Monday, June 5, 2017

Amish Terrorists

The other day, a terribly ignorant and thoughtless American said cruel things.

Another day in Trump's America.

This is just one of the horrible things Katie McHugh said about the attack, but it is certainly the most uneducated, to be polite about it.

How did we get to this point, where cruelty is common and the past does not exist in the minds of Americans?

How does one begin to address a remark so profoundly immune from anything resembling cognitive functioning? I'm sure even the lowest cog in the IRA is offended by this disavowal of his existence.

But how do you respond? Do you start by telling her about the IRA and its 1000+ attacks on British soil, which killed more than 3,700 people, with five of those attacks coming since the 1998 Belfast peace treaty?

And do you have to explain that the IRA are Christians?

And do you have to explain how much influence recent increased racism culminating with Brexit and the subsequent increase in hate crimes in Britain has provided fuel for the recent terrorist attacks?

And how do you cram 400 years of destructive British colonial history, which has left a devastating legacy over so much of the globe, into 140 characters, the length of the attention span for the average ignoramus?

And do you have to explain that there are so many migrants in Britain because of that colonial legacy, that many have been there for generations?

Screw it. These people are proud of their ignorance. They thrive on fear and hatred and attention - it's the only time they feel anything in their lives that are mired in boredom, routine, and mediocrity.

Instead, let me tell you about a time when the Amish were terrorists.

The year was 1534, 54 years before the British would defeat the Spanish Armada to become the strongest empire in the world. Christopher Columbus had recently sailed the ocean blue, become a genocidal dictator, and died. Protestantism had been invented just 17 years earlier when Martin Luther pinned his dream of a corruption-free Church to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenburg. (Actually, he sent a letter to the archbishop but the door story sounds better.)

Luther's Ninety-Five Theses wasn't a list of demands, as too many people think, but was intended as a list of propositions to be debated in an academic setting. Nearly all of them had to do with Church corruption related to buying your way into heaven, and today's Catholics agree with nearly all of his points (making Luther's protests almost moot.) Luther never meant to (further) break up the Church; he merely sought reform and an end to indulgences, yet his challenges emboldened every crazy man with a notion of God to manifest his own interpretation of Christianity, ignoring 1.5 millennia of theological scholarship in favor of whatever whimsical fantasy pervaded the man's mind. Suddenly Europe was overrun with prophets with divine visions from heaven. Founding a "church" was the new fashion (kind of retro, though, since Europe experienced these types of weirdo waves from time to time since the life of the apostles.)

One of these fanatics was an uneducated fur trader from southwest Germany called Melchoir Hoffman. He was involved in several religious disturbances across northern Europe as a roving preacher (he'd be a televangelist if he lived today) and a self-proclaimed prophet. Luther himself was alarmed by both what Hoffman was preaching and the number of followers he was getting. You know, Luther, the guy who (further) broke up the Catholic Church.

Hoffman was charismatic, preaching more about what he didn't believe in - infant baptism, formal clergy, secular government, and private property - than what he did. You can imagine how these ideas appealed to the working masses, who had been pretty busy rebelling against their feudal lords over the prior decades. The biggest protestant-inspired of these rebellions was the German Peasant's War of 1524 during which the aristocracy killed 100,000-300,000 workers in response to the revolt. Europe would remain mired in feudal squalor until the French Revolution, when Average Jacques had his revenge on the aristocracy, but there were plenty of religious cucks to tide everyone over in the meantime.

Hoffman gained converts across northern Europe, founding a commune in the Dutch city of Emden, where an old man prophesied that he would go to prison if he stayed. Probably not a stretch, given that he was going around telling everyone he was a prophet and all. So Hoffman, after another one of his "visions," went to Strasbourg, calling it "New Jerusalem," and telling everyone that Jesus would return there in 1533 and that the ungodly would be purged.

The bronze ball dropped on the market square in Strasbourg and the ungodly were still living at midnight of the new year and women showed their ankles to men and gamblers lost their thaler in primero and fathers spent the family income in taverns and still Jesus didn't come.

But, cults being what they are, the Anabaptists, as they came to be known (meaning born again), thought there must have been a slight miscalculation in time and place, because there is no way they were wrong about Jesus and the end of the world and anything else, so they decided that Jesus would come in 1534 in Munster and they would have to prepare. They would, however, need to do their own purging of the ungodly, so they went to Munster to baptize everyone.

While Hoffman, to his credit, preached pacifism, his followers rejected his non-violent theology and began an insurrection in Munster, declaring war on the bishop, who then besieged the city.

One of the insurrectionists, 34 year old Jan Matthys, was so convinced in his belief that he was doing God's work, that, in fact, he was a second Gideon, and that God's Judgement was to happen on that day, Easter 1534, that he sought to fight a bunch of soldiers with only twelve other Anabaptists and that God would protect him. He was, of course, killed, though we'll never know if God was so offended by his arrogance that He let it all happen. Regardless, the soldiers beheaded him and stuck his head on a pole, then cut off his genitals and nailed them to the city gate.

That did not deter John of Leiden, a 25 year old member of the Anabaptist cult. He was an "aspiring" actor, because all future tyrants are failed artists or baseball players. John suffered from adolescent fantasies of recreating the kingdom of ancient Israel, much like ISIS wants to recreate the Islamic caliphate of the seventh century. John believed he saw visions from heaven, proclaimed himself a successor of David, and gave him absolute power over the "new Zion."

Here we see all the usual hypocrisies of religious fanatics, as the Anabaptists believed in neither formal clergy nor hierarchies, yet John had proclaimed himself a divinely appointed king. He had established a Christian government, where God's law ruled, women were subjects, and opposition to him was blasphemy punishable by death. John and his fellow born agains instituted a reign of terror filled with extreme violence, desecration of symbols of other faiths, the censoring or seizure of printing presses (the sixteenth century media), and the glorification of their deeds. Oh hey, that sounds like ISIS! The Anabaptists lived in splendor, taking from the citizens of Munster while they starved to the point of cannibalism. Europe had been mired in Catholic-Protestant religious wars, but the tyranny of John of Leiden united them in fighting this threat to their very existence.

In the sixteenth century, people believed that the political, intellectual, and religious turbulence of the time meant they were living in end times and that Jesus would be coming soon. Everyone seemed to have prophetic visions. John of Leiden may have been the worst of the doomsday cult leaders at the time, but there were others. Just as U.S. evangelicals and ISIS believe we are living the last days of the world, so, too, did John and the Anabaptists. Yet here we are, 500 years later, still existing. As it says in Mark 13:32, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." When are these doomsday nuts going to get that?

Apocalyptic cults and beliefs are nothing new - they existed in ancient Egypt and Greece and surely before recorded history, too. The Anabaptists were not the first Christian terrorists, nor were they representative of all of Christianity. The parallels between the Munster Rebellion and ISIS are evident to the thinking person. Why, if you wouldn't say that the Anabaptist terrorist acts meant all Christians are terrorists, would you say that an Islamic cult's terrorist acts means all Christians are terrorists?

The truth is, if you say this, you know nothing about Islam or its many sects. Just as Christianity has Catholicism (and its Roman, Maronite, Coptic, Chaldean, and all the other versions), Orthodoxy (and its Greek, Russian, Armenian, Syriac, etc.), Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Episcopalian, etc. etc. etc...Islam has its many sects, too.

The willfully ignorant like Katie McHugh might not even know that ISIS and Iran have two very different religions, as different as Catholic and Protestant with a schism nearly as old as Islam itself. I am sure she can't keep track of the major sub-sects within these, nor has she even bothered to learn they exist. On the Sunni side, you get Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali and Ẓāhirī. The Shia are Fivers, Seveners and Twelvers. Within each of these divisions are subdivisions, such as the Twelver Alawites (Assad's sect), with preachers having different interpretations just as they do in Christianity. There is a third sect in Islam, the Kharajites, whose main sub-sect are the Ibadi.

The Salafi school, where Wahabism - the theology of jihadis - are from the Sunni Hanbalis. It is just one Islamic sub-sect, as awful as the Anabaptists were. Again I ask you - are all Christians terrorists because the Anabaptists were terrorists? How does that even make any sense?

Yet you can point this out to some people and they refuse to acknowledge reality because it doesn't fit the narrative they've concocted for themselves. They don't believe that history is relevant. They can't reconcile historical events with the present - they can't comprehend that they are living in a moment of history, too, that people in the future will look back at our time just as we look back at the Munster Rebellion as some quirky, irrelevant historical event. It isn't irrelevant. It has quite a bearing on how things are today, and we can look at it to see what could happen to ISIS as the Islamic world is undergoing its own religious turmoil. That's exactly why we study history. We unite, like the Catholics and Protestants did to overcome the Anabaptists, or we divide and let the terrorists win.

So far, we are dividing. That is why the attacks keep coming.

The woman who wrote the tweet about having no terrorists in the UK, after several people reminded her about the IRA, responded by saying, well, there aren't any TODAY.

Again, how do you even respond to such blatant and willful stupidity?

Well, the chick who wrote it was fired from Breitbart, so that's a good response. But seriously, how racist do you have to be to get fired for being a racist from racist Breitbart? Karma, bitch.

So what became of the Anabaptists?

They were defeated after a year under siege, when much of the city had died of starvation, torture, or execution at the hands of the Christian terrorists. John of Leiden and two other Anabaptists were tortured, executed, and put on public display in cages. Hoffman was arrested and died in prison. Jesus still didn't come.

But the beliefs didn't die with them. They continued their preaching, pissing off a lot of people and eventually having to emigrate. The Amish, Mennonites, and other traditional groups trace their heritage back to the Anabaptists, but disavowing John of Leiden and reverting to Hoffman's non-violent theology. No, the Amish aren't terrorists - the opposite, actually. But many of their founders were.

The heritage of other born again sects is less clear. Baptists clearly believe in many of the same things that Hoffman preached, but the documentation is hazy. Much of it seems to stem from early Baptists wanting to distance themselves from the Munster Rebellion.

Evangelicalism was born from Anabaptism, too, and more American evangelicals are identifying as Anabaptist, seemingly John of Leiden's version, with the support for violence and military aggression. This particular virulent strain of evangelicalism, overtly political with the desire to install a Christian theocracy, believes we live in end times. Some of them blindly support Israel because they think the faster Israel reestablishes its ancient kingdom, the faster Jesus will return, the same thing John of Leiden wanted (and very similar to what ISIS wants.) (“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.") Some run for government office to make policy to hasten the Second Coming (see C Street.) (“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.") They use government, the military, and U.S. foreign policy as instruments to dominate the world and force their beliefs on everyone else. Or, they vote for those who would do so.

Not all evangelicals, of course. It would contradict my whole post to label an entire group, but the violent, aggressive strain is the dominant strain, the most vocal, the most influential and destructive.

It's this version of Christianity that people of Katie McHugh's ilk can proclaim their love for Jesus while at the same time professing their hatred for people. This is where it all started, this sect of Christian terrorists. So when you say they are not Christian, you are wrong. They are, just as John of Leiden was. 

It's this version of Christianity that would deny refuge for people trying to escape war.

It's this version of Christianity who would deny aid to the poor.

It's this version of Christianity that promotes hoarding wealth for yourself while others have nothing.

It's this version of Christianity that promotes white power.

It's this version of Christianity that cheers military aggression.

It's this version of Christianity that pushes to end mandates for birth control insurance coverage, because if you aren't making babies you shouldn't be having sex.

It's this version of Christianity that worries about what bathroom you are using while real problems go unsolved.

It's this version of Christianity that promotes such hypocrisy as this:

By the way, McHugh, take that flag off your profile and go back to Scotland, you immigrant.

No comments:

Post a Comment