Sunday, September 16, 2012

September 16, 2012

The Munster Rebellion of 1534

As Anabaptists were the forerunners of modern-day Amish and Mennonites, they were a peaceful folk, disavowing war and political intrigue, seeking a very simple life. Yet in 1534 there were quite a few breakaway Anabaptists who believed, as their Calvinist and Lutheran brethren did, that force and rebellion was sometimes necessary to implement change in the local government. Thus began Germany’s Munster Rebellion. Many of these men equated the “New Jerusalem” with this old and venerable city --- though only they knew why.
This is where the story gets strange . . . and unexpected. Jan Matthys, a fanatical Anabaptist, recruited a handful of “holy soldiers” and stormed Munster, which, of course, did not go very well. He and his followers were slaughtered mercilessly. However, another man did succeed, and granted himself absolute power. His name was John of Leiden. Now, this was not the sort of man with whom ordinary Anabaptists wanted to identify. He, too, was a fanatic, but his polygamous personal life and insistence on absolute authority convinced foreign Anabaptists exactly what they should not strive to accomplish. John of Leiden was eventually convicted by the magistrates of Munster and was killed for his rebellion.  

Despite all this odd warfare, which lasted two years, there was a positive side: Anabaptists took note of the violence and bloodlust that offshoots such as Leiden and Matthys possessed, and when Menno Simons emerged as an eminent leader and preached mercy and peacekeeping, his words were duly heeded. He determined that the Anabaptists would cease being known for military force. Partially due to his influence, many gladly adopted the peaceful and amiable stance for which the Amish and Mennonites are known today. They had seen that they, too, were subject to the unattractiveness of minds gone astray. No religion is or was perfect . . . every Protestant denomination has its share of “black sheep.” What matters is that ill-gotten ideas were put away and Christ took highest precedence. 

Amen to that.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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