A couple of Mennonites decided that they could provide some of their church family and friends with a lucrative investment opportunity. A brief review of the opportunity can be found at www.therecord.com/news/business/article/707442–brothers-in-law-fined-for-breaching-securities-law. In summary, family and friends believed two of their own and willingly invested money with these two Mennonites and these investment sales continued for numerous years. Eventually it was discovered that this investment opportunity was a scam and millions of dollars were lost. A civil and criminal investigation was undertaken and full cooperation was given by the Mennonites involved in the scam. A request to consider that these two Mennonites only had Grade 9 education was made in the hopes that leniency would be granted when determining guilt and/or punishment in this matter. Really? Is that all that it takes? Ignorance. Seriously?
Let’s review. Old Order Mennonites make a conscious choice to restrict their education level. Though their education level is restricted, many of them choose to participate in businesses that are regulated by provincial and federal regulations. Their restricted education often makes them ignorant to this world of business regulations. As a result of this ignorance, catastrophe strikes – as in the investment scam – and then Mennonites ask for forgiveness and reduced punishment because they are ignorant. Pardon the pun, but I just don’t buy it.
I’ve spent many years learning about the Mennonite culture, working directly with them and learning the reasons for their lifestyle choices and watching them struggle to participate successfully in the non-Mennonite world in which they choose to participate. Excusing their ignorance is not the answer. And understand that the ignorance is one of choice. When opportunities are presented to reduce the ignorance, Mennonites decline the opportunities, stating that the opportunity provides an answer that is too worldly and against their church’s beliefs and beyond the church’s allowances. Hello! If the opportunities to reduce the ignorance are too worldly, the business in which they’re participating is too worldly too. That’s not rocket science folks! Why isn’t the church stopping them from participating in these ‘worldly’ businesses? Sometimes prayer may not be the only answer. A brain was provided to be used, not wasted.
Ignorance is no defense. When this ignorance causes the financial ruin of many others, when this ignorance causes a child’s death as a result of safety standard violations, when the ignorance causes a bacteria outbreak in a retail food processing operation, when the ignorance of standard vehicular operations causes the loss of lives, when the ignorance allows and overlooks sexual molestation against innocent children, it’s time to send a message that the Mennonite ignorance is a danger to others, unacceptable and not allowed. Especially when the Mennonites CHOOSE to participate in the worldly aspects of society. Having two standards – one for Mennonites and one for everyone else – is not the answer.