Many of the disciples of Menno Simons are pacifists, and many are chary of any use of political power. Menno’s own politics were far more in the mainstream of Christian political thought. Heexhorted magistrates to listen to the demands of God laid out in Scripture. Oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood, he urged them. He did not contest their authority to punish crime, but insisted that his followers were not criminals. He urged magistrates to acknowledge truth and rule in peace and prosperity, for the praise of your God, and to the salvation of many souls.

Mennos brief mirror of magistrates might have come from Augustine or Sedulius Scottus: “Do sincerely repent, so that you stand before God; wail and weep with David; put on sackcloth and raiments of hair; scatter ashes upon your heads; humble yourselves with the king of Nineveh; confess your faults with Manasseh; die unto your ambitious flesh and pride; fear the Lord, your God, with all your powers; judge in all wisdom with fear and trembling; help the oppressed; grieve not the distressed; promote the just cause of the widows and orphans; protect the good; punish the evil in a Christian manner; discharge the duties of your offices properly; seek the kingdom and country that will endure forever; and reflect that you, however highly esteemed, upon earth are only pilgrims and sojourners in a strange land.”

(These are quoted fromA Very Humble Supplication of the Poor, Despised Christians” andA Christian and Affectionate Exhortation to all in Authority.”)

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Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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