14 August 2013
That one person
So, in my work, I've interacted with thousands of people and recounted the basic story of Anabaptism, starting with the reformation.
Martin Luther criticized the Catholic church and the pope in 1517, and rather than be executed for heresy, was protected by the nobility of the Holy Roman/German Empire thanks in part to his stance concerning the nobility: that they had the authority to check the power of the church should it become corrupt. However, not all groups received such treatment. Starting in 1525, a group of people rebaptized one another in Switzerland, and the movement grew to reject infant baptism, teach pacifism, and denounce the intermingling of the government of man and the church, which was of God. These beliefs, and several others held by the group, were heresy, and thus punishable by death. The Anabaptists would be pursued for the next few centuries. However, this persecution only strengthened the movement and accelerated its growth. In 1536, Menno Simons left the priesthood in the Netherlands to join the Anabaptists, and became so influential that people began to refer to many Anabaptists as Mennonites.
So that's how it goes. Without the violence perpetrated by Catholics in the 16th and 17th centuries, it is likely that Anabaptists would not exist today. The perceived corruption of the clergy also played a vital role in establishing our modern, western way of thinking.
Now this lady comes up to me afterwards and says that she doesn't appreciate my "anti-Catholic tone." To which I replied, "what?" She went on to tell me that the young girls (around 10-12 years old maybe) with her had been shocked to hear about what had gone on during the reformation, and that I should not be defaming a religion "started by Jesus Christ." I tried my best to explain that my intentions had been to explain the origins of the Anabaptists, whose identity is inextricably linked to the persecution they faced in the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, from both Catholics and protestants. The woman continued to tell me how much I had offended her and how I didn't know my history. I suggested the woman read documents such as the Martyrs' Mirror to see what the Anabaptists went through, to which she said that no, I needed to go look up my history again. And this woman continued to go on about how Catholics had only ever gone to war to free oppressed peoples, and also made statements that were very closely tied to evangelicalism, and claimed them as Catholic, along with many other statements clearly intended to make me feel as though I was a terrible person. None of this I pointed out to her, and she ended with "God bless you," in a way that almost suggested that I needed her blessing also. I wished her a good evening.
I don't mean to offend anyone. Catholics are not bad. Catholics have done bad things in the past (which we can learn from), but good things as well (which we can also learn from, of course). Anabaptists, such as those involved in the Munster Rebellion have done bad things as well. The cages which held the bodies of those leading the rebellion still hang from St. Lambert's Cathedral as a reminder. Catholicism is a rich tradition with a lot of history, which I appreciate, as it is my history prior to the reformation as well, as was Judaism before it. Pope Francis is my hero. So it hurt when this woman accused me of being anti-Catholic. She attacked my history (history is what I study, although I can be mistaken sometimes) (also, I have been praised by many people for the history I give, including several nuns) and my identity as a Christian and a Mennonite. And it hurts. It left me shaking in anger (after doing my best to be polite as she walked away) and wracked with anxiety for the rest of the evening, to the point where I became physically ill. There always seems to be that one person who can really get to you.