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Maria Thomas, a senior at Bethany Christian High School, Goshen, Ind., earned grand prize for her essay on faith and politics in the MCC U.S. Washington Office annual essay contest. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Miller/Bethany Christian Schools)

Maria Thomas, a senior at Bethany Christian High School, Goshen, Ind., earned grand prize for her essay on faith and politics in the MCC U.S. Washington Office annual essay contest. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Miller/Bethany Christian Schools)

Essay contest winner explores connection between faith and politics

Jesse Epp-Fransen
March 29, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Maria Thomas, a senior at Bethany Christian High School in Goshen, Ind., has earned grand prize for her essay on faith and politics in the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office annual essay contest.

In her essay, “Faith, Values and Voting,” Thomas discusses the historic connection between faith and politics. Drawing from biblical examples, the separation of the Amish, the 16th century Schleitheim Confession, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and contemporary Mennonite politicians, she argues for an active engagement in politics and says that this need not contradict Mennonite beliefs.

“I believe that contemporary Anabaptists, mainstreamed into society, can and should vote,” wrote Thomas, whose home congregation is Walnut Hill Mennonite Church in Goshen. “While we do refrain from participation in some areas, like the military, we are very engaged in our communities and nation.

“We, like all other citizens, are subject to taxes and laws and are directly affected by the government. As responsible participants in our society, we should vote and have a say in public policies, especially given the democratic nature of our government. We have the opportunity, if not the obligation, to act both as responsible participants in our nation and as faithful citizens of God’s Kingdom.”

In addition to the grand prize, national honorable mention prizes were awarded to Caleb Derstine of Lancaster (Pa.) Mennonite High School, Natalie Miller of Freeman (S.D.) Academy and Peter Schrock of Bethany Christian High School. The annual Washington Office essay contest highlights the perspectives of youth on significant public policy issues and promotes the involvement of young people in faithful witness to government authorities. Topics for this year’s contest included global poverty; the wealth gap in the U.S.; domestic violence; and faith, values and voting.

The contest is open to Anabaptist youth of high school age and to all youth who attend Mennonite high schools. Entries are judged on the participant’s understanding of the issues, clarity of argument and degree of creativity in crafting thoughtful policy positions. Grand prize is $300, and honorable mention winners each receive $100.

Excerpts from the winning essays will be published at washingtonmemo.org by April 6.

Mennonite Central Committee: Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ