I've mentioned from time to time that the type of Christianity that I identify with are the Anabaptists. Since not a lot of people know who the Anabaptists are, I thought I'd say a few things about Anabaptism. As the Bible was being translated into languages that laymen could understand, people began to study the Bible for themselves. This began the Protestant Reformation, but it began another movement at the same time, known as the Radical Reformation, although there are those who consider the Anabaptist movement to have been part of the Protestant Reformation. The Anabaptists began in Switzerland in 1525 when a group of people, who came to believe that infant baptism, as practiced by the Catholic Church, was not biblical. Coming to believe in the baptism of believers, they began to baptize each other in private homes. Today, of course, that wouldn't be a problem, but at that time it was a dangerous act of defiance. The group became known as "anabaptists," which also meant "rebaptizers," because they were baptizing people who had already been baptized as infants. Although many of the Anabaptists initially studied with the Protestants, they became impatient with the Protestant group, who mostly wanted to reform the Catholic Church in fairly minor ways, while the Anabaptists wanted a cleaner break with the Catholic traditions. They refused to baptize their babies, they raised questions about the Catholic mass, criticized the use of images, and questioned the morality of the Catholic leadership. Of course, they also argued that only those who had made a voluntary decision to follow Christ should be baptized, declaring infant baptism invalid. Although adult baptism was the issue that most publicly separated the Anabaptists from the Catholics and from the newly emerging Protestant groups, which originally continued the practice of infant baptism, a more significant issue had to do with authority. The Anabaptists insisted that the Bible was the sole authority for the church, and strongly disagreed with Catholic and Protestant practices of intermingling the church and state. This was an issue they felt strongly enough about that they were willing to be martyred. The reason this was so important was that baptisms were used in pretty much the way that we record citizenship today since both the Catholic and the newly formed Protestant churches were inseparable from the governments. There were Catholic countries and Protestant countries. Baptism granted citizenship, and gave the authorities the power to tax and to conscript its citizens into military service. The Anabaptists refused to baptize infants, swear oaths of allegiance to a government, and obey the established traditions. Anabaptists were declared heretics, and banned from many areas. They were forced to meet in secret for worship, and thousands of them were branded, drowned, burned, dismembered, and imprisoned. Nevertheless, just as Christianity had prospered during persecution in its early days, the Anabaptists spread throughout Europe, with wave after wave of persecution sending Anabaptists to different parts of the continent. Some Anabaptists found refuge in Moravia, Alsace, the Palatinate, the Netherlands and, later Poland, and eventually the United States and Canada. While the Protestants maintained an elite clergy, much the same as the Catholics, Anabaptist leaders were a mixture of former Catholic clergy, scholars, and peasants. Before their beliefs were rounded out, the Anabaptists included some who were drawn to mysticism and spiritualism, while others anticipated the return of Christ and the end of the world. Some were pacifists, while others were violent anarchists. The majority sought to follow the teachings of Christ in their daily lives, and to build a church made up of committed believers. By 1550, a second generation of Anabaptists began to solidify their views, and Anabaptist doctrine began to take shape. For the most part, the Anabaptists accepted the creeds of the Christian church. Like the Protestant reformers, they emphasized the authority of the Bible, salvation by grace through faith, and the priesthood of all believers. They differed from the Protestants in other ways. Early statements of faith included the following: The authority of the New Testament for daily living. Adult or believer’s baptism. The power of the Holy Spirit. Obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ. The practical fruits of conversion in daily life. The church as a covenant community. A refusal to swear oaths. The rejection of violence. Separation of church and state. Social separation from evil in society. Exclusion of wayward members from communion. Today, Anabaptism holds three meanings. It refers to those who were baptized twice in the 1500s; It refers to the theological heritage that evolved from this early movement; and It refers to the members of contemporary churches that emerged from the Radical Reformation. More later.