I have been identifying with the Anabaptist tradition of Christianity for a few months now, though I have been interested in it for much longer. When I first began to associate with Anabaptism, it was largelyÂ superficial, so I have been hesitant to identify with Anabaptism. Recently, however, I have been actually going in-depth into Anabaptist theology. I have mostly been reading about Menno Simons and Hans Denck, but three days ago I finally got a copy of Stuart Murray’s The Naked Anabaptist.
Typically, whenever I read a book, I will read it in sections rather than in one single attempt — for some reason I will get bored and have to regain my interest — but this was not the case for The Naked Anabaptist. I only got this book three days ago and I consumed it in only a couple of hours worth of reading. I found it to be one of those books that just keeps your attention (Gustavo Gutierrez’s A Theology of Liberation also had this effect on me).
This book was also of particular importance because it was my first serious investigation of contemporary Anabaptism (both traditional and Neo-Anabaptist). I found that Murray gave a wonderful summary of Anabaptist history, theology, and contemporary importance; he was very informative without sounding academic (such as Yoder). In addition, I found the book very helpful since it was not written from a Mennonite perspective. Despite Anabaptism being a broad movement like Catholicism or Evangelicalism, Mennonites are often assumed to equal Anabaptists — especially in North America. As a non-Mennonite Anabaptist (though I am considering joining the Mennonites), the perspective offered by Murray was very refreshing.
As I said, this book was one of my first serious investigations of Anabaptist thought, and what I am finding is that the more I learn about it, the more interested and inspired I am. I had this same experience with my current academic major — psychology. When I first chose this major, it was a rash decision because I needed to just pick one in time for the start of the semester, and when I started learning about it, I found that I was actually genuinely interested in it. This also occurred with Anabaptist Christianity. After reading this book, I think that I can finally say that “I am an Anabaptist” with confidence. I am very thankful that Mr. Murray took the time to write this book, and I strongly recommend it to those who have not read it.
Amen, brother. That is an excellent book. And I certainly appreciate, as you pointed out, the thoughtful explanations without being too scholarly. The works I’ve read from Yoder (esp. Body Politics) have been more influential on me, but holy cow you need a Common Man’s Commentary on Yoder to get through his stuff.
In your search for true Anabaptist communities (pacifism, justice, mutual aid, community, consensus decision making, shared leadership, etc.) you might find that many congregations tend to have lost some of their roots and have became mundane westernized evangelical. I find it sad that Anabaptist groups have become more mainstream and boring and less radical.
Thanks Kevin for sharing your thoughts about Murray’s book. I’ve been meaning to read it. Your review led me to make a New Year resolution to read it in the near future!
I really enjoyed Murray’s book but I also think it was too Ecumenical in nature. The Anabaptists was neither Protestant nor Roman Catholic and they saw an incompatibility with those groups.