, an expert on Mennonites at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, about Landis.


Are people having a hard time believing he might be lying about the use of performance-enhancing drugs because he's a Mennonite?

Floyd Landis was raised in a Mennonite family, but I don't know whether he has membership in a Mennonite church now or not. I would say that personal integrity and truth-telling is a very high virtue in Mennonite life and culture. For example, when a Mennonite traditionally would go to court and be asked to swear on the Bible, he would typically refuse, and instead he would say he affirms that he is telling the truth. And that arose because, in following the words of Jesus, your yes should be yes and your no should be no.

It was strongly emphasized that to swear that you're telling the truth implies that other times you may not be, and the feeling was that you should always speak the truth. Another phrase that sometimes was said was, “Our word is our bond.” In other words, we don't need any special verification from the outside, but the word of personal integrity should always be paramount. So, truth-telling really runs throughout Anabaptist history and values since the formation of the Anabaptist Mennonite churches in 1525 in Europe.

Can you tell us about Landis’ hometown in Farmersville, Pa.?

Yes, I can place them in national context. There are about 45 different Mennonite groups in the United States. They are clustered in three different families.

There's one family known as Old Order Mennonites. These are typically horse-and-buggy-driving Mennonites. They are the most conservative of the Mennonite groups, and they would represent about 10 percent of the Mennonite community in the United States.

The second group would be what I call plain/conservative Mennonites. They use electricity in their homes, they use automobiles, they generally don't pursue higher education, and they wear plain dress. The women wear a prayer covering, and so on. And these plain/conservative Mennonites constitute about 20 percent of the population nationally.

The other 70 percent are what I often call assimilated Mennonites. They usually do not have distinctive dress or clothing practices, they support higher education, they use modern technology, most of them have televisions, some of the churches operate colleges and universities, entrepreneurs own software companies, and so on.

In terms of the national population, we're looking at about 370,000 people--adults and children--who would be members of a Mennonite church. The largest denominational group of this assimilated family is called Mennonite Church USA. Floyd's congregation is part of that large assimilated group, but his particular congregation [the Martindale Mennonite Congregation] is one of the most conservative ones in that group.

So, his congregation where he grew up straddles the fence between the plain/conservative and the assimilated cluster. For example, his mother wears a prayer covering and fairly plain dress, but she and Floyd’s father would be on the most conservative end of the assimilated group . In some ways, they would look similar to the plain/conservative Mennonites but, technically their congregation is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA.

Of the 45 groups, the Mennonite Church USA is the largest one. So, we need to remember there's a wide spectrum of Mennonite groups here with varying practices and even beliefs.

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