June 11, 2014

Brendan Eich and A Lesson From History

by Lyndon Unger

For those who have found my Twitter profile or read my bio-slug, you may have guessed that I’m kinda a Mennonite.  When I say “kinda”, I mean “pure-blooded Russian Mennonite stock on both sides, raised in a Mennonite Brethren Church, first words were in plautdietsch, generally in theological agreement with Mennonites as far as historic Orthodoxy, but neither attending a Mennonite Brethren Church nor really welcome in those circles by any stretch of the imagination”.  D.A. Carson has once said something along the lines of that this generation of Mennonites have forgot the gospel but hung onto Christian social entailments, and he’s generally correct.

Carson said it, not me.

I’m agreeing with D. Sizzle.

D Sizzle

Now why do I bring up my Mennonite heritage?


The Mennonites, and the Anabaptists in general, were an oppressed group that endured some serious persecution in the past, but they ended up surviving and even flourishing partly because of an invention of unparalleled importance that came out shortly before they were on the scene: the printing press.  With the printing press, the Catholic church  was no longer in control of the distribution of the scriptures and anyone with some money and effort could print a copy of the Bible and distribute it to the masses.  Not only did the Bible get copied, but other ideas got distributed as well…and many of the unwelcome ideas produced no small response (take a look at pages 5-7 here).

Among the ideas that were not so welcome, the teachings of the Anabaptists were highly unwelcome in reformation-era Europe.  The Anabaptists were persecuted by both the Reformers and the Catholic Church for many ideas, like their repudiation of infant baptism and novel teaching of believers baptism.


So did persecution stop the Anabaptist ideas from being distributed?

Not for a second.  The Anabaptists were clever and stole a page from Martin Luther’s playbook; they published propaganda…except with one minor change.  The Anabaptists were known for anonymous propaganda when they started out (what with being killed for their ideas and all, it seemed like a wise thing to do).  Here’s a short list of some of our their anonymous literature:

1.  Somewhere around 1525 to 1530, there was an anonymous tract circulating Anabaptist ideas called “Two Kinds of Obedience”, which was supposedly written by Michael Sattler.

2.  Sattler was attributed to be the author of another anonymous tract called “Concerning Divorce”, published around the same time.

3.  Circa 1530, there was an anonymous Anabaptist tract published in Augsburg called “Disclosure of the Babylonian Harlot and Antichrist’s Old and New Mystery and Abomination, etc.”

4.  There was an anonymous tract published around 1540 called “Uncovering of the Babylonian Whore” that challenged the Christian use of the sword.  This tract is attributed to either Pilgram Marpeck (Packull, Werner O. “Pilgram Marpeck: Uncovering of the Bablyonian Whore and Other Anonymous Anabaptist Tracts” in Mennonite Quarterly Review 67, no. 3, July 1993, 351-355) or Philipp Ulhart.

5.  Ulhart’s Press produced other anonymous Anabaptist tracts in the 1540’s. One was called “How the Scriptures Should Be Discerningly Distinguished and Exposited” (Packull, 352) which carried the mark “MS”, which was once thought to mark the authorship of Michael Sattler (John H. Yoder, ed., The Legacy of Michael Sattler (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1973, 171), but more like marks a “Marpeck-Scharnschlager” (Leupold Scharnschlager) collabaration (Packull, 353).

6.  Anabaptist Andreas Karlstadt published an anonymous tract on baptism in 1527.

7.  Christopher Schappeler, an Anabaptist of the 1520’s, published an anonymous tract called “To the Assembly of the Common Peasantry”.

8.  Around 1530-1531, there was an Anabaptist anonymous tract published called “A Beautiful Dialogue between a Nobleman and His Servant Concerning Apostolic Baptism” (Packull, 355).

9.  Finally there was an anonymous pamphlet that was clearly pro-Anabaptist called “Ein gehapter Ratschlag Lucipers” (A Recent Consultation of Lucifer) that critiqued and satirized the Diet of Speyer or 1529 (Waite, Gary, K. “A Recent Consultation of Lucifer: A Previously Unknown Work by Sebastian Franck?”, Mennonite Quarterly Review, 58 no 4 O 1984, p 477-502).


Those are only from a small, 20-30 year period.  History remembers far more than that and this is not a comprehensive list.

It’s interesting that, at least in Canada, some Anabaptist beliefs (like believer’s baptism) are present in the majority of evangelical denominations, and there are even several hundred thousand Mennonites of various strains in Canada.  In other words, the efforts of both the Catholic Church and the Reformers (or at least the people claiming to walk in their ideological paths) came to naught in attempting to wipe out Anabaptist ideas, even though they killed many an Anabaptist.

So why do I bring this all up?

I bring this up in the wake of Brendon Eich’s forced resignation as CEO of Mozilla, among other things.  In case you haven’t heard (but are somehow online reading this blog in the cave that you call home), here’s the skinny:

Brendan Eich

Brendon Eich was the CEO of Mozilla (important makers of many internet related products) and was a valued employee for 15+ years.  In 2008 he donated $1,000 to defend the traditional definition of marriage in California and has now, six years later, lost his job because of it.  The “gay rights” gestapo activists finally caught up with Eich, the “idiot” who invented Javascript (which basically makes the internet go), and ran him out of town on a railway tie because he had the audacity to donate brownies…no wait…$1,000 (probably cash in lieu of brownies) to a pro-proposition 8 lobby (If he had supported abortion though, giving such a small amount have been considered an insult. Just ask Warren Buffet…).  Now one of Eich’s closest co-workers was shocked at the revelation of him giving pocket change to a prop 8 lobby since she “never saw any kind of behavior or attitude from him that was not in line with Mozilla’s values of inclusiveness” , but having a secret belief that never effected his work was still not enough.  That same co-worker posted an explanatory article that, well, she quite clearly didn’t believe (as was hilariously pointed out here).

Now I know that news is a old (and this post has honestly sat in a “drafts” folder for several weeks), but there’s a lesson to be learned between these two topics.  We live in an age where ideas travel exponentially faster than they did at any time in the past, and the massive cultural changes that are coming are coming fast… as in “come and go within my lifetime” fast.  Since Eich was turfed from Mozilla, other people have lost their jobs for expressing biblical-motivated reasons for noncompliance against corporations attempting to force them to change their religion.  As the HRC and other pro-homosexual organizations intimidate and bully their way into creating an ideological totalitarianism similar to that which the world has seen before (though not too restricted by geographical boundaries), Christians will move from disliked to marginalized to openly persecuted to enemies of the state, and that will be incredibly frightening for most.

HRC- Blue is the new Red

We need to take a lesson from history and remember: the truth is tenacious.  In the same way that the combined forces of the Catholic church and Reformers couldn’t wipe out the beliefs of the Anabaptists, the homosexual ministry of truth activists will not be able to wipe out the traditional view of marriage or the Christian opposition to the sanctification and normalization of sin.  In the future, Christians may well again be publishing writing that challenges the false religion enforced by the state, and hiding their identities once again.  That would be nothing new.

Funny thing is that on the free and widely unrestricted internet that Brendan Eich helped to forge, Christian ideas will long outlive the Christians who think them.  Long after the faithful Christians are mocked, fired, imprisoned or slain, God (and his word) will be alive, well and laughing.  God always gets the last laugh (often in frighteningly poetic ways) when it comes to shamefully defeating those who would oppose him.  It has happened over and over and over and over and over and over again…but then again, who ever pays attention to history?

Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him somewhere...you didn’t.