Anabaptists: not just what I learned in Sunday School

For our second paper/podcast, I decided to go back to my roots. I was raised Baptist, and before I was baptized, I had to take a short, three-day course that taught me the history of my denomination, going all the way back to the Anabaptists. This led me to wonder about the music of the Anabaptists during the Reformation – they were present during that tumultuous time, yet, I haven’t heard much about them in class or delved into their musical and theological beliefs on my own.

So far, I’ve found some information about what the Anabaptists thought of music in online articles, but I’d like to find more information in book sources here on campus. Originally, I thought I might be able to find information about it in the music library, but it looks like I’ll have to broaden my search and see if there are books about the Anabaptists in the religion sections of Rolvaag that mention their views on music. This seems likely. I also am struggling because a lot of information online through the databases has been about the musical theologies of modern Anabaptists, Mennonites, and the Amish. Even though the Mennonites and Amish were branches off of the Anabaptist tree, I’m more interested in the music of the 16th century Anabaptists than modern ones. Although, it does make me wonder if I should change my topic to compare how their theology of music has changed over time.

I’ve also found a couple “witness” hymns from the Anabaptists about being persecuted, and I think I’ll try to incorporate those into the paper. I’m just not sure if I should focus on one of the hymns and analyze it, or if I should try to have a broader main point and use the hymns as evidence to help prove that point. I think that the former may be a better approach to this paper, though. I’m actually surprised about how much information is available on the musical theologies of the Anabaptists. It seems like there are some books that aren’t available to me via our library system, or books I wouldn’t be able to request through inter-library loan soon enough for them to arrive in time for me to use them in my paper.

I thought that I would compare the Anabaptist view of music with Luther’s, and for that, having some hymns as evidence would work well. However, I have realized that it might be best to narrow my topic to the undercurrents of survival in the music of the persecuted Anabaptists. Articles that I’ve found are titled “Music of the Martyrs,” “Anabaptist Martyr Ballad,” and “We want to tell with singing.” So, I think it will be difficult to separate their music from their pride in survival – not that I think that I should separate them at all. Luther never said much about them, other than that they fundamentally disagreed on baptism, so any primary resources connecting Luther’s faith with the Anabaptists may prove hard to come by. Once I am able to look at more books in Rolvaag, I think that I’ll be able to fully realize my exact topic and how I will use my examples as evidence.



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