This is my part 1 of my review of the book, A Living Alternative: Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom World. This entry will focus on the introduction and the first section “A living alternative rooted in the past.”
Since this book is a compilation of essays by the “Menno Nerds” blogging collective, it begins with twenty extensive author biographies. Unfortunately the second line of the first profile already has a glaring grammatical error and this seems to be indicative of what appears to be a book that was compiled with less than precise editorial work.
The other remarkable observation before even getting into the content is that of the twenty authors, seventeen are men. In a volume that purports to be “post-Christendom” this is unacceptable in my view. Christendom was a patriarchal and hierarchical system that Anabaptism sought to critique and correct with the radical way of Jesus. Jesus raised the status of women and treated women with dignity. Anabaptist communities in the sixteenth century also included women in their worship and study in a way that was ahead of their time.
“The concept of the priesthood of believers among the Anabaptists elevated women to a role of partnership in the congregation of believers. In the state churches, Catholic and Protestant, the attitude toward women was as yet quite medieval and remained so for many years. However, in Anabaptist circles women were referred to as sisters, and were held in the highest respect.” [Myron Augsburger]
I did not find a lot of new material in the first section as Anabaptist history is not a novel area of research and writing. The one bright spot in this regard was Jamie Arpin Ricci’s essay about Anabaptists and St. Francis. There are a lot of common theological themes between the two movements and even some possible historical links with the Phillips brothers—and perhaps even Menno—being trained in a in Franciscan [Brethren of the Common Life] monastery.
I look forward to reading the present and future sections in hopes that here I will find more “alternative” ideas—and the writings by the three female authors.