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.

 Does this assimilated group retain the value placed on truth-telling?
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.

What would be the age of adult baptism typically?

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 California for 10 years, and my guess is he's simply drifted away.

 But if somebody were an adult practicing member of a Mennonite church and that person was found to have lied, what would be the practice of that person's church in response to that behavior?

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?

In Lancaster County as a whole, there's a lot of suburbanization happening. The central city is about 75,000 people. The county as a whole has about 500,000 people, but there are pockets of rural, quiet, quaint farmland, and his immediate home is in one of those little hamlets that is still quite rural and pretty much protected or separated from suburbanization. There is a large group of Old Order Mennonites--several thousand--in Lancaster County right in the community that he comes from.

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.

Is his family, as members of the Mennonite Church USA, likely to have had modern forms of communication in their home, like TV and Internet?

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 Hollywood, and so the Old Order groups, such as the horse-and-buggy ones and the plain/conservative ones, would forbid television.

 In Floyd’s group, the Mennonite Church USA, I would say 90 percent of the people have television, but a few of the more conservative families would tend not to.

Do Mennonites have a central governing body?

It depends on the group. In the Lancaster Conference, no. The Lancaster Conference is the regional group of Mennonite Church USA. Inside the assimilated group, Landis’s family comes from the Martindale Mennonite Congregation. It is part of Lancaster Mennonite Conference, which is the regional body.

And this Lancaster Mennonite Conference then is part of the larger national Mennonite Church USA. But, they haven't spoken on computers, and they've left television more as a matter of individual choice and conscious.

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 Zurich, Switzerland. This would have been about eight years after the Protestant Reformation. And there were young intellectuals in Zurich that worked with the Swiss Reform pastor, Ulrich Zwingli. These young upstarts felt that the Protestant Reformation was not going fast enough and it was not thorough enough; the trigger issue was adult baptism [“Anabaptist” means twice baptized]. Zwingli, ironically, sort of agreed with them but he said we need the Zurich City Council to decide. And the Anabaptists said--we don't really need to listen to the government. These are religious matters that only the church should decide.

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 Switzerland. Thousands of them were killed, burned at the stake, died in jails, persecuted in many ways from 1525 to the early 17th century. Eventually, they come here to the New World. They form into various groups. One group became Amish, one is Mennonite, another was Hutterites, who live and have communal property in North and South Dakota and in Canada. A fourth group that tapped some of the Anabaptist beliefs and mixed them with radical pietism became known as German Baptist Brethren and, eventually, the Church of the Brethren and other Brethren groups. In North America today, there are four different streams or families of Anabaptists: Amish, Hudderite, Mennonite, and Brethren, all of which share very similar values, such as pacifism, adult baptism, service, and community.

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 Switzerland and the Alsace area of France. And since that time, the Amish have tended to be more conservative, emphasizing separation from the world more. In the 20th century, the Amish have emphasized being more selective about which technologies they accept and reject.

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 Lancaster County area in Pennsylvania?

The soil here is stellar in terms of its productivity, and many of them came from the Palatinate area of Germany. They were looking for good farmland, and Lancaster was a major farm area close to the port of entry of Germantown in Philadelphia. And then they spread from here South and West. Today you find them all over the United States.

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