Carson T. Clark is one of my favorite blogger friends. He’s smart, witty, and has a passion for the kingdom of God. We don’t agree all the time, but that’s what makes for good conversation! I hope you will check out his blog and add it too your readers! Follow him on Twitter and Facebook as well.
Over a decade as a christian vagabond I intently explored 16 different traditions before finding a home in Anglicanism. No doubt it has been a flawed effort, but I’ve made a since effort to glean the best elements of each of those expressions. That’s why I tell people that while I’m part of one tradition, I pretty much consider myself a mutt of Christendom. The challenge is now integrating those things within my faith and practice. 1 of the 16 was the Anabaptist tradition (*Just a good-natured dig). I can’t say that I fully agree with Anabaptists on any one point, but I do want to highlight the ways they’ve profoundly influenced me. The word “ode” doesn’t apply to this genre, but that’s the general spirit behind this post.
In no particular order, here are the five things I love about Anabaptists:
1) Christian Non-Violence - As previous posts on George McFly and Stanley Hauerwas have shown, I’m definitely not a pacifist. Yet I’m much closer to the Christian Non-Violence perspective than I am Just War Theory. As far as ethics go, John Howard Yoder ranks far higher in my mind than Augustine.
2) Discerning Allegiance – Anabaptists don’t swear their loyalty to anyone or anything but Christ and His Kingdom. As you might imagine, they’ve faced severe persecution for this. Quite tragically, it’s one of the few things that has united such historic enemies as Roman Catholics and Calvin’s Geneva, the U.S government during WWII to Soviet Russia during the Cold War. Awesome! These people practice what they preach. I offer a tip of the cap.
3) Theological Humility – Maybe they’re out there and just off my radar, but I’ve never known an Anabaptist who was obsessive about systematic theology. God bless ‘em. Seriously, have you ever heard an Anabaptist refer to himself/herself as a Calvinist or an Arminian, Pentecostal or Cessationist, Dispensationalist or Covenant Theologian? They sometimes cautiously toy with labels like evangelicalism, but overall they just don’t get their theological panties in a bunch even when they’re rigorous thinkers. Contrast that with, say, Presbyterians. Kurt Willems here at the Pangea Blog is a fine example of passionate faith and intellectual exploration grounded in Anabaptist theological humility.
4) Lack of Pretension – Anabaptists are down to earth folks. They seem to have this inoculation against materialism that always amazes me. Of course, I do think they’re aesthetically handicapped. That’s the downside. On several occasions I’ve walked out of Anabaptist churches thinking, ‘You do know that God is the Creator and we’re made in His image, right? Logically, that would suggest…’ The strength, however, is people who just aren’t jerks. This contrasts remarkably with many of the Episcopalians/Anglicans I keep meeting who are clearly given to snooty condescension. Often times when I’m writing blog posts I think, ‘Would an Anabaptist reader think I’m being a jerk?’ If so, I rewrite it. That’s just about the highest praise I can offer.
5) Loving Work Ethic - Have you ever met a group of people who consistently work harder at loving people than Anabaptists? They’ll bend of backward to help ya, give you the shirt of their back, and whatever other cliché you can think of. Let me give two brief examples. First, it’s a little thing, but the chairs for wife’s and my kitchen table were breaking a year ago. (This is what happens when you buy furniture from Wal-Mart.) I asked a Mennonite buddy if he could possibly help me out. The next day he’s at my house. Couple days after later they were fixed better than ever, and he’s apologizing for taking so long to return them. Naturally, he refused payment or even a “I owe you one.” Second, I visited a Mennonite church and this guy confessed that he was grumbling. What about? A tornado had ripped apart a town a couple states away. At the crack of dawn on Saturday morning the guys from church gave him a call, told him to grab his chainsaw, and be ready to be picked up by 7:30. Figuring there had to be more to the story, I asked what the connection was. The dude gave me a puzzled look. I asked, “Friends or family? Another Mennonite community?” Nope. Just people who needed help. I’m telling you, Anabaptists are characterized by simple, hard-working love that’s quite reminiscent of early Christians.
In sum, there’s many christian expressions, including my own, could stand to learn an awful lot from Anabaptists. My hope is that this post is an encouragement in that direction.