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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Interview 6 (half way there)

All of Europe faced a crossroads with the Reformation. I chose as a person to be interviewed a lesser known reformer, but one that had tremendous impact then and even today.

Menno Simons1496 - 1561
Menno Simons is the most notable leader of the "Radical" Reformation.
Born to dairy farmers in Witmarsum, Holland, Menno distinguished himself as a Latin scholar throughout his schooling. Equipped thereby to read scripture for himself (there were no vernacular translations at this time), he nonetheless did not become acquainted with the bible until two years after his ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood. His seven-year pastoral ministry found him performing customary parish tasks, as well as achieving extraordinary feats of drinking and card-playing!
Little-by-little doubts as to the truth of transubstantiation dismantled the theology he had held since childhood. A German preacher lent him a book that stated believers' baptism alone to be found in the New Testament. When a Dutch tailor, Sicke Freerks, was beheaded because he had been re-baptized as an adult, Menno wondered what could be so important about baptism. Having ransacked the teaching of the Magisterial Reformers on infant baptism, he concluded there were no grounds at all for it. Baptism, he believed now, represented everything about one's understanding of the faith, the nature of discipleship, and the Christian community's fate before the world.
Frustrated in his attempts at a gospel-renovation of the Church of Rome, the Spirit-infused man departed in 1536. Dutch sympathizers asked him to be their shepherd -- whereupon he was re-baptized (hence the term "anabaptist", "ana" being Greek for "again") and re-ordained. For the next 25 years he (like Luther before him) lived with a price on his head. While Luther at least could exercise a ministry in a friendly political environment, Menno's ministry had to be clandestine on account of political hostility. He and his people were harassed by Roman and Reformed authorities alike.
Mennonites maintain that the New Testament does not permit Christians to kill other humans under any circumstances. Amazingly, Menno himself died of natural causes at age 66, badly disabled by arthritis. [wikipedia]

Question: A) How hard a decision was it for you to break from the Catholic Church? B) Why did "Believer's Baptism" become so important to you? C) How hard was it for you and your followers to live by a non-violent, pacifism tenet? D) What do you think of the Amish/Mennonite split that has occured in the U.S. today?

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