Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hair gel is not counter-cultural

Many people make the mistake of equating the Anabaptists with some of the more liberal elements of Christianity we see today. It is something I saw hints of in reading The Naked Anabaptist and it seems to be gaining traction. It is almost as if people cannot differentiate between the widely divergent movements that have stood outside of the prevailing traditional church throughout the centuries.

For the Anabaptists, being counter-cultural meant not just standing against the dominant church, whether Roman Catholic or magisterial Reformer. It also meant at the same time standing opposed to the state powers that were inextricably linked with the church and that was simply not tolerated. Anabaptists were slaughtered by the thousands during the Reformation period and did not have the benefit of safe states to flee to. At best there were areas that they were more or less tolerated and that tolerance often evaporated leaving them on the run once more.

In contrast, the “counter-cultural” among the modern church are frankly nothing like the Anabaptists. The worst persecution they face are the frequent snarky blog posts by traditionalist bloggers. In many ways, the various contemporary movements that stand apart from the traditional church are far more like the world than distinct from it. Instead of trying to see the church become more Scriptural, these movement by and large seek to strip away anything that the world finds to be unpalatable in an effort to be relevant. There is essentially no sacrifice for being in this movement today.

Wearing cool glasses and putting styling gel in your hair is not radical and counter-cultural. Having your tongue ripped out so that you cannot preach the Gospel as you are being led to your death by being burned alive or drowned? That is counter-cultural.

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Jonspach said...

I'm familiar with the Roman Catholic persecution of Anabaptists, but less so with the Reformed persecution. Most of what I read deals with what happened at Munster. Occasionally I'll read a revisionist account of Munster, but I've found them to be rather poorly researched as far as histories go.

Any resources or specific events you can point me towards on the issue of general persecution of the Anabaptists at the hands of the Reformers? I assume you're speaking of the pacifist class, rather than the revolutionary branch.

Arthur Sido said...


I was not at all referring to Muenster which was an atypical event that is often cited as if it were representative of Anabaptism. For exhibit A I would refer you to Felix Manz, the first Anabaptist martyr who was murdered by the city council of Zurich in 1527 for the crime of baptizing an adult. The city was under Protestant control at the time and Manz had been involved with several public debates over the issue of baptism with Zwingli. Several other Anabaptists were murdered in Zurich subsequently and persecutions at the hands of Protestant and Catholics alike are well documented (for reference see the book The Martyrs Mirror). Some were martyred, many were imprisoned and they often had their homes and property seized. The actions were often carried out by the state but the motivations were religious in nature.