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Mennonites, throughout most of their history, have been suspicious of sociopolitical revolution. This was also true of many Anabaptists, after the initial involvement of some in revolutionary movements at Münster and in the Peasants' War. During the 18th and 19th centuries Mennonites were often tolerated by virtue of privileges granted by kings and princes and hesitated to support movements calling for the overthrow of aristocratic governments in Russia, Germany, or colonial America.

Theologically, however, Anabaptism was revolutionary in its attitude toward the existing, traditional church. Anabaptist restitutionism, in its zeal to restore the pristine apostolic church, scoffed at calls for reform in favor of a radical new creation. Anabaptist studies during the 1970s and 1980s have increasingly pointed to the revolutionary apocalypticism, anticlericalism, anti-sacramentalism, and anti-traditionalism that formed the matrix for Anabaptism of all varieties (history, tradition, Anabaptism).

This dual inheritance -- a Mennonite inclination to be the "quiet in the land" in return for privileged toleration and an Anabaptist apocalyptic zeal for radical change -- has led to widely divergent attitudes toward revolution in the 20th century. Some Mennonites involved in sociopolitical activism have favored various forms of liberation theologies or radical social protest in North and South America, Europe, South Africa and elsewhere. The issue of violent revolution which is closely connected with many of these movements has, as a result, been debated. Other Mennonites have decried these developments as a betrayal of Mennonite ethical dualism (nonconformity). In the latter view, Christians are not to seek sociopolitical change by "worldly" methods, including various forms of nonviolent pressure politics, and certainly not by any form of violent revolution.

Throughout much of the 20th century, Mennonites have found themselves confronted directly by the disruption and polarization that accompanies revolutionary situations, most recently (1980s) in Indonesia, Zaire, Central America, and Ethiopia. The story of Mennonite responses to these situations has not been recorded or studied. Mennonite responses to the Russian Revolution have been the object of some study and historical writing during the 1970s and 1980s.


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Author(s) Dennis D Martin
Date Published 1989

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MLA style

Martin, Dennis D. "Revolution." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 27 Sep 2020.

APA style

Martin, Dennis D. (1989). Revolution. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 27 September 2020, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 773-774. All rights reserved.

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