Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Radical Anabaptist Reforming the Church

A “radical” is, by definition, someone who speaks and acts in a way that is in discord with the rest of the world. An “Anabaptist” is one who believes in accordance with the 16th century “radical reformers”, holding to a radical interpretation of the New Testament, following Jesus above all else (including the rest of the Bible), speaking out boldly their convictions and attempting to reform the church to be more Christlike. The Radical Anabaptist speaks out about subject like assisting the poor, welcoming the outcast and reconciliation. These are my definitions, perhaps yours are different, but this is the base from which I write this.

I have been asked what a “radical” looks like, and how this radical will reform the church. Below is my more complete understanding:

A. The Radical Anabaptist does not just speak or write radical ideas, but acts on them. She acts on them in her life and he acts on them in the world. In the world, it is enough (in fact preferable) for a radical to hold radical opinions, but to never succeed in doing anything. The Radical Anabaptist needs to see Jesus living and breathing in the world, especially through their own lives, and so changes themselves to be active participants of the world’s change.

B. The Radical Anabaptist sees the world’s evil and refuses to participate in it. He sees the abuse inherent in pornography and so doesn’t participate. She sees the chocolate manufacturers who support slavery and refuses to buy such things. He sees the teaching of hatred and death and refuses to support it. She sees a church rejecting the poor and outcast and doesn’t attend there. The world looks at them as separatists for this, but they do so as a matter of their own right standing before God.

C. The Radical Anabaptist lives out love. Love is using one’s resources to fill the lack in others. One way in which a Radical Anabaptist might do this is selling one’s possessions and giving to the poor. But she might also take time to listen to those who are lonely. He might also invite the outcast to a party, and make them welcome. She could help the homeless with temporary housing. But most importantly, they do not let the normal limitations of privacy and the typical anxieties limit them from love. This doesn’t mean that they are unwise—they see people for their real weaknesses, not by their stereotypes—but they work through the weaknesses, and are not put off by them.

D. The Radical Anabaptist takes seriously Jesus’ statement “Deny yourself and take up your cross.” If she is offered leadership, she might accept it, but she does not act in order to pursue leadership. He will allow himself to be humiliated, if it means that another will be benefited. She will identify with the outcast and those who are separated from the world. He will accept being rejected by communities, if it means that he can love more.

E. The Racial Anabaptist isn’t just interested in speaking negatively. Although often pessimistic about institutions and ideologies, he can be optimistic about people and their growing sense of love and humility. She invites others to participate in acts of mercy and hope, and develops opportunities for people to do so. He doesn’t only create opportunities for the mainstream to support the outcast, but also for the outcast to do acts of service. She seeks not only to be a “voice for the voiceless”, but to give opportunity for the “voiceless” to speak for themselves. The Radical Anabaptist creates communities of welcome and love and service. In this way the Radical Anabaptist is no longer an “I” but a “we”.

F. The Radical Anabaptist looks at the old institutions of the church and recognizes them as part of the world, a participant in empire. Seeing that, he understands that he cannot possibly change the institution as a whole. However, she can be optimistic as to bringing change to many, many within the institution. Therefore, she must seek places and opportunities to be a catalyst for change for many. Radical Anabaptism is a movement for reform, not for separatism. And so he calls for change and will see this individual or that congregation change for the better, in many places, for many communities. The institution may change, or it may not. Probably not. But the institution can still be used as a forum for radical speech, and radical actions. The Radical Anabaptist should use that forum as often as possible.

G. Just as Jesus turned over tables in the temple, so the Radical Anabaptist must do off the wall prophetic acts to help the people of God to wake up to their participation in the world. She may protest in front of a church who has shown hatred against the outcast. He may speak to church groups about their own failures to act in accord with their own principles of love and reconciliation. She might publically decry a leader in the church who is causing others to fail to follow Jesus. Prophetic action, however, is not only separatist, but reconciliatory as well. When the church has put lines of separation down where lines of separation do not exist, then radical listening must be enacted. The red and blue must be given the opportunity to hear the other point of view and to see that the other side has a point, even if disagreed with. Trinitarians and Unitarians should not have a debate, but an opportunity to hear each other. The Radical Anabaptist leader can create not only prophetic stands, but prophetic opportunities for reconciliation.

1 comment:

vera said...

Mmmm... wish you stayed on YAR. Even fewer people will see this, no? Is YAR moribund?

Anyways. Regarding point A, how do you mean all that? Acting, yes. But how do you mean “world”? Are you using the word as in common usage? To be completely truthful, I do not understand the rest of the paragraph. Especially about never succeeding, and about active participants in the world’s change… which world, which changes? And I may as well ask point-blank: Do you take seriously the two worlds theology?