I wrote this post for last months edition of Wineskins’, which focused on social media. However, I failed to ever actually turn it in. Sorry. Anyway, here it is.
When theological push comes to shove and I’m pressed into a theological category, I call myself an Anabaptist. Being an Anabaptist means I place a premium on personal piety, the importance of the church, the individual’s right to choose faith for themselves, the centrality of baptism, and the non-coersive, power-sacrificing nature of God, but mostly, it means I spend time explaining what an Anabaptist is.
I tell you about my Anabaptism knowing that you probably don’t care. What you might find more interesting is that there was a time and place in which my declaration of Anabaptism might have gotten me killed.
A Little Background
Anabaptism arose as part of the Radical Reformation. While Luther and his compatriots pushed against the abuses they saw in the Catholic Church, some Christians – mostly in Switzerland – thought Luther wasn’t pushing hard enough. You want “Reformation.” We want “Radical Reformation!”
The primary sticking point between the Reformers and the Radical Reformers was baptism. The Reformers wanted to keep “pedo (infant) baptism,” while the Swiss Brethren believed baptism was a decision (faith) that a person must and could only make for themselves, so many of them opted to be re-baptized (ana-baptized).
It wasn’t long until Anabaptists found themselves on an island, the Catholic Church disagreed with them and the Reformers did too. In a time without the Bill of Rights, religious persecution was often thought commiserate with defending the faith. Add 2 and 2 together and you get widespread persecution of Anabaptists.