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
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
Can you tell us about Landis’ hometown in
Yes, I can place them in national context. There are about 45 different Mennonite groups in the
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
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
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
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.
Absolutely. The emphasis on truth-telling, the emphasis on personal integrity, would pertain to all of these groups. So it would be a source of embarrassment and shame to his family and to the church if, in fact, he's not telling the truth.
How would the church community react if Floyd Landis is found conclusively to have been lying?
Because I don't think he's a practicing Mennonite, there's not a whole lot they can do. The key issue in Mennonite churches and other Anabaptist churches is whether the person is a baptized adult member and are practicing in full fellowship with the church. And again, I don't know if he has any current affiliation with the church. If he doesn't, then they're going to be sad about this and disappointed, but there isn't any kind of sanction they can exercise against him. They can't really excommunicate him, for example.
Typically, young people would be baptized between the ages of 12 to 18. It's very possible he was baptized, but he's lived in
It depends on the particular group and the particular congregation. In the Old Order community, they would probably need to make a public confession. In the plain/conservative groups, they may or may not need to make a public confession, but they would likely want to make a confession or offer to make a confession. In the assimilated group that he's part of, it really would vary. I mean, the person may offer an apology.
The church likely would not exercise any formal discipline, depending how egregious it was. If it was an egregious thing, then the person might be excommunicated. It just really is going to depend--the assimilated groups are much more individualistic, and there's enormous amount of variety from one congregation to another. So, it's really hard to say what would happen in one of the assimilated groups.
In Floyd Landis’ case, again, if he's not practicing, then there's really not any authority that the church would have over him.
Do you have any sense of how the Mennonite community in Farmersville is discussing or reacting to this entire controversy?
Well, my sense--and I'm talking now about sort of the general community, Mennonites and beyond --in his local area is that they can't quite believe that he would lie about this. I think they believe him, and they're looking for another explanation as to why the levels would have been high in his body at that time. And I think a lot of them still have a lot of faith that at some point he'll be vindicated.
Until they have an alternative explanation as to why this happened or what the source of it was, I think they're baffled, they're perplexed, they're not sure what to do.
Is this an area that you would say could still be characterized as rural farmland, or has suburbia or exurbia encroached on it?
And because they reject the car, many of them are using bicycles to go to church. They also use horse and buggy, but the young people are using bicycles all the time.
Floyd Landis’s own family would have been likely to have had a car?
Oh, absolutely. But, as he was growing up, a lot of his neighbors were the so-called Wenger Mennonites who refuse to use the car and instead used bicycles. So, he would have seen dozens of bicycles all around him all of the time. With these Wenger teenagers, everywhere they go, they go by bicycle basically.
They would have had a telephone, but I understand they don't have television. That really places them on the most conservative end of this Mennonite Church USA. But they would have had electricity, telephone, car, automobile.
And are they likely to have a computer?
They do have a computer. Whether they're using the Internet or not, I don't know. Television, in some of the more conservative families, is more frowned upon than the computer. I mean, the computer's more like a tool, where television would be seen in more as entertainment. Television is viewed as having a lot of sex and violence on it and a lot of junk, the cesspool of
Do Mennonites have a central governing body?
It depends on the group. In the
And this Lancaster Mennonite Conference then is part of the larger national
How would you characterize Mennonite belief systems or theology, and how are Mennonites different from what we consider to be mainstream American Christian denominations?
The Mennonite church is part of a larger theological movement called Anabaptism, or Anabaptists. And one of the key features is the emphasis on adult baptism. That was the issue in 1525 when the movement began. So, adult baptism--making a voluntary decision about following Jesus in daily life--is an important precept. A second one is peacemaking, pacifism, nonresistance. That has characterized Mennonite communities over the generations, that one should follow the way of Jesus in loving enemies, not retaliating, not using force or violence. In personal life, not engaging in litigation and not joining the military service, all of which would be seen as examples of using force to solve problems.
A third dimension would be a strong emphasis on service to others. The Mennonite Central Committee, for example, has volunteers in programs in about 70 different countries, a strong emphasis on relief and service and development work in poor countries. And then, in addition to that, Mennonite Disaster Service, which goes to areas where there's a hurricane or tornado or flood and thousands of volunteers work at rebuilding homes for the general population.
And finally, they have a strong emphasis on community, of face-to-face interaction, of taking care of each other, of what's often called “mutual aid” in the community. The historical example would be the barn-raising if there's been a fire.
Theologically, the focus is more on practice rather than doctrine. In other words, rather than being focused on creeds and doctrine, the key question from the Mennonite perspective is, “How do I follow Jesus daily in my life?” The emphasis is on discipleship or practicing the faith rather than orthodoxy. So, it's orthopraxis rather than orthodoxy.
Can you give a brief history of the Anabaptist movement?
The Anabaptist movement started in 1525 in
So, in essence, the key issue was really the separation of church and state, and they were really forerunners of that issue which, today in modern life we take for granted, at least in the Western world, in many parts of the Western world.
They started baptizing each other as adults. This was a capital offense in
What are the primary differences between the Mennonites and the Amish?
The Amish and Mennonites shared the same identical heritage until 1693. And then there was a separation in
However, it's confusing because the Old Order horse-and-buggy Mennonites, this group I just wrote the book on--they are in many ways very similar to the Amish. Amish and Mennonites in general would still emphasis things like pacifism, service, community, and--adult baptism. The assimilated Mennonites really dress like other Americans. They've embraced higher education, and they tend to be much more individualistic, whereas the Amish emphasize a communal--and I don't mean in an economic sense, but collective and communal values much more than mainstream Mennonites.
What led Amish and Mennonites to settle near one another in the
The soil here is stellar in terms of its productivity, and many of them came from the