Confession and Society

Confession and Society : Anabaptism

Church and State . . The experiment of a thorough reform of society in the Anabaptist way failed in the GERMAN PEASANTS WAR (1524-1525) and in MÜNSTER (1534-1535). While the state authorities reacted by a severe persecution of Anabaptists, the surviving Anabaptists regrouped themselves in communities which isolated themselves from the non-Anabaptist world, which they regarded lost, condemned, evil. This outside world in Anabatist terminology is generally referred to as 'the world'.
As a consequence strict Anabaptists do not run in elections, do not accept office outside their community, do not want to become dependent on the outside (such as an insurance company, public supply of electricity etc.). They are strictly PACIFIST and insist on educating their own children. Most existing Anabaptist movements are agricultural; the Pennsylvania Amish still hold their religious services in Pennsylvania Dutch, which is based on 17th century upper German dialects; similarly, Mennonite communities in Mexico still use German.

Clergy and Laymen . . Anabaptist communities have rejected secondary education. For centuries most communities existed in seclusion in defiance of the state, and they were not large enough to run institutions of higher education. The anabaptist clergy is selected from their own midst, from men who have nothing but an Anabaptist elementary education. The Anabaptist communities are autonomous at the local level, and the clergy plays an important function, but does not have a dominant position. Anabaptist churches are not, and have not been since 1535, state churches; membership is voluntary, the symbolic act expressing this being ADULT BAPTISM. Even their own children are given the free choice, if they want to join the community, and until they do, do not have to stick to the strict ethical rules determining Anabaptist community life. The only form of force used by communities is the ostracization of community members who violate the community rules (SHUNNING).
The Mennonite community of Canada runs CONRAD GREBEL UNIVERSITY.

Literacy . . All children of Anabaptist families are provided with elementary education, in HOME SCHOOLING. The Amish, in one concession to the state, have added English language to the curriculum; otherwise the latter focusses on elementary skills, including German language, in which their books are printed. Traditionally, the Anabaptist communities rejected higher education. Today, some Anabaptist communities continue to strictly reject it, others are more lenient in this respect.

Women in Anabaptist Society . . Anabaptist communities are mostly agricultural. The entire organization of their daily life is very traditional, the Amish still wearing dresses of a style particular to Switzerland and the Alsace in the early 18th century, the cloth used to make them still imported from Switzerland. The gender roles also are the same as they were in the early 18th century, women limited to household and family. Women often function as teachers in Amish home education.

REFERENCE Steven M. Nolt, A History of the Amish, Intercourse : Good Books 1992

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First on January 13th 2003, last revised on November 15th 2004

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