As many people have figured out, I enjoy reading history. When I read about European history, occassionally, they mention a group called the Anabaptists. but I never quite understood who they were, what their name meant, and where they went because they are no longer in Europe. I have been reading about them because it is just one of those things that interests me. I decided that perhaps there were others who have heard of them too, but don’t really know who they were or are.
To begin with, the Anabaptists began popping up in Europe in the 1500’s. Most of them were German. Yes, they are a religious group. The name looks like they are against baptism, but that is not what it means at all. I had heard that their name didn’t mean they were against baptism in school, but the teacher didn’t make herself very clear when she tried to explain their beliefs. Perhaps my teacher readlly didn’t understand the theological principles that the Anabaptists had, so didn’t communicate them well to the class. The “ana” part at the beginning of the name “Anabaptist” refers to them being baptized a second time. The “ana” comes from “again.” These people were originally Catholic, and were baptized as babies in the Cahtolic church, but decided that the infant bapism wasn’t valid, so they were baptized again as an adult. If you have heard of the Mennonites in Germany, the Mennonites were an Anabaptist group.
In fact, the Amish in American are the decendants of the Anabaptists. I used to have some American Mennonite friends, and the Mennonites and the Amish are basically the same group excpet the Mennonites. are more accepting of technology. The Mennonite women and Amish women are wonderful cooks. My Menonnite friends taught me how to make cheese, and I have an Amish cook book I bought at an Amish cheese factory in Ohio with many basic recipes that don’t take cake mixes and other modern things you can only get in American grocery stores. You are truly cooking from scratch if you are cooking the Amish or Menonnite way. The Mennonite women still wear the little white bonnet like the Amish, but their other clothing is a bit more modern. The Amish men wear the plain looking black suits, and the married men have beards, but the Mennonite men dress more modern like everyone else. The Amish don’t use electricity or drive cars, but according to my American Mennonite friends, the Mennonites use electricty and drive cars, but their basic religious beliefs are the same as the Amish.
These people now a days aren’t baptized a second time, but baptism is delayed until the child becomes a young adult so they can understand what they are doing. They must also believe, repent, and give a committment to Christ to be baptized. If you read the Bible, this is a very Biblical idea. It makes sense that the Anabaptists surfaced when they did in the 1500’s because the first printing press came about in 1440, and it just took a bit of time before people began studying and figuring out what the Bible had to say about baptism and didn’t just go on whatever the priest told them. Remember, “Knowledge is power.” When they began reading the Bible, they took their salvation into their own hands and out of the hands of the priests.
The Anabaptists were persecuted by the Catholics and other Prodestant churches in Europe. In fact, if you remember the Salem witch trials in America when they used dunking stools to figure out whether someone was a witch or not, that is what it was like. A dunking stool is a chair attached to a long wooden pole. In Salem, Massachusetts, in America, they used to put the woman accussed of being a witch on the chair, and then dunk her several times in a lake or river, and if she survived, they knew she was a witch, so they burned her at the stake. If she died, they knew she wasn’t a witch. It was very cruel and a very dark time in American history. That is the kind of thing that was happening to the Anabaptists in Europe. The Catholics and Prodestants were actually killing them, putting them on dunking stools and burning them at the stake. That is why they left Europe and came to America. Many Americans came to America for religious freedom, and the Anabaptists as well as the Pilgrims who we think about when we celebrate Thanksgiving were among them.
The descendants of the Anabaptists are still aroud, but not in Europe, in America. Their name is no longer “Anabaptist.” This is probably because they aren’t being baptized a second time, but just waiting until they become adults to be baptized. Today, the Anabaptists are called Amish and Mennonites.