“You know, Jim, that’d make a terrific blog post. Not all have moved away but most of the orders no longer practice their original Anabaptist tenets.”
“Many world religions emerged out of disagreement to another religion, or oppression of a ruling religion. I’ve done some research on the Anabaptist Movement. It arose in resistance to the Roman Catholic Church that ruled both civil and religious life.”
“Yes, they suffered tremendous persecution and torture from both Catholics and some Protestants at that time. Since you’ve done some research, why don’t you pen a guest post for my blog?”
Well, dear Jim agreed. I respect his knowledge, experiences, and heart for truth. So please read this rare guest blog post. I hope you learn a thing or two from Jim Dorough of Ohio:
I grew up in western Oklahoma, in the midst of a strong, conservative Mennonite presence. Many of our church people came from that background, and spoke Dutch – or German – as their first language.
Years after marriage, my wife and I moved to the Amish country of the Midwest – Ohio. My ears again heard the nearly forgotten voices of my childhood in the Amish of Berlin and Sugarcreek, OH. I heard those accents in Mount Vernon, Ohio, in my church. It has been my privilege to meet some former Amish men and their families, who attend our “English” church.
I have observed the Amish presence in our community. Been intrigued with the unusual people in the flat-brimmed hats and bonnets, riding by in horse drawn buggies. Over the last few months, I have been reading Brenda’s blog, and becoming informed of the life and struggles of the Amish people.
A few weeks ago I met one of the men who has come to personal, saving knowledge, of the Lord and has, since then, left the Amish life. His story created a curiosity about the real workings of this subculture, so visible yet unknown to outsiders like me. My findings have left me – to this point at least – with some unsettling, and increasingly uncomfortable impressions.
Years ago I studied the Reformation era and discovered the Radical Reformers, who are the historical fathers of the Anabaptist movement. I was impressed at the utter dedication, in the face of almost complete opposition they experienced, and what personal price, they unflinchingly paid for their faith.
Jakob Amman, the one from whom the Amish draw their name, and others like him, in the Swiss Anabaptists, were firebrands of evangelism, urging a personal salvation experience with Christ as Savior and a corresponding lifestyle that embraced separation from the filthiness and falseness of the “world.”
They stood in the unanimous tradition of the Protestant Reformation in that they embraced the authority of scripture alone as the Christian’s sole rule of faith and practice. They believed in liberty of conscience in the practice of religion, and refused the right of any “authority” to demand they believe or practice anything they could not find in the Bible.
It is just here that the early Amish had trouble with the Roman Catholic Church.
In their insistence that they alone were the source of Apostolic authority, the Roman Catholic Church officials repeatedly and increasingly added extra-biblical teachings to the essential beliefs of Christ’s Church. The RC Pope and bishops insisted – still do – that the “magisterium” of the Church was the final arbiter of doctrine and practice essential to the true Christian Faith.
The Amish – as do Protestants – flatly rejected this assertion on at least two counts:
1. It usurps the authority reserved only for the Word of God – the Bible - and
2. It violates the biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers.
I freely admit that I could be wrong on a host of things regarding them, either their present doctrines or practices. However, I fear Jakob Amman might be greatly disturbed and displeased if he could see how the movement that bears his name has seemingly taken on characteristics of the Roman Catholic church he and the entire Reformation opposed.
Repeated testimonies from those who have come out of the Amish church tell that when they asked questions from the Bible, they were told not to worry about it, and just to obey the authority of the Amish bishops and preachers, who cite the “Ordnung” – not Scripture – as the authority.
It seems that freedom of religious conscience is not encouraged, and even repressed, and this repression is justified as a means of maintaining purity in the community, and ensuring the salvation of the “deviant.”
This is the exact justification the Roman Church gave for excommunicating Jakob Amman, and subjecting 1000's who believed like him, to the Inquisition as “heretics."
As I see the beautiful faces of Amish children in their handmade clothes, the quiet and dignified adults driving in their horse-drawn buggies, and hear the Dutch-born accents and syntax of my childhood, I cannot help but wonder if these descendants of the Radical Reformers will ever know the true Freedom of Life in Christ.
I feel sad that the hard-won victories of Jakob Amman and the Swiss Anabaptists may have been in vain for those who claim these godly saints as their progenitors.
I fear the Amish may have been enslaved, by their own hands, in the very thing their Reformation fathers fought so hard to escape.
Question: What can you add about Jakob Ammon, Anabaptism, or to Jim’s research? If you’ve a question for Jim, leave it below in the Comments and he’ll answer you.
(c)Copyright 2014, Brenda Nixon.