Westheights Church Library review of the book “The Naked Anabaptist: The Bare Essentials of a Radical Faith” by author Stuart Murray (call no. 230).  Reviewed by Dan Jennings.

If you have ever read the “About us” on the front page of the Westheights Weekly (Sunday bulletin) you may have read that we “have a shared heritage with the Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups”. Have you ever wondered what an Anabaptist was? When most people think of Anabaptist they have a mental image of a Mennonite, Amish or Hutterite, but what does an Anabaptist look like when you take the Mennonite, Amish or Hutterite culture away? This is the question this book seeks to answer.

One of the interesting phenomena in the Christian world today is that there is an increased interest in Anabaptist theology, tradition and spirituality. This interest is seen in the impact it is having on the thinking and practices of Catholics, Baptists, Methodists or whatever. Though still a minority this influence is pervasive. What is it that interests Christians from all traditions?

Murray begins the book by dispelling a number of myths about Anabaptism; what Anabaptism is not… He then takes us through the essence of Anabaptism. Here Murray lists 7 things that mark Anabaptism today. These are 1) following Jesus, 2) a Jesus-centred approach to the Bible and community, 3) a rejection of Christendom assumptions and ways of thinking/behaving, 4) a rejection of the violence of status, wealth and power, 5) communities of discipleship, mission, friendship, accountability and worship, 6) living simply, sharing generously, caring for creation and working for justice, 7) seeking peace through finding non-violent alternatives. It is only after Murray has described Anabaptism today that he moves to look at its history.

Murray claims that the original impetus for Anabaptism came from its context. The world in the early 1500’s was changing. Reform was in the air. “Anabaptism emerged on the back of two very different attempts to bring transformation to church and society.” The first Anabaptists were labelled the Radical Reformers. Our world today is also in the midst of change.

Murray concludes the book by looking once again at Anabaptism today. He points out the good, the bad and the ugly of this way of being Christian. He does this to keep us grounded. When Anabaptism goes off track it misses the mark. However, as one outside observer remarked:

We need a form of Christian faith that is holistic, integral and balanced, that speaks of God’s grace to individuals and to societies and the planet as a whole. We so desperately need, as we move into this emerging culture, to learn to live a life of Christ instead of just going to church. Anabaptists know more about this than the rest of us…

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Anabaptism and how it is influencing the church of tomorrow.