A Conformist Brand of Non-resistance: Controversies and Silences
No study of Mennonites and political order would be complete without an examination of the ethical principle of non-resistance. In the early modern era following the fall of the Anabaptist regime at Munster, the rejection of violence and the refusal to bear arms had been part of the constitution or ideological core of almost all Mennonite communities. Mercantile activity was one area of life in which practical aspects of nonresistant principles were especially pressing for congregation members involved in whaling and shipping in northern European waters. At no time was this truer than during the 1690s, when Hamburg was experiencing political uncertainty and many of Europe's governments were at war. Officially, early modern Dutch Mennonites prohibited believers from committing violence or bearing arms. Mennonites in Germany also held this ethical position. Occasionally Mennonites in Altona and Hamburg would be disciplined by preachers and their peers for violating the ethical norm of non-resistance.