Wednesday, February 06, 2008

anabaptist martyrs

For my Radical Reformation class, unfortunately, we're apparently just going to be focusing on the 16th century Radical Reformation in present-day Germany & Switzerland (mainly), so we aren't going to do anything with Quakers. Oh least I'll get to study our spiritual "cousins." So far we're learning about the beginnings of the Anabaptist movement in Switzerland, mainly with several (Felix Mantz, Conrad Grebel, George Blaurock) having a public disputation (like one of the presidential debates) with Ulrich Zwingli (leader of the Swiss Reformation in Zurich) regarding whether or not infant baptism was biblical. Zwingli won, so the others decided they were no longer going to follow the state church, and they met together on January 21, 1525 and decided they were just going to do it: they rebaptized each other in "believer's baptism," as rational, thinking adults.

This made the powers that be very angry, especially when these people decided to go around preaching that what Zwingli and the Zurich city council were saying was unbiblical. So the Anabaptists (as they were dubbed by their enemies--like the name Quakers) got thrown in jail and threatened. Anabaptists also didn't want to pay tithes to the church/state for pastors who they didn't believe were following God, so that got them in a great deal of trouble. They also chose not to bring in their infants to be baptized.

So, like early Friends, these first Anabaptists were persecuted fairly harshly: they were thrown in jail, beaten, and eventually martyred in various ways including drowning ("Is that enough water for you?"), and being locked in a room with several other people and burned, and burned at the stake, and tortured, and many other unpleasant things. A few recanted in order to not be killed, but many died for their faith, for attempting to live out what is actually written in the Bible instead of traditions that had grown up in Christianity.

As I was pondering these Anabaptist martyrs and their Quaker counterparts over a century later, I was wondering how many of us would actually be willing to die for things like being baptized as adults (or not at all) now. How many of us would die to prove the point that icons shouldn't be used in worship? Maybe these things aren't of so much importance to us now--now we have more of the opinion of, "If it works for you, do it," but how many of us would actually die for our faith? How many of us would even be willing to be persecuted or made fun of for our faith?

How many of us, especially as Friends, are willing to take a stand and say, "This is what I believe in because I know in my heart of hearts that it is Truth"?

(The website where I found the photo says it's Annekende Vlasteran, but I don't know anything about her...yet.)


Robin M. said...

Ok, this was very helpful because I just came across a reference to Ulrich Zwingli and I had never heard of him before. But now I have a clue where to look.

Thanks for sharing all that book learning.

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

I read this posting after offering a comment on your earlier posting on this class.

I really don't think it's "unfortunate" at all that you'll be studying the original "Radical Reformation" — George Huntston Williams's term, if I recall correctly. This is all good background stuff for any serious student of Quakerism. Are you using Williams's book as one of your texts?

And I think your closing questions are very good ones: " many of us would actually die for our faith? How many of us would even be willing to be persecuted or made fun of for our faith?" How many, indeed?

God be with you in your studies —!

cherice said...

Robin, I'm glad this post came in a timely way for you! Zwingli's not all bad--he had some good ideas, and although he ends up as the "bad guy" where Anabaptists are concerned, I have a lot of sympathy for him since he was trying to hold everything together rather than cause tons of divisions in Christianity, which is a nice idea (although apparently it doesn't work so well). He's worth studying a little bit at least.

Thanks, Marshall, for your comments! I realize Quakers aren't exactly a part of the Radical Reformation, but it's the closest place we fit, I guess, in terms of a title. In my church history intro class we got lumped in with those other crazy radical pacifists so our professors for that called us part of the Radical Reformation (which you are absolutely right, was a title coined by George Huntson Williams. I don't think we're reading anything of his, but he's on our bibliography of good books in this area of study), so I thought maybe our professor for this class would make Quakerism at least a small part of the class. When my F/friend took it a few years ago they covered Quakers.

It's not unfortunate that I'm studying Anabaptists--I'm excited about that! But I think it's unfortunate we don't get to learn about Quakers as well. Even if we didn't learn anything I didn't know it would be nice to have others in my class learn about Quakers! =) But we did cover them a little bit in the intro to church history class I mentioned above, and I got to correct my professor when he said Quakers didn't do the sacraments--"We don't do them physically," I said, and he'd never heard it explained that way. So it would be nice if people around here got to know a little bit more about Quakers, but perhaps I'm a little biased...

Laurie Kruczek said...

To think about your question openly, and attempting to tackle it head on, I don't think many of us would die for our beliefs. I mean, we are against the war in Iraq, yet we still pay taxes to avoid imprisonment. Yes, there are some Friends who go against this, but those are certainly few. I know I would put my family before Quakerism. That is me speakly plainly. I would not die for it and leave my children without a mother. That is the truth. I feel for those Friends (and those of the Anabaptist movement) who have given their lives for their beliefs. And as much as I love being a Friend, I know I would not die willingly for Quakerism.

Ralph Beebe said...

Cherice, the class sounds fascinating. I do hope you can slip in something about the Quakers (maybe an informative talk in class on the extension of the radical reformation to a recognition that "there is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to your condition..." But I know class time can be limited. Keep up the good work!

Gr. Ralph

cherice said...


Thanks for your honesty. That would definitely be a difficult choice--dying for what we believe in, or living to raise our children.

I too would not die for Quakerism, but I hope I would die for God if I felt so prompted. I would rather leave a legacy for my child of a parent who truly stood for what she believed in rather than continue living having compromised my principles and been totally untrue to myself and my most deeply held beliefs/relationship.

But at the same time, I'm not certain that's what I would actually do. That's what I would want to do, though.

Laurie Kruczek said...

Cherice, I would want to do that, too, but would I? I just don't know.

I was reading Lorcan's blog today and found his most recent post directly relating to yours. I wanted to post you the link here so you may read it, too. It is both sad and moving:


Kim Ranger said...

The reason there are so many Amish and Mennonites (current Anabaptists) in Pennsylvania is because the Quaker Wm. Penn made it possible for them to practice their religion and buy land. So there is a connection between our groups historically, in the U.S.