religious movements of the Mennonites, Anabaptists, and Hutterites is really a
matter of personal opinion. If a religious cult’s identity is to maintain a
proclaimed moral higher ground or its theological opinion of biblical text is
different than the mainstream, what makes that radical? I will elaborate on their
historical views and their surviving present day cultures. In addition, I will
discuss why the term “radical” plagues them.
“Back-to-their-roots” was a movement against the life penetrating
control of the religious canon of mainly the Catholic Church. Not only the
Anabaptist and associated sects but also the Quakers, Puritans, Pietists, Baptists,
and The Church of England wanted segregation from control of the dominating
religious canon supported by the government of Rome. Heavy taxation by the
Catholic Church and Roman rulers for protection and Church growth was
oppressing the lay. The richest and largest landowner in the 16th century was
the Catholic Church. The wealthiest people were the politicians, professionals,
and priests that supported the Church. Both the Catholic Church and soon to be
extinct Roman Empire were fraught with corruption and profiting off the people
in the name of GOD.
The Church rationalized their activities using New Testament texts such
as: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the
Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He
purchased with His blood” (Acts 20:28 NKJV) Indeed, within this verse there
would seem to be a validation for the impositions the Church and governments
imposed upon the population. Without leaders in any formalized organization,
how would the people learn and grow in spirit? It should be kept in mind that the
populace at large were uneducated, most being quite illiterate. They depended
on “the organization” to “direct them in the paths of righteousness”.
Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, explains that the Church is the
body of Christ, made up of all those who believe. “ But there are many members
but one body, and the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor
again the head to the feet “I have no need of you.” (I Cor 12:20-21 NKJV) “And
if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it: or if one member is
honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ and
members individually.” (I Cor 12:26-27 NKJV) Paul clearly states that all are
equal in Christ regardless of social status, political status or appointment.
In getting back to their roots, i.e., the teachings of the original Jesus
movement, the Anabaptists renounced the Catholic Church as their religious
governor. They rejected the influential pressure to accept changes in the
original teachings of the apostles and chose to separate from the Catholic
Church. The Catholic Church of the 16th century certainly did not have the
prospering goodwill of the lay foremost in mind. Their greed and political
pressure not only created radical breakaway movements but also encouraged
entire new protestant denominations that are still going strong today.
The term Anabaptism carries broad and deep implications. The Catholic
Encyclopedia defines the Anabaptist movement as “those who insisted on the
re-baptism of persons previously baptized by heretics or by clergy who had fallen
away from the faith under persecution”. (Forell 368) The Anabaptists not only
stressed re-baptism of those baptized by the reputed, but the purpose of
baptism and its tie to the spiritual knowledge of sin and faith in God.
Infant baptism was one of the major controversies that lead to these
breakaway movement’s. Spiritual bankruptcy,...