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Martyrs Mirror

A Social History

David L. Weaver-Zercher

Approximately 2,500 Anabaptists were martyred in sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Europe. Their surviving brethren compiled stories of those who suffered and died for the faith into martyr books. The most historically and culturally significant of these, The Bloody Theater—more commonly known as Martyrs Mirror—was assembled by the Dutch Mennonite minister Thieleman van Braght and published in 1660. Today, next to the Bible, it is the single most important text to Anabaptists—Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites. In some Anabaptist communities, it is passed to new generations as a wedding or graduation gift.

David L. Weaver-Zercher combines the fascinating history of Martyrs Mirror with a detailed analysis of Anabaptist life, religion, and martyrdom. He traces the publication, use, and dissemination of this key martyrology across nearly four centuries and explains why it holds sacred status in contemporary Amish and Mennonite households. Even today, the words and deeds of these martyred Christians are referenced in sermons, Sunday school lessons, and history books.

Weaver-Zercher argues that Martyrs Mirror was designed to teach believers how to live a proper Christian life. In van Braght’s view, accounts of the martyrs helped to remind readers of the things that mattered, thus inspiring them to greater faithfulness. Martyrs Mirror remains a tool of revival, offering new life to the communities and people who read it by revitalizing Anabaptist ideals and values. Meticulously researched and illustrated with sketches from early publications of Martyrs Mirror, Weaver-Zercher’s ambitious history weaves together the existing scholarship on this iconic text in an accessible and engaging way.

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Mennonite German Soldiers

Nation, Religion, and Family in the Prussian East, 1772-1880

Mark Jantzen

Mennonite German Soldiers traces the efforts of a small, pacifist, Christian religious minority in eastern Prussia—the Mennonite communities of the Vistula River basin—to preserve their exemption from military service, which was based on their religious confession of faith. Conscription was mandatory for nearly all male Prussian citizens, and the willingness to fight and die for country was essential to the ideals of a developing German national identity. In this engaging historical narrative, Mark Jantzen describes the policies of the Prussian federal and regional governments toward the Mennonites over a hundred-year period and the legal, economic, and social pressures brought to bear on the Mennonites to conform. Mennonite leaders defended the exemptions of their communities’ sons through a long history of petitions and legal pleas, and sought alternative ways, such as charitable donations, to support the state and prove their loyalty. Faced with increasingly punitive legal and financial restrictions, as well as widespread social disapproval, many Mennonites ultimately emigrated, and many others chose to join the German nation at the cost of their religious tradition. Jantzen tells the history of the Mennonite experience in Prussian territories against the backdrop of larger themes of Prussian state-building and the growth of German nationalism. The Mennonites, who lived on the margins of German society, were also active agents in the long struggle of the state to integrate them. The public debates over their place in Prussian society shed light on a multi-confessional German past and on the dissemination of nationalist values.

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Mennonites, Amish, and the American Civil War

James O. Lehman and Steven M. Nolt

During the American Civil War, the Mennonites and Amish faced moral dilemmas that tested the very core of their faith. How could they oppose both slavery and the war to end it? How could they remain outside the conflict without entering the American mainstream to secure legal conscientious objector status? In the North, living this ethical paradox marked them as ambivalent participants to the Union cause; in the South, it marked them as clear traitors. In the first scholarly treatment of pacifism during the Civil War, two experts in Anabaptist studies explore the important role of sectarian religion in the conflict and the effects of wartime Americanization on these religious communities. James O. Lehman and Steven M. Nolt describe the various strategies used by religious groups who struggled to come to terms with the American mainstream without sacrificing religious values—some opted for greater political engagement, others chose apolitical withdrawal, and some individuals renounced their faith and entered the fight. Integrating the most recent Civil War scholarship with little-known primary sources and new information from Pennsylvania and Virginia to Illinois and Iowa, Lehman and Nolt provide the definitive account of the Anabaptist experience during the bloodiest war in American history.

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Mennonites in Early Modern Poland and Prussia

Peter J. Klassen

At a time when religious conflicts and persecution plagued early modern Europe, Poland and Prussia were havens for Mennonites and other religious minorities. Noted Anabaptist scholar Peter J. Klassen examines this extraordinary example of religious tolerance. Through extensive archival research in Poland, Germany, and the Netherlands, Klassen unearths rich material that has rarely, if ever, been studied previously. He demonstrates how the interaction of religious, political, and economic factors created a situation in Poland and Prussia that permitted a diversity of religious beliefs and practices. Mennonites in Early Modern Poland and Prussia focuses on the large Mennonite community in these countries. Klassen reveals how the Anabaptist groups were treated and explores whether the uncommon religious freedom they enjoyed gave rise to a flourishing of their faith or a falling away from its central tenets. Early modern Poland and Prussia are virtually ignored in most studies of the Reformation. Klassen brings them to light and life by focusing on an unusual oasis of tolerance in the midst of a Europe convulsed by the wars of religion.

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Nonviolence - A Brief History

The Warsaw Lectures

John Howard Yoder

Few theologians have done as much as John Howard Yoder to articulate the case for Christian pacifism. The eleven lectures collected in Nonviolence—A Brief History were presented in 1983 in Warsaw, Poland, and this is their first publication together.

Despite their apparent diversity, the lectures trace a single trajectory: the increasing relevance of nonviolent thought and action. They argue that nonviolence aligns with the inner logic of the world and, therefore, with human social existence. A quarter century after they were delivered, Yoder’s remarks seem prophetic, heartfelt, and essential.

For those unfamiliar with the life and thought of John Howard Yoder, these lectures, together with their accompanying brief contextualizing summaries, provide an easily accessible introduction.

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A Peculiar People

Iowa's Old Order Amish

Now back in print with a new essay, this classic of Iowa history focuses on the Old Order Amish Mennonites, the state’s most distinctive religious minority. Sociologist Elmer Schwieder and historian Dorothy Schwieder began their research with the largest group of Old Order Amish in the state, the community near Kalona in Johnson and Washington counties, in April 1970; they extended their studies and friendships in later years to other Old Order settlements as well as the slightly less conservative Beachy Amish.

A Peculiar People explores the origin and growth of the Old Order Amish in Iowa, their religious practices, economic organization, family life, the formation of new communities, and the vital issue of education. Included also are appendixes giving the 1967 “Act Relating to Compulsory School Attendance and Educational Standards”; a sample “Church Organization Financial Agreement,” demonstrating the group’s unusual but advantageous mutual financial system; and the 1632 Dortrecht Confession of Faith, whose eighteen articles cover all the basic religious tenets of the Old Order Amish.

Thomas Morain’s new essay describes external and internal issues for the Iowa Amish from the 1970s to today. The growth of utopian Amish communities across the nation, changes in occupation (although The Amish Directory still lists buggy shop operators, wheelwrights, and one lone horse dentist), the current state of education and health care, and the conscious balance between modern and traditional ways are reflected in an essay that describes how the Old Order dedication to Gelassenheit—the yielding of self to the interests of the larger community—has served its members well into the twenty-first century.

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Pennsylvania Germans

An Interpretive Encyclopedia

edited by Simon J. Bronner and Joshua R. Brown

Destined to become the standard reference on Pennsylvania Germans (also known as the "Pennsylvania Dutch"), this book is the first survey of this extensive American group in nearly seventy-five years. Nineteen broad interpretive essays written by a distinguished group of historians, anthropologists, sociologists, linguists, and folklorists tell the rich and nuanced story of Pennsylvania German history and culture.

United by a distinct (and distinctly American) language, the Pennsylvania Germans have been slower to assimilate than other ethnic groups. This sweeping volume reveals, though, that the group is much less homogenous and isolated than was previously thought. From architecture, media, and farming techniques to food, folklore, and medicine, the Pennsylvania Germans and their descendants display a wide range of cultural variation. In Pennsylvania Germans, editors Simon J. Bronner and Joshua R. Brown broaden the geographical and social coverage of the group, touching both on Pennsylvanian communities and the Pennsylvania German diaspora, including settlements in Canada and Mexico. They also expand historical coverage of the Pennsylvania Germans to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Beautifully illustrated, this volume—while paying tribute to the historical and cultural legacy of the Pennsylvania Germans—is the most comprehensive book on the subject to date.

Contributors: R. Troy Boyer, Simon J. Bronner, Joshua R. Brown, Edsel Burdge Jr., William W. Donner, John B. Frantz, Mark Häberlein, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, Donald B. Kraybill, David W. Kriebel, Gabrielle Lanier, Mark L. Louden, Yvonne J. Milspaw, Lisa Minardi, Steven M. Nolt, Candace Perry, Sheila Rohrer, and Diane Wenger

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Plain Diversity

Amish Cultures and Identities

Steven M. Nolt and Thomas J. Meyers

Plain and simple. American popular culture has embraced a singular image of Amish culture that is immune to the complexities of the modern world: one-room school houses, horses and buggies, sound and simple morals, and unfaltering faith. But these stereotypes dangerously oversimplify a rich and diverse culture. In fact, contemporary Amish settlements represent a mosaic of practice and conviction. In the first book to describe the complexity of Amish cultural identity, Steven M. Nolt and Thomas J. Meyers explore the interaction of migration history, church discipline, and ethnicity in the community life of nineteen Amish settlements in Indiana. Their extensive field research reveals the factors that influence the distinct and differing Amish identities found in each settlement and how those factors relate to the broad spectrum of Amish settlements throughout North America. Nolt and Meyers find Amish children who attend public schools, Amish household heads who work at luxury mobile home factories, and Amish women who prefer a Wal-Mart shopping cart to a quilting frame. Challenging the plain and simple view of Amish identity, this study raises the intriguing question of how such a diverse people successfully share a common identity in the absence of uniformity.

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Sarah's Seasons

An Amish Diary and Conversation

“Have you ever kept a diary?” With that question author Martha Davis sets out on her journey into the quietly remarkable life of an Old Order Amish woman know to us as Sarah Fisher. Sarah not only kept a diary but welcomed Martha to read it and to view the world through her eyes. The even, peaceful tenor of Sarah's diary entries and the closeness to nature of her life and work will make readers question the pace and values of their own lives, and the degree of social interconnectedness in Sarah's world will offer a model for many of us outside it.

Sarah's brief daily notations, recorded on a calendar throughout 1976 and 1977, reveal an ongoing account of her seasonal routine. In many ways the straightforward simplicity of her writing is a reflection of her life near rural Kalona, Iowa, a life filled with what Martha Davis calls look-easy tasks undertaken without the conveniences of electricity, phones, or automobiles. For Sarah, diaries are a record. “A diary can settle a question, a disagreement,” she tells Martha. “You look back and see what took place. That's history.”

Through their conversations, Martha soon discovered she had more in common with Sarah than diary writing. Though Davis lived in the mainstream culture, an “English” person as the Amish say, like Sarah she grew up on a farm in rural Iowa during the 1950s and 1960s. Like Martha, Sarah had spent several years as a teacher.

In Sarah's Seasons Martha Davis shares their common experiences and common interests—gardening, quilting, and cooking. Alongside Sarah's diary, Martha presents their shared recipes and conversations as well as reflections on her own more modern existence. Because of her friendship with Sarah, the author found a new sense of belonging to and purpose in the mainstream world. In the end, Sarah's diary becomes for Martha a meditation on time and community.

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