The last two chapters of Murray’s discussion of Anabaptism reveals great diversity in the history of the movement and in its present forms. When we’re honest, which Murray is, we also get a movement full of problems: legalism, selectivity, anti-intellectualism in the past and intellectualism in the present, separatism, quietism, and passivity to name a few (a lot!). Anabaptism has no claim to perfection.
So why the attraction to Anabaptism? Why the growing popularity?
Murray suggests that there is a depth to discipleship in Anabaptism that is well-suited to a world that no longer embraces the centrality of the Christian message. It's difficult being a Christian in the 21st Century. Anabaptism knows difficulty and faith commitment. Appeal isn’t found in the perfection of the movement but in an appealing - even if “unusual” - articulation of life and faith appropriate for this time and place in history. Murray contends:
The Anabaptist tradition offers a place of belonging and a source of inspiration for Christians today as we face the challenges of a post-Christendom culture, in which the long-dominant forms of institutional Christianity are declining and struggling. Whether or not we wish to be labeled “Anabaptist,” this marginalized tradition offers a place to stand and community from which to draw strength...Anabaptism is a “tradition whose time may have come” - not because it is unblemished or offers us all we need, but because it has a distinctive and unusual contribution to make.Essentially, rather than compete with or assert within secular society - attempts to “sell” the Christian faith to the masses as “relevant” - Anabaptism offers a whole different paradigm, a wholly alternative way of life. This way of life, describes Murray, is a “spirituality of discipleship,” a personal journey of yieldedness to God and others as followers of Jesus.
With religious devotion no longer the cultural norm, Anabaptism simply says, “exactly!” Live with it. Defending the cultural relevance of Christianity isn’t our fight. And for many, they’ve fought too long and too hard. They’re exhausted. Christianity seems to be losing. And then they encounter Anabaptism and find themselves refreshed and encouraged (Murray quotes Brian McLaren, Tom Sine, and Gregory Boyd as examples of this sentiment). There is an appeal to this “unusual” tradition.
It’s doubtful Anabaptism will be for everyone. The problems and obscurity of the movement hinder broad acceptance. For many, it’s too alternative, too unusual. Yet as an Anabaptist myself, I’m encouraged by individuals like Stuart Murray, and movements like The Anabaptist Network. I'm encouraged not because of the growing consensus, but by the stories of faith and transformation that tell of God’s continued presence however “popular” Christianity was, is, or will be.