Münster was the site of an horrific experiment in anabaptist history. It forever stands as a reminder of the ugliness of distorted beauty and the vital need to learn from the past...
The Netherlands first encountered Anabaptism through the arrival of Melchior Hoffman in 1529. Hoffman had recently been rebaptised in Strasbourg and himself baptised several hundred adults. As a result, the Anabaptist movement soon spread throughout the Netherlands. However, Hoffman eventually came to see himself as a second Elijah and announced that the Lord revealed to him that the New Jerusalem was Strasbourg and that Christ would return within eighteen months. Though not himself a revolutionary, after his imprisonment in 1533, Hoffman’s followers became increasingly militaristic at the hands of Jan Matthys and Jan de Leyden. They announced that Hoffman had erred in the interpretation of his vision : Münster was the New Jerusalem.
Following the "conversion" of the Mayor, Münster became - with startling speed - a stronghold of communist millenarians. What followed was a horrendous siege between the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem and the forces of the Prince Bishop - not to mention the violence and vice within the community itself. Of course, events like this are never self-contained, and numerous revolutionary millenialistic communities sprung up throughout the country, hot on the heels of the Peasants revolt. The New Jerusalem - under the leadership of King David (de Leyden) and Enoch (Matthys) - lasted for almost a year and a half before it fell, resulting in a cruel and merciless slaughter.
Christianity was never meant to acquire the power of a world religion. The Church was never meant to rule the State and the State can not rule the Church. Discipleship can not to be enforced. The events of Münster teach us that much, at least. We have seen this tragedy repeated throughout history, around the world. However, it was from the ashes of Münster that the future anabaptist leader Menno Simons arose. Simons had seen the horror of Christianity gone astray [his own brother was killed at Münster] and was determined that the fledgling anabaptist movement must forge a new path.
Leaving behind a State-empowered monopoly, the Church is rediscovering what it means to follow the path laid out by Jesus. This is the way of discipleship, of service, of love and peace. Following Jesus cannot simply be reduced to uttering a prayer that secures us a place in heaven when we die, but has no discernible effect upon our lives here and now. If Jesus is my Lord, then I will follow where he goes. For Anabaptists, discipleship is the essence of what it means to be a Christian and this means we are committed to following Jesus in every area of our lives.
About this site
One of the aims of this site is to act as a mini-portal to a number of Resources exploring alternative christian living in an increasingly post-christendom world. Leaving Münster is about discovering ways and traditions of following Jesus in a world that is not.
Just as becomming a Christian is more than saying a prayer, Christian spirituality is more than a reading in the morning and a prayer before bed. Through a number of alternative sources, many of us are discovering for the first time the joy of following Christ in a community of disciples, the thrill of fresh approaches to Scripture and the wonder of life-giving models of prayer. The Blog records my attempts to live out an ancient faith in a post-modern context, along with the lessons learnt and mistakes made along the way.
This site is designed to be accessible to all, though the design of the site may appear different depending on how the user is accessing the Net. So, our layout is acheived through Cascading Style Sheets and though older, non-compliant, browsers may not be able to display our funky design, the content should be available to everyone.
For more on CSS and the benefits of seperating style from content, you might like to read Jeffrey Zeldman's article, To Hell with bad Browsers.