Well Mr. Holdeman, I see that your letter stretches on for many pages. It starts on page 190 and goes on to page 205, at which point you insert a letter written to you by Bishop Rohrer. There isn’t much of note contained in your letter. Much reiterating of how your life and behavior were above reproach while you dwelt among them. Much hand wringing over how far they had fallen from the ground and truth. Much worrying over whether or not prophecies which you had made would come true. Much denouncing of your brethren, your leaders, much clinging to Menno and Dirk, and very little attention the the Bible. In your efforts to pattern yourself after men and reconstruct a new building on a crumbling foundation, you forgot the real truth. You boast of your ability to channel some spirit, which you firmly believe to be the Holy Spirit, but let me tell you, if a young man in 2012 were to stand up and say the things that you said, he would be excommunicated for being possessed by a foreign spirit. I don’t know if that terminology was used back in your day, but it perhaps has recently been coined. It works well as a catch-all for disposing of those who disagree and threaten to depart with the candlestick. I wonder just where it is hidden; lets say a young man would want to take it and run, where would he find it? Did you leave instructions for the snatching away of the candlestick for some one in the future, or were you quite sure that it would never be needful again? Is that the reason for your book? To lay out a blueprint for division and reorganization?
Well, in any case, the letter does drag on. You come across as being quite holy and the others as being indifferent and cold. Consider the words of Bishop Shaum when you reproved him in the names of Menno and Dirk; “Those men were not crucified for us.” I can see how he made it difficult for you to go on when he spoke thus. You wanted to keep the focus on the Anabaptist Brethren, but he wanted to bring it back to Christ. No matter, you forged boldly on and managed to make him look like an apostate. I can assure you that much the same thing happens today. Your name is held up, nowadays alongside Menno and Dirk, and the name of Christ is all to seldom mentioned. I believe you would be proud!
After publishing the correspondence between yourself and Bishop Rohrer you return to your dwelling upon the lineage. Do you never tire of praising yourself and condemning others? Really, John, does the fact that the Lutherans took up arms make you right? This is a very poor way to prove your position. I must ask again, where is the Bible? Why the need to constantly prove yourself right, and all others wrong? Why such a need to form a denomination and have them follow you? I personally, myself, find fault with all of this. There are other leaders who have arisen and gathered followers after them; Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, Jim Jones….. When a man is at the center of a movement, and too much attention is paid to him, one can expect trouble. There is always some sort of revelation, some sort of self righteous drivel that appeals to a certain type of individual. Often they are the disenfranchised or dissatisfied. They long for meaning and relevance, and they are easy prey for the charismatic cult leader. As I have said before, perhaps your small group would have died out and the memory of your name with it if it had not been for the large group of Polish immigrants who eagerly fell into your waiting hands. The sad thing is that your church, which was built upon division, grew fat on the spoils of division. As you went about plundering other churches and religious movements, you brought division and strife to the people. Families were separated and hard feelings were created as you spread your doctrine of rightness and judgment. It would have been one thing if you had gladly welcomed those who came, and not condemned those who didn’t. This is one of the sad fruits that is still seen today….the disruption of families, the wedges driven between husband and wife, parent and child, neighbor and friend. Your church today absolutely thrives on division, absolutely feasts on excluding and judging. This is a very powerful glue which holds everything together. It is certainly in the best interest of an individual to remain on the inside. In this manner they can continue to feel very good about themselves. They are bolstered by hundreds, even thousands, of other like-minded members. Quite often these people are not even sure what they believe. They quite often cannot even quote scripture to defend a particular belief or doctrine. This causes them very little, if any concern, for they have given all power over their lives unto the ministers. You would approve, I’m sure. But, you see, this can only be done if one aspect is well in place, and that is the threat of excommunication and shunning. This strikes such fear into the heart of a member that they will do anything to avoid it.
I notice as I read your book that you were immensely grieved over the laxness in the practice of the ban. I could almost feel bad for you, hurting like that in such a spiritual way, if I didn’t sense something quite sinister behind it. You seem to hate those who fall short of your standard. You must make a division between lesser beings and yourself. How will this happen if the church is weak in practicing the ban? Not only will the bad ones fail to be set apart, but the good ones will not be nearly so easily recognized. What is the point of being an extremely good church member if the bad ones are not ostracized severely? I know that you love this division. You love an extremely strong division between good people and bad people, because this makes it all the more clear how good you are. Do I seem to be harping on this a bit? I’m afraid I must. There is something about the way you loved and taught the ban that seems to cancel out love and mercy. I do not mean that sin should be overlooked, sin is a serious matter, but man does not change another man. Only God can do it. More often than not, God uses man to help other men by loving them, not by being judgmental and harsh with them. Maybe you could be forgiven. Perhaps you did not foresee the lengths to which this thing would be taken. Maybe it was a bit like Hitler in the cradle as a newborn…rather a cute harmless baby, with no hint of the monster that was to come.
You can be sure that I will write more about the evil of the shun as it is practiced today. The church leaders like to refer to it as “a scriptural avoidance.” This term encompasses a lot, all under the guise of being scriptural. Very soon we shall examine exactly what the scriptures say about “avoidance.”
Hoping for truth justice mercy and love