To understand the Amish, it is necessary to understand the Anabaptists. At the time Menno Simons was questioning his beliefs and seeking deeper knowledge from the scriptures, a group of students in Zurich, Switzerland became impatient with the slow progress of church reform. They believed that Christian practices should be based solely based on Scripture, there should be more separation between the state and church, and that Baptism should occur only after a person is able to recognize sin. In 1525, the Swiss students petitioned the local church and civil authorities for change. Their appeal was promptly rejected.
When their appeal was rebuffed, they held a secret meeting and baptized each other. The Anabaptist faction of Christianity was born.
It was not long until the Anabaptists were persecuted. Anabaptists had rejected conventional Christian practices. They refused to take oaths, wear wedding rings, and participate in civil government.
Both the church and state authorities decided this new Anabaptist movement was a threat to their institutions. They declared the Anabaptists, also then known as the Swiss Brethren, were heretics. They took swift action to squash them and their religious movement.
Within months, the church and local governmental authorities hired bounty hunters to pursue the Anabaptists. When found, they were killed for heresy. They were beheaded, burned at the stake, dismembered, drowned, hung, imprisoned, or tortured. Numerous Anabaptists starved in prison. The wholesale persecution forced the Anabaptists to flee for their lives.
Despite this daunting pursuit, the Anabaptists continued their belief in “turning the other cheek.” Untold thousands of Anabaptists sacrificed their lives for their religious beliefs. The movement grew and spread in Europe over the decades.
Amish Wisdom is an ongoing feature of various entries about the Amish on George Sheldon's website and blog. Written and produced by George, it is intended to provide information about those of the Amish faith.