Tag Archives: thought crime

Martyrs: Why we care about religious freedom

The Anabaptist/Mennonite tradition in which I grew up has a rich history of martyr stories.

Dirk Williams, perhaps the most famous Anabaptist martyr, turns around to rescue his pursuer after he fell through the ice. Williams was later tortured, and burned at the stake for the crime of baptizing people and holding secret church meetings. The Netherlands, 1596, etching from the 1685 edition of Martyrs Mirror.

I’m reading a book now called On Fire for Christ. It’s a dramatized re-telling of the stories from the classic work Martyr’s Mirror. It tells of Anabaptist Christians killed by other Christians, usually Catholics, throughout the sixteenth century.

What was their crime? The book details conversations between the Anabaptists and monks or judges who tried to get them to recant their heretical beliefs, beliefs which earned them the death penalty. Primary among these was the practice of baptizing adults, and teaching that infant baptism didn’t really absolve you from all sin. Continue reading

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