Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

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Anabaptist Martyrs

Saloma, as I read through your blog and the older posts I am so impressed with the quality of your writing. You could turn this into a book! There are so many things your write about that resonate with me, and I would love to talk with you about this sometime…have you ever considered an open letter to your followers sharing how it is for you to write this blog? Your courage and resilience really comes through. I am especially struck by your comment that you believe the Amish culture is a martyr culture. I have for a long time thought that the concept of intergenerational historical trauma applies to the social and psychological life of Mennonite and Amish peoples. I would be interested in more of your thoughts on that. Anniliz

Anniliz, thank you for your comments and your desire to know more about the Amish being a martyr culture. There are few things I can generalize about among the Amish, but this is one of them. Most Amish households have a copy of the Martyr’s Mirror in their homes, which is a detailed and intense account of many Anabaptist sufferings. This book is like a second Bible to the Amish and is  read and discussed often as a way of remembering the sufferings of their martyred ancestors.

I agree with your thoughts about intergenerational historical trauma that affect the Amish people, and I think you are right to include the Mennonites, though I have less experience with their culture. There is, however, one difference that I see, in that I think of intergenerational trauma as being something that gets passed down unwittingly, which usually plays an unconscious role in our lives. But the Amish make a conscious effort to “remember” the trauma of their ancestors through reading and discussion of these accounts. They warn one another “not to ever forget,” lest they lose their faith and go “the way of the world.”

For the Amish, martyrdom is closely related to sainthood. They believe that the Anabaptists who died for their faith were saints. I find it interesting that in mainstream American culture, there is a reverence for the Amish, sometimes to the point that they are perceived as saintly. This is exactly the opposite of the perception of our ancestors by the “outside” culture in Europe when the Anabaptists were being persecuted, at least on the part of the authorities. I think the Amish people often wish they deserved the sainthood status in the way their ancestors did, because they  could then rest assured that they would make it to Heaven. As it is, they believe that there is no way for them to know for sure whether or not they will make it to Heaven — they can only hope. I think this is one difference between the Amish and most Mennnonites, who believe they will get to Heaven if they simply believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Even though the Amish believe in Salvation, they also believe in good works, in the sense that God keeps a tablet of the good and the bad — and simply put, if the good outweighs the bad, one gets into Heaven, and if not, one is doomed to Hell.  Believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior  gets put on the “good” part of the tablet. In the Amish way of thinking, it is so difficult to make it to Heaven, that a person has to pretty much be a martyr and saint to make it. In this way, suffering and martyrdom are revered to the point of wishing they had the chance to prove their faith through persecution, because their salvation almost depends on it. I cannot think of a better example of a martyr culture than that.

For anyone interested, the Martyr’s Mirror can be found online. Here is a link to it:
http://www.homecomers.org/mirror/contents.htm

 

This classic 1660 Dutch book memorializes the godly lives and glorious deaths of European Anabaptist martyrs between 1524 and 1660 and thousands of other early Christians. ~ The Martyr’s Mirror

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