The Siege of Münster and the Anabaptists, via Melvin Bragg…

The cages hanging from a church in munster which held the corpses of the anabaptist leaders

Another great programme on Radio 4 the other day- available as a podcast for your listening pleasure here.

This one digs into the story of the Anabaptist attempt to create a New Jerusalem in the city of Munster during troubled times in 1534.

I had not heard about this tragic part of church history before- and am grateful to old Melvin for waving it at me through the ether. It is a case study from the beginnings of the protestant experiment- in the early days of the old reformation. Much of what we children of this reformation have come to accept as the bedrocks of faith can be seen in the various sects and streams of the Anabaptists. They were the pioneers.

Indeed if you will forgive me for being partisan for a moment- they were the radical activists of the ’emerging church’ of their day.

But as this programme points out, they were a disparate bunch, who regarded persecution as signs of God’s election- so justifying some pretty odd wacky ideas too. So alongside adult Baptism, the leading of the Holy Spirit, the authority of Scripture (now widely available of course thanks to the technological revolution of the printing press) there were leaders who claimed to be the Godly ordained successors of David, or Gideon, and to claim Biblical justification for polygamy.

Oh- and the Anababtists of Munster thought that the world was about to end- and in such a context, murder, despotism and all sorts of evil became legitimate means to an end…

As ever, we grasp some things of the Kingdom of God, whilst confusing and even perverting others.

Perhaps above all, this is case study of what happens when Jesus (or at least his most fervent followers) and politics are thrown together in troubled and changing times.

Add in a dose of charisma, a dollop of religious zealotry, and the result is bloodshed and destruction.

I think one of the biggest lessons we children of a new unfolding reformation need to learn is that Christians are called to lay down power in the name of love and service.

Or the funeral fires of Munster will have burned for nothing.

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