Tag Archives: Anabaptists

The culture question: “All things to all men” or “Be ye separate”?

This is the second of my “Grateful to the Dead: The Diary of Christian History Professor” series on Christianity Today International’s history site a few years back. It deals with the Christ-and-culture question:

#2: “All things to all men” or “Be ye separate”?
Chris Armstrong

Dear folks,

In the last installment of “Grateful to the Dead: The Diary of a Christian History Professor,” I took a cue from the Emergent movement and argued that we have to go back to the past to get to the future. (Some Emergents call this sort of thing “Vintage faith“; others, borrowing a phrase from the scholar of historical worship Robert Webber, use the term “Ancient-future faith.”)

More specifically, I argued that we need to read the lives of “the saints”—our forebears, who translated the gospel for their cultures by teaching, preaching, and especially living it—for clues to how we should be translating the gospel for our own cultures.

But now we face a serious question: Is the whole idea of “translating the gospel for culture” off-base to begin with? Continue reading

Plain Anglicans

Ever hear of “Plain Anglicans”? Check out the responses at this post.

Did you know these things about America’s Anabapists–the Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren?

Continuing this week’s Anabaptist theme, here are the surprising and interesting factoids that made it into the front page of Christian History & Biography’s issue 94: Pilgrims & Exiles, about America’s Anabaptist groups:

Pilgrims and Exiles: Did You Know?
Interesting and unusual facts about America’s Anabaptists
Friday, October 1, 2004

You may be more Mennonite than you think

Many American Christians simply assume that the state has no business dictating church beliefs or practices, that a church should be a gathered body of believers rather than a net that scoops up everyone within the area of a parish, and that baptism is a step of obedience upon profession of faith. What most do not know is that Mennonites were the first (surviving) group of Christians to insist on these things, and that they died by the thousands for doing so.

“Are you saved?” … “Ask my neighbors”

The early Brethren (Dunkers)—a cousin movement to the Mennonites and Amish—practiced a lively evangelistic outreach. But the typical Anabaptist emphasis on showing, not just telling, one’s faith remained strong. When Brethren evangelist Rufus P. Bucher was asked by a stranger in a railway station, “Brother, are you saved?” Continue reading

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “The Amish.”

As the editorial team for Christian History & Biography was preparing our issue on the Anabaptists in America (Amish, Mennonites, Brethren), a bizarre new reality show hit TV screens. The show, which threw a group of Amish teenagers into a west coast “party house,” had an interesting squirm factor:

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “The Amish.”
UPN’s “Amish In the City” shows us our modern selves in a mirror that is positively medieval.
Chris Armstrong

It began last night like a tasteless joke: “Knock, knock. Who’s there? Oh &*%^$%&! It’s the Amish! There goes the party.”

The first encounter between the six city kids and the six Amish kids thrown together in the new UPN reality show “Amish in the City” revealed much more about “us” than about “them”: Though there are winsome characters among the city kids, the first and lasting impression they leave is one of superficiality, fixation on sex and appearance, and deep-rooted self-centeredness. Next to these traits, even the ambivalent residue of communal spirit and Godly anchoring evident in the Amish young people has a tremendously appealing gravitas and sweetness. Continue reading

What I learned from the Anabaptists on a trip through Amish country

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be posting on a few things I learned about the American Anabaptists (in particular, the Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren) while working on Christian History & Biography‘s issue on that topic. This first item, my editor’s note from that issue, reflects on a research trip assistant editor Steve Gertz and I took to “Amish country” during the issue’s planning process:

Shaken Up by the Peace-Lovers
A trip through Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County.
Chris Armstrong

Nothing restores one’s sanity like a little peace and quiet. As my colleague Steve Gertz and I rode through Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the car of our host Steve Scott, the peacefulness of “Amish Country” refreshed us like a tonic.

Granted, faced with the near-perfect tranquility of the rolling fields, neat houses, and slow-moving black buggies, I did begin to get fidgety—looking around for a manuscript to edit or a layout to proof. But the sensation of being away from the “shot-out-of-a-cannon” life of publishing in the Chicago suburbs was nonetheless a pleasant one. Continue reading

The Anabaptists: how it all began

In Christian History & Biography‘s Issue 84: Pilgrims & Exiles, we dug into the characteristics, qualities, and history of the American Anabaptists. That’s the Amish, Mennonites, Brethren, and Hutterites. A young generation of American evangelicals seeking Christianity that is visible and useful in society is finding this courageous and distinctive group increasingly compelling. Though we may think of Anabaptists as enclaved and enclosed, they have an incredible history of social action and charitable ministry–especially in the 20th century in America. This is rooted in a theology and ecclesiology that seek above all to imitate Christ, which the CHB issue explores. Here is the lead article of that issue, co-written with Anabaptist scholar Jeff Bach:

A People of Conscience
How America’s plain people first arose in Europe as a discipleship movement repressed by the state church.
Chris Armstrong & Jeff Bach

Imagine yourself in the imposing Grossmünster church in Zurich. This is a sanctuary in transition: the votive candles have been snuffed out, the frescoes painted over, and the wooden statues depicting saints and biblical figures removed. The expansive space echoes with the high-pitched voice of Huldrych Zwingli. In the language of the marketplace, he preaches directly from the text of the New Testament, moving verse by verse through each book, ignoring the centuries-old liturgical order of readings. He insists on the need for a biblical Christianity to complete the Reformation Luther has begun. Continue reading