I was reminded that today, this Memorial Day, marks the anniversary of Thomas Müntzer’s death. He was executed by beheading on this day in 1525. Whatever your thoughts on Müntzer are, he is still part of the Anabaptist tradition, and I will probably be mentioning him in a couple weeks with a post on transformationist Anabaptism. While I do not like Müntzer’s advocacy for violence, there is something that we can certainly learn from him — he took the economic teachings of Jesus and the apostles very seriously. In our day of capitalism, individualism, and greed, his call to return to the economics of Jesus is certainly something we can admire.
It’s a rarity for Anabaptists to actually claim Muntzer, let alone say anything good about him. I studied some Anabaptist history in my Masters paper research and it was pretty unanimous that the more biased authors tried to find ways to explain how he wasn’t really part of the same group as they are. I’m a bit more willing to say that although I’m not proud of a lot of what he did – including a lot that is normally associated as the opposite of Anabaptism – he was still an Anabaptist at least as it was understood at the time.
There were a number of violent and terroristic Anabaptists just as there were Protestants and Catholics. It annoys me whenever some of the more pious, usually Mennonite varieties of Anabaptism try to ignore these more extreme trends.
Makes me think. How much of Jesus’ teachings should we take in a literalistic way, and is there are limit? I’m asking this question as it is borne out of years of personal anguish trying to figure it out. I still have no definitive answer, and funny enough that is my answer.