Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Anabaptists: From the Radical Reformation to Radically Dogmatic

I was thinking about the History of the Anabaptists today. The Church I was raised in and the school I was taught in were both Mennonite/Anabaptist. When I read history about them it is hillarious for me to categorize them as 'The Radical Reformation' - Radical? ... a church that excommunicates someone for dancing seems a little old fashioned to me, but such is the historical shift. I think it's funny to read about the first Anabaptists and how they set up this polygamous theocracy in Munster, believing that once they had enough babies and reached 144 000 people, they would be raptured and the Kingdom of God would be at hand. I know people who have been kicked out of Anabaptist churches for getting pregnant, and I can barely imagine one where people were constantly copulating in hopes of bringing about God's will.

Menno Simons I guess was quite different from those at Munster, so maybe that ties in a bit. As I read his writing I find nothing that shocking; in fact about 70% of his writing is just direct quotes from Scripture and the other 30% is about how Catholics are wrong about everything... so maybe there is a bit of continuity between the Mennonites then and now lol. The only shocking thing I found was that he quotes the Apocrypha, right next to scripture and makes no distinction. I think that fact would scare a few of the grannies at the local MB church.

As cynical as I can be about the Mennonites, they do have a great history. I will always remember the stories my grandmother handed down to me about how the Ukranian Orthodox and the Mennonites used to actually befriend each other at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution and how they escaped to Canada with money sown in their clothes and had miracles occur where they narrowly escaped guards and jumped off trains and hid in fields, all to preserve their faith. Maybe that's why my grandma was so pissed when I looked at Catholicism, it's like a slap in the face to all of my heritage. It's wild how movements change though. Nowadays the Mennonites are strangely dogmatic in their anti-dogmatism. So they claim to have no creed, but if someone brings up Just War theory they call them heretics, or if someone mentions infant baptism, they are on the side of the Anti-Christ. Maybe when you are persecuted by everyone (like they were in the Reformation), you choose what things you'll die for, and in essence become dogmatic about those things. It's probably hard to die for the freedom to choose to believe whatever you want. It's a bit airy.

I did find it funny though that one Reformation program said that the Anabaptists promoted 3 things which were intolerable to 16th century culture:
1. Freedom to choose your own religion, 2. Not drinking alcohol, 3. Not beating your wife. lol good ol' Anabaptists

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