It sometimes seems that based on the blogosphere, social media and bookstores that Anabaptism is a largely "progressive" or dare I say "liberal" movement. The perspective that is presented and the conversations being engaged seem somewhat narrowly focused especially on certain issues. The buzzwords, doctrinal positions that the contemporary Anabaptist writers take (and just as importantly
It certainly seems that a lot of the neo-Anabaptist thinkers and writers come from outside of the traditional Anabaptist movements, tend to drive the conversation leftward and are a gateway to neo-Anabaptism for a lot of Christians. Perhaps the neo-Anabaptists were sent a Youtube link with a talk by Bruxy Cavey or they are reading Scot McKnight and he mentions Anabaptism, sparking their interest. What tends to be missing are a lot of references to historical Anabaptism.
Unlike some other contemporary streams within the church, primarily those coming from the magisterial Reformation, the neo-Anabaptist stream seems somewhat a-historical in the sense that their identity is distinct from, and in some ways a reaction against, the traditional, "historical" Anabaptist movement. For example, in the Reformed wing of the church especially the neo-Reformed or "young, restless and reformed" types are deeply connected with the historical roots and voraciously read and refer back to men like Calvin, the Puritans and guys like Whitfield. Neo-Anabaptists, even Mennonites, are more likely to quote Stuart Murray or Scot McKnight than Menno Simons or Balthasar Hubmaier.
My own experience in Anabaptism has been far more varied. While I appreciate my "leftward" Anabaptist brethren (recognizing how inadequate and loaded that sort of term is!) and have often been challenged by them on various issues via social media, my "real life" experience with Anabaptism has been far more traditional than progressive. Gender relations, issues of human sexuality, questions like a literal Adam and hell, these are issues that the Anabaptists I am familiar with are far more likely to hold to a conservative or fundamentalist line than the neo-Anabaptists.
I have said multiple times before that the division in Anabaptism over "conservative" versus "progressive" has left both sides poorer. There are a huge number of "conservative" Anabaptists that barely get mentioned among the neo-Anabaptist thinkers. For example, one of the largest of the "original" Anabaptist groups are the Amish and estimates peg their population at almost a quarter of a million. There are tens of thousands of Hutterites and Bruderhof in almost 500 colonies (I did find out just today that there are several Hutterite blogs out there, who knew?!). There are tens or hundreds of thousands of conservative Mennonites living in South America as well as Africa and Asia and and of course there are likewise tens of thousands of various conservative Mennonites in North America. Where we live there tends to be a variety of "conservative" Anabaptists with essentially no "progressive" or neo-Anabaptist groups that I am aware of, which leads to a strange dichotomy where "real life" Anabaptism looks one way and my online "virtual" Anabaptist circles look completely different and rarely overlap.
I assume a lot of this seems to be linked to many of the most conservative Anabaptist groups being leery of technology and not terribly interested in writing books (nor were the original Anabaptists who were more concerned about avoiding torture and murder from Catholic and Reformer alike). Likewise many new "converts" or at least sympathetically minded newer adherents that are more likely to be active on social media, blogs, Youtube, etc. tend to be leftward, drawn by the traditional peace church nature of Anabaptism and perhaps finding in Anabaptism what they want to see rather than what is there. In fairness, the more "traditional" Anabaptists I know fear the encroachment of "liberalism" more than almost anything else. I remember a friend responding to the question of which kind of Mennonite their church was with "the Biblical kind". It was partly tongue in cheek but he was also kind of serious, implying that non-"conservative" Anabaptist groups were unbiblical.
The Anabaptists were and are a pretty diverse group and have a lot to teach us on a lot of topics. Let's not make the mistake of pigeonholing them into a contemporary box and in doing so missing the rich history that they have along with the new applications to discover, even when their traditions or beliefs run counter to neo-Anabaptism or when some of the ideas of neo-Anabaptism don't sound "conservative" enough.