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There's Something About Ana

I was raised in a Roman Catholic family. Baptized as a baby, took first communion in the second grade and was pretty good with a Rosary. But, for various reasons, it didn’t stick. My journey with evangelicalism began around the age of 16. It was a spirituality that at first was exciting and real. But as I matured, youth group evangelicalism left me searching for more.

“Jesus is my best friend” and “Don’t have sex ‘til you’re married” are great things to rally around at a youth retreat, but they’re pathetically lacking as an epistemology. It was into this search that my systematic theology professor introduced me to Reformed Theology. I loved it.

somethingaboutana
It began harmlessly as a naïve curiosity. Then it turned into a playful crush. Today, it has become a full-fledged love affair. In the most beautiful ways, it has consumed my life. And this is my going public with it: I am passionate about Ana!

I’ve never really been able to be faithful in these kinds of relationships. But I think Anabaptism might be different.

I was raised in a Roman Catholic family. Baptized as a baby, took first communion in the second grade and was pretty good with a Rosary. But, for various reasons, it didn’t stick. My journey with evangelicalism began around the age of 16. It was a spirituality that at first was exciting and real. But as I matured, youth group evangelicalism left me searching for more.

“Jesus is my best friend” and “Don’t have sex ‘til you’re married” are great things to rally around at a youth retreat, but they’re pathetically lacking as an epistemology. It was into this search that my systematic theology professor introduced me to Reformed Theology. I loved it. I inhaled Calvin and exhaled TULIP. I became one of those aggressive seven point Calvinists that argued for argument’s sake.

But, after a while, God saved me from that (predestined not to be Reformed, I guess). Seven years ago, a conservative Baptist movement ordained me, but I’m not sure I’d make it past their thought police today. Like so many others I’ve talked to, it’s often easier for me to articulate who I don’t want to be.

Reading over that last sentence reminds me that I also don’t want to be the stereotypical postmodern who is reactively addicted—against everyone and for nothing.

So, about a year ago, I started a quest. Not for a label or a pigeonhole but for a foundation—a historical expression of Christianity that could give greater definition to my journey. That’s when I met Ana. I read J. Denny Weaver’s survey of Anabaptist origins, Becoming Anabaptist, and I was seduced!

Today, I am in that weird stage of relational evolution somewhere between fascination and commitment. It’s a bit like when you’ve been dating someone for three months, you start to pick up their subtleties, but you know you have so much more to learn. Here’s what I find so sexy:

•    Anabaptism emerged out of Europe’s 16th century Reformation. Often viewed as Radical Reformers, these Christians were convinced that the reforms of Luther, Zwingli and Calvin didn’t go far enough in their attempts to decentralize power. Anabaptists rejected Reformation structure that put city council as the governing body over churches. Instead, they championed the cause of a complete separation of church and state. And for this, thousands were persecuted and killed often by those associated with the Reformation. Today’s Anabaptists continue to challenge commonly held beliefs about how Christians should relate to government (Caesar).

•    Anabaptists are passionate pacifists. They understand the importance of dying for what you believe in, but never killing for it. They don’t look for exceptions to Jesus’ teachings on peace and forgiveness, but they seek to live it out.

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•    Anabaptism thrives on the fringes. Because of its antiestablishment ethos, it has flourished in rural settings and in the developing world. Anabaptists have found life outside of power, popularity and reputation.

•    Anabaptists are committed to an ecclesiology where every gift and voice is valued. Often if feels like most Protestants reject papal claims of authority but see their senior pastor as some divine prophet. Anabaptist worship is the idea that everyone can bring a psalm, hymn or spiritual song. God doesn’t just speak through the professional, but through each member of the community. I know of many people who drive an hour or more to hear their favorite preacher. I’ve always wondered how far people would drive to feel heard.

•    Anabaptists have at times adopted embarrassingly bad theology. Not that I think bad theology is a good idea, but for Anabaptists, living the Kingdom and doing right (orthopraxy) has always taken precedence over theorizing about the Kingdom and being right (hyper-orthodoxy). A pendulum swing sounds good!

•    Anabaptism isn’t a denomination or an institution. It is a movement of people that transcends denominational divides. It invites us to discover the ancient, non-violent ways of the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus taught it. So whether you’re Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian or Pentecostal, you can live the Anabaptist tradition.

Can you think of any reasons why a love affair like this shouldn’t turn into a life long marriage?

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