Gary Bryson hosts a program about anabaptism on ABC Radio National called “The Anabaptist Vision“…
[Part 12 of a 12-part series]
Jarrod McKenna: What does it mean that we’re living in an age where Christianity is no longer the dominant religion? And while some are lamenting that, saying ‘That’s awful, and don’t you realise that this is a Christian country and that’s why only Christians should be welcome here?’ Some of us are saying, ‘Hang on a sec., maybe we were never supposed to be in control. Maybe that was never our role.’ It’s certainly not what Jesus called us to and maybe instead of responding to refugees by this kind of Christendom lens which says, we’re in control, we’ve got to make sure history turns out right, responding in a way which is faithful to Jesus, where we welcome the stranger, we welcome the outcast, we welcome the refugee, but not just the refugee, that we respond personally to those issues.
Gary Bryson: Jarrod McKenna. Anabaptism it seems, not only resonates with contemporary concerns of peace and justice, but offers Christians of all denominations an opportunity to centre their faith in openness and tolerance towards others. It’s a great testament to the Anabaptist confession of faith, that despite many years of cruel persecution and withdrawal, tolerance remains one of their greatest legacies. Final words on this Encounter from John Hirt and Thorwald Lorenzen.
John Hirt: What can we learn from the Anabaptist tradition as a third way today with regard to the way that the world is run? The Anabaptists were also about reconciliation. They wanted people to be reconciled to each other. Obviously for them in the beginning, this was necessary because they were getting slaughtered all over the place without a chance to express their loyalty to the things that are good and right within any given state, and so they wanted people to talk and to converse and the Swiss even say that much of their great democracy, their confederation of democracy is owed to Anabaptist beginnings. If we’re about reconciliation, then we cannot be about viewing hatred and enmity as the form of social orthodoxy, the way in which much of the world seems to be divided today, it’s us and them. [But] not according to the New Testament, not according to the Anabaptists. We are the people among whom Christ has come to reconcile us all to God. Ephesians Chapter 1, Verse 10. In the fullness of time to bring all things into unity. This is one of the texts that they love. So the way that Anabaptist theology would play out in the world today in its non-violence, it would be, how can we be reconciled to each other and how can we not begin by hating the other, or making the other into someone who is differentiated by me in terms of, they’re the evil empire, they’re the other. No, no, no, this person is my brother, this person is my sister. The Anabaptist line, ‘I would die for the right for a Jew to be a Jew or for a Turk to be a Turk’. You can’t have that kind of notion in your head and go and want to rape and plunder and declare war on someone, it’s just against the whole tradition.
Thorwald Lorenzen: Where do we see the presence of Christ today? And here the Anabaptists would say, we see it first of all in our conscience, in our commitment of faith. Then we see it in the community, and then the community needs to be open in love and compassion and mission. And therefore, our commitment to each other, our commitment to Christ, naturally flows into a commitment for peace and justice in the world. But on the other hand we have to realise we cannot simply copy what they did in the 16th century to our century. We should not use radical in the sense that we need to be different, we need to be faithful to what we have committed our conscience to. And that makes us committed at the centre, but very open and accepting at the margin.