Look at this weird book I found at the MCC! VISITATION OF GOD TO THE MENNONITES. Written by Gerald Derstine, the cover depicts a dove descending from outer space.
My first impression was that this was some kind of alien visitation story… about Mennonites. Whatever, it’s weird, it’s about Mennonites, so I brought it home to show Andrew.
We immediately googled Gerald Derstine.
Ummmmm I’m guessing by now you’ll have googled him, too. The first hit you’ll get is his own ministry’s website, which is predictably filled with flattering findings. But the second is an article about this fellow by Christianity Today, detailing how leaders of his ministry had “falsified ministry reports.” A little lower down, was a hit from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune about Derstine entitled, “Family accuses religious leader of sexual abuse.” Given how common these sorts of behaviours are by powerful religious leaders, I can’t say this surprised me, but it did make me angry, sad, and then back to very very angry again.
The book became buried on my desk for a few months. However, recently I was hunting for a lost book, and unearthed this bizarre little booklet, and immediately read it. It’s just too messed up not to tell you about. (And possibly make some people very angry. Ah, such is life.)
It read like a horror film.
Filled with nuggets like this:
WHY IS THERE A CROSS IN THE CEILING. WHY.
Oh, because God’s really into making Amish people punch holes into ceilings in the shape of a cross, apparently. (For his glory, obvs.)
Derstine reports that people were constantly lying on the floor in trances, and he knew this was a blessing from God because everyone looked like they were having a total blast.
Oh, but that’s not all. Satan also apparently manifested in this house for midnight chats, and also showed up at the door on occasion in the form of angry fathers who were sick of Derstine’s shit.
So what’s with the Mennonite connection? Apparently he was at this point, in the mid-1950s, an ordained Mennonite pastor. I’m not sure which denomination. So he says he was a Mennonite himself and not into any of this stuff, it was just God showing up because the world is ending soon and Derstine is specially chosen to… dupe us Mennos? Make a lot of money? Not sure. Ha.
Anyhoo, weird book, would probably make a good b-grade horror movie. Lemme know if you wanna give it a shot and I’ll send it to you.