Facing death with laughter

Feb 5, 2018 by

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I’m in the process of editing a 20-page essay on the spirit of the Ausbund, a German book of Anabaptist songs still used in some Amish circles. Many of the lyrics tell stories of Anabaptist martyrs. The focus of this essay is the joy with which many Anabaptist martyrs faced their death. In fact, the essay is quite startling with its focus on laughter.

This was a new thought to me, but the author quotes very liberally from the Ausbund, and provides both the German lyrics and an English translation. As you read these illustrations, you catch a glimpse of a people who faced death gladly, often laughing as they died, from sheer joy that they were going to be with their Lord.

This is a side to Anabaptism that is often overlooked. He begins with the illustration of Hans Haslibacher, who was executed in Canton Bern in 1571. Apparently Haslibacher had a vision the night before his death that his head would fall into his hat and laugh when he was beheaded. Plus the village well would turn into blood and the sun would become blood red.

All this, according to the song, happened as he said.

This is perhaps the most startling illustration, but there are others given of how the martyrs faced their death with joy, many of them even with laughter.

God’s people have lost much of that joy and confidence.

Lester Bauman was born into an Old Order Mennonite family in Ontario and attends a Western Conservative Mennonite Fellowship church near Stirling, Alta. He blogs at Lester’s Bookshelf, where this post first appeared.

Comments Policy

Mennonite World Review invites readers’ comments on articles. To promote constructive dialogue, editors select the comments that appear, just as we do with letters to the editor in print. These decisions are final. Writers must sign their first and last names; anonymous comments are not accepted. Comments do not appear until approved and are posted during business hours. Comments may be reproduced in print, and may be edited if selected for print.