Anabaptists are a Christian offshoot that formed during the Protestant Reformation who believe that infant baptism is not valid and only believers are to be baptized. They are known for their pacifism and their simple way of life. The Amish are an Anabaptist sect. Similar to the Puritans, religious persecution in England drove many Anabaptists to settle in the colonies that became the United States of America.
The Anabaptists began as early as 1521 in Zwickau, Switzerland. Their doctrinal beliefs include:
- Infant baptism is unbiblical and only adults should be baptized
- There should be a restoration of primitive Christianity without oaths, capital punishment and a church hierarchy
- Congregations and communities should establish a new kingdom of God
- Opposition to war (pacifism)
The traditional view that modern Baptists are largely descendants of the Anabaptists has been strongly disputed by the clergyman L. L. Clover in his book The Church: Her Origin, Purpose, Doctrine, and History. Quoting Religious Denominations of the World, Clover writes:
"In church history, the name of Anabaptists is generally applied to a class of fanatical men who at the beginning of the Reformation in the 16th century, raised violent disturbances in the center of Europe and brought upon themselves a lasting odium. These men ... rejected the baptism of infants and baptized all who adopted their views, which were really more political than religious. These religio-political fanatics ... differed from the Baptists except in the single point of baptism. ...
"The fanatical Antibaptists ... were originally from Germany, where ... they had made known their displeasure at the oppressions of the so-called feudal system ... at the time of the Reformation, sought in the new religion an augmented power and made the most shameful misuse of it ... The Antibaptists ought by no means to be considered the same as the Baptists. ...