Beheadings by religious fundamentalists are not new

Oct 14, 2014 by

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My wife’s ancestor Hans Landis, one of the last known Anabaptists martyrs in western Europe, was executed in the year 1614, just 400 years ago.

Landis was one of thousands who were martyred for advocating for a free church, one completely independent of state control and free of all forms of coercion or violence.

One of the more common means of killing such dissidents in the time of the Protestant Reformation was beheading, next only to deaths by drowning or by burning at the stake. All of these brutalities against Anabaptists (adult baptizers) were carried out in the name of God by Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed jurisdictions alike.

Today we are shocked by similar forms of terrorism on the part of ISIL extremists. But even they have not even begun to decapitate as many people as were killed in this way by religiously controlled authorities in Christian-dominated Europe just centuries ago.

This suggests that brutal forms of torture and killing cannot be associated with any one religion, but with religious fundamentalists of any faith. Sadly, it took hundreds of years for so-called Christians to stop executing unbelievers, members of other faiths and even people of different Christian beliefs.

Maybe one day followers of Jesus will just get out of the killing business altogether.

Harvey Yoder is an ordained pastor and member of Family of Hope, a small Virginia Mennonite Conference house church congregation.


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