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    PloughCast 56: Felix Manz and the Birth of Anabaptism

    Pain and Passion, Part 7

    By Jason Landsel, Peter Mommsen and Susannah Black Roberts

    April 26, 2023

    About This Episode

    Jason Landsel, author of a new graphic novel, talks about the Radical Reformation and its legacy.

    Peter and Susannah give a brief but lively summary of the story of the life of Felix Manz, one of the original Radical Reformers who was a founder of what would become the Anabaptist movement.

    [You can listen to this episode of The PloughCast on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

    His story, bound together with the story of Ulrich Zwingli, the Magisterial Reformer of Zurich, raises questions about the role of state authority in the life of the church, freedom of conscience, and the nature of conversion, which are still passionately debated today.

    Peter and Susannah speak with Jason about the political-theological issues involved, the role of humanism and the return to sources in the Reformation, and the personal story too: Manz had been Zwingli’s protégé, almost his surrogate son, before he sentenced him to death.

    They discuss also the historical background to the debates over baptism and tithes and church membership and independence which fueled the drama of Felix’s life, which involved a number of jailbreaks as well as intellectual ferment. The Ottoman armies were advancing, and Catholic Europe and the other Reformed areas were watching as this debate over the future of the Reformation played out in Zurich.

    Recommended Reading


    Susannah Black Roberts: Welcome back to the PloughCast! This is the fourth episode in our new series, covering our Pain and Passion issue. I’m Susannah Black Roberts, senior editor at Plough.

    Peter Mommsen: And I’m Peter Mommsen, editor-in-chief of Plough. In this episode, we’re speaking with Jason Landsel, member of the Bruderhof and author of Plough’s new graphic novel, By Water, a true story of the sixteenth-century Radical Reformation.

    Because contrary to Christian order and custom, Felix Manz had become involved in Anabaptism, had accepted it, taught others, and become a leader and beginner of these things. Because he confessed having said that he wanted to gather those who wanted to accept Christ and follow him and unite himself with them through baptism and let the rest live according to their faith so that he and his followers separated themselves from the Christian church and were about to raise up and prepare a sect of their own under the guise of a Christian meeting and church. Because he had condemned capital punishment and in order to increase his following, had boasted of certain revelations from the Pauline epistles, but since such doctrine is harmful to the unified usage of all Christendom and leads to offense, insurrection and sedition against the government, to the shattering of the common peace, brotherly love and civil cooperation, and to all evil, Manz shall be delivered to the executioner who shall tie his hands, put him into a boat, take him to the lower hut, there strip his bound hands down over his knees, place a stick between his knees and arms, and thus push him into the water and let him perish in the water. Thereby he shall have atoned to the law and justice. His property shall also be confiscated by my lords.

    So that was the death sentence for Felix Manz, humanist, young theologian and co-founder of their Radical Reformation. On January 5, 1527, the Great Council of Zurich met and read that out to him. And then he was in fact taken from where the judgment was said back to his prison and then from his prison brought to a boat where he was rowed out to what was called the fisher’s hut in the middle of the river that runs through Zurich and tied up as described and plunged into the icy waters of the Limmat River, as many Anabaptist hagiographers have recounted. Meanwhile, from the bank, his mother, Anna Manz, is shouting to him, “Do not give in, Felix.” And before he is plunged in, he repeated the last words of Jesus. He actually sang them, “Into thy hands, I commend my spirit,” and died at the age of twenty-nine.

    So Felix Manz, founder of the Radical Reformation, whatever that is, we’re going to get into that. Also, the hero of a new graphic novel, By Water, being published by Plough. And we’ll have the lead author of that coming on shortly. But Susannah, you are an expert in Anabaptist and Radical Reformation history, well known for your sympathy and interest, and sort of non-violent communitarian, pro-freedom of conscience types of people, anti-establishment. Who was Felix Manz?

    Susannah Black Roberts: I am entirely not a historian of the Radical Reformation, but I can do this. So Felix Manz was born in about 1498 in Zurich, Switzerland. He was the illegitimate son of a priest.

    Peter Mommsen: So his mother, Anna, who’s shouting these words of encouragement to him from the bank because he could have been spared if he had recanted as so many in the Reformation were, was actually, I take it, the concubine of a priest?

    Susannah Black Roberts: She was, and that was fairly common in those times. And they actually lived on a street right near the Grossmünster Church where his father worked. We don’t really know much about his early education, although he seems to have acquired a thorough knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew somehow, which is more than I can say for me. He later probably studied abroad in Paris where he encountered the works of Thomas More and Erasmus.

    Peter Mommsen: Right, I believe there’s a record of him actually getting a scholarship to Paris. And there he ran into the frat boy of the Radical Reformation.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Right. Conrad Grebel, who is a fellow student with a reputation for brawling and partying who, yeah, with Felix became later a co-founder of the Anabaptist Movement.

    Peter Mommsen: So brief digression, the soon to be non-violent reformer Conrad Grebel, actually got in big trouble in Paris for I believe killing somebody in a dual.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Right. They come back to Zurich, or they come to Zurich, and lo and behold, in Zurich in 1519 when Felix was, what would he be, twenty-one, Ulrich Zwingli came to Zurich and became the people’s priest at the Grossmünster Church. He was a reformer. He was, he was sort of the third of the big three if you think of Luther and Calvin. Zwingli was the one who came after them. And he was determined to reform the Catholic church and he began to preach straight from the Gospel of Matthew and other New Testament books. And what happened then, Pete?

    Peter Mommsen: OK, so the Grossmünster Church is actually, if you go to Zurich, which I’ve been able to do a few times, and it’s one of my favorite cities actually, despite not really being into Swiss stuff, sorry Swiss people. But the Grossmünster Church plays a big part in this story because it’s right next to Manz’s mother’s house. I’m going to keep on returning to that. Manz has no dad and he kind of cottons on to Zwingli. Zwingli is gathering this group of young men, young humanists, together to read Latin and Greek authors, part of the whole ad fontes humanist and later reformer thing that you used to do. So they read Homer, but they also read the Gospels. They read a lot of the Gospels because Zwingli was preaching straight through the Gospel of Matthew in the Grossmünster Church and in the process, reforming the city of Zurich. And right away, right away, and this is very cool because this is part of this story, like Zwingli is getting together with these guys, I believe every Tuesday night if I have it right, and they’re studying, they’re reading, they’re debating the scripture, they’re debating old authors.

    We assume the words, Erasmus and More are being read. We know Erasmus is corresponding with a lot of these guys. So that whole idea of going back to the roots of not buying into sort of Christendom as it was, but returning to the sources, a purer gospel is very much in the air and Zwingli is doing some really good stuff, Susannah. So he is instituting an entire social welfare system in the city by, so to speak, nationalizing or whatever you do when you’re a city state, the religious foundations, the various monasteries that dominated the city.

    He is also cracking down on the mercenary system that plays a huge role in the Swiss economy, especially for patricians, who would kind of get together a bunch of peasants and rent them out to the King of France or the Pope or whoever, to fight some wars. And Zwingli was actually a veteran and had seen action at the Battle of Marignano in Italy between the King of France’s forces and the Papal forces, an absolutely bloody, brutal, horrible, horrible battle that seems to have turned him strongly against this extremely exploitative system of mercenary enrichment. Sort of like the sixteenth-century form of the Wagner group in Russia right now.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Or Blackwater, although, you know, well, anyway.

    Peter Mommsen: I think more, I think more Wagner group.

    Susannah Black Roberts: OK, so what happened during these kinds of Tuesday night sessions, late night discussion groups and reading sessions was that Felix quickly became Zwingli’s disciple and in fact friend and also fellow worker. And together, they actually translated the Bible into German. That was the project that they did together.

    Peter Mommsen: OK, so like a big asterisk for you historians there, a lot of this is reconstructions that have been done and were done by the author Jason Landsel based on a pretty thin historical record. But it’s pretty clear these people are thick as thieves. And Zwingli has this group of young enthusiasts who are supporting him in what’s a very contentious time in Zurich where you have, obviously not everyone loves the changes being done, both liturgical, for instance, this sort of gradual abandonment of the liturgy of the mass, and the careful removal of icons. There is some iconoclasm, but it’s not uncontrolled directly in Zurich. And also these pretty big economic changes that are being made with the sort of winding down of the monasteries. And so these are his, I guess if we would make an analogy to say the Chinese revolution, this is his cadre.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And just to bear in mind again, not everyone is going to be happy about this within Zurich and especially outside of Zurich. People have their eyes on this city.

    Peter Mommsen: I mean Zwingli was ordained, he was an ordained priest. So he’s not just some random … he was hired properly, but then he’s taking things a hard steer.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Yeah, he’s going a bit rogue.

    Peter Mommsen: And the Bishop of Constance, who is his hierarchical superior in the church, we won’t say the Catholic church yet because it wasn’t distinct yet, is extremely unhappy and sends an envoy to Zurich to debate Zwingli about his reforms.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Do you want to tell a little bit about what happened during that debate?

    Peter Mommsen: Yeah, well there’s a bunch of debates and the upshot is basically that in 1523 the council meets, and here’s the bishop’s envoy who’s defending the rights of the Diocese of Constance, but ultimately a Papal authority. And Zwingli is making the sola scriptura argument. There is a whole other debate about the relationship of Zwingli’s reformation to Luther’s reformation, which of course had begun about two years earlier. Zwingli started preaching in 1519. Martin Luther famously nailed up his 95 theses if he did in 1517. But be that as it may, maybe a bit of convergent evolution, you could say, and Zwingli and Manz and friends are ecstatic. They imagine, all of them imagine, this new Christian commonwealth purified of all the bad stuff, reformed, taking shape within Zurich as a kind of city on a hill.

    Susannah Black Roberts: But soon enough things became a little bit more complicated. So obviously Zwingli’s whole approach was back to the sources, ad fontes, let’s read the Gospels, let’s stick to the text of scripture, let scripture alone dictate our faith in action. And Manz felt that, Manz and his friends, including Grebel, felt that Zwingli was not living up to this ideal. They saw him making what they saw as compromises by yielding to the rulings of the city government on church reforms, basically letting the city council decide on what reforms would go forward, rather than going straight from the scripture to enacting them through the church.

    Peter Mommsen: And this is fascinating, because this whole debate of what is the place of the civil authority in the church or in the church’s teaching, does the civil authority have any authority over the church or is the church supreme and autonomous? Goes all the way back deep into the medieval era, right? Canossa, the emperor Henry having to …

    Susannah Black Roberts: Kneel in the snow.

    Peter Mommsen: Kneel in the snow. All that stuff is playing out in Zurich, and Zwingli makes the pragmatic decision. I think it’s pretty pragmatic because I don’t think he derived it from his reading of the New Testament, that the Great Council of Zurich, the representative of the bourgeois segment of Zurich’s society is going to be the tool through which the Gospel is restored in Zurich.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And to a certain degree, obviously this is something that we can’t really call them the Catholics as opposed to the Protestant society.

    Peter Mommsen: They called them the old believers, I believe.

    Susannah Black Roberts: The old believers. So to a certain degree, this is something that the old believers would’ve been just as upset about as in fact Felix was. Because in both cases they would’ve seen this as the state taking a role, taking authority over the church in ways that were inappropriate. But they kind of were looking at it from different directions or from different sides of their face. That doesn’t make sense, but whatever.

    Peter Mommsen: And this story has sometimes been told, especially I should say, and I speak as an Anabaptist, in this sort of traditional Anabaptist historiography as this kind of pure debate over ideas, the theology of the magisterial reformation versus what later became the Anabaptists, a more, you could say, rigorous or enthusiastic approach if we want to use Luther’s language. But really that’s not all that’s going on because there’s a huge economic component to this. So there’s a huge debate over tithes. Zurich controls a lot of the territory around it, and the city government, which has now taken over the various Ecclesiastical institutions in the city, is the beneficiary of these tithes. So tithes become one of the first things that they fight about. If you can’t justify tithes on the basis of the New Testament, as Manz and friends start to argue, that is an extremely uncomfortable direction for a reformation to be taking if you’re trying to work with a city government that is benefiting from the tithes paid by peasants in this pretty big territory.

    Susannah Black Roberts: So just a little note on terminology here. Magisterial Reformation refers to, I think the primary reference is that these are reformers who are kind of working with the magistrate, working with city governments. The ministers are working with the magistrates and the Radical Reformation, that’s not the case. So that is at least my understanding of the terminology.

    Peter Mommsen: And so we notice an increasing split. Meanwhile, things are heating up in the countryside because Felix Manz is preaching. And then we come to this thorny issue of baptism. The word Anabaptist means re-baptizer, so someone who has already been baptized as an infant, as was universal in Christendom at the time, and as is also not coincidentally the basis of kind of civil control, this unity of civil and religious authority.

    Susannah Black Roberts: When you were baptized, that’s when you became a citizen. That’s when you started to, that was when you had legal sort of reality in the eyes of the city.

    Peter Mommsen: Church membership equals civil membership in civil society. And so Manz and friends, Grebel, discuss, as they do about many topics, they discuss the question of baptism with Zwingli. And initially, oddly enough, he actually agrees with them that their biblical arguments against infant baptism for a voluntary church in which you only enter into on confession of your faith, sort of based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 28, that you need to be a disciple to kind of be baptized. That’s how they understood it. He first says, you know, you guys have a point. But as political opposition builds in the city and he’s navigating between these two wings of the old believers on the one hand, the sort of radicals on the other, and then the council’s need is politically not to go too crazy.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Breathing down his neck.

    Peter Mommsen: He kind of first puts on the brakes and then completely withdraws from his initial sympathy from this position and says, nope, on tithes and on baptism. So on these two signs of the unity of civil society with Christian society, we’re not actually going to change too much.

    Susannah Black Roberts: That is really interesting because I had not sort of thought about it in terms of baptism being the sign of primarily the problem or not a major problem being that it’s the sign of entrance into the civil realm as well as entrance into the church.

    Peter Mommsen: Well, and that’s indicated in Manz’s death sentence where among the things that he is charged with is opposition to capital punishment, so the idea that a Christian can’t be an executioner. And also his idea that people should voluntarily join together in what the council regards to this sect, and he regards as a voluntary church.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And primarily, not to get too far away from this, where they were getting this from was not abstract argumentation. As Conrad Grebel wrote, “We were listeners to Zwingli’s sermons and readers of his writings. But one day we took the Bible itself in hand and were taught better.” So they are doing the extremely Protestant thing of reading for themselves and coming to their own conclusions. They “did their own research.” So on January 17, 1525, a pretty sort of momentous event happened. Pete, do you want to talk about that?

    Peter Mommsen: Yes. So this is two years before Manz’s death. He’s age twenty-seven now. And Zwingli has another debate, this time with his erstwhile friends and students about the issue of baptism and not surprisingly, the great council rules, infant baptism is the way we’re going here in this city. They ordered all the Anabaptists first of all to baptize their infants. And there were several of them who had had babies sort of like in the last few months and had not brought them to church to get baptized. And it also bans, I guess by implication, re-baptism of adults on the basis of this new understanding of voluntary Christianity. And so on January 21, in defiance of this, just a few days after this city council had issued this ruling, the Anabaptists get together in Anna Manz’s house, I kind of view her as this kind of hostess, really a kind of sixteenth-century Phoebe or Priscilla, one of those early Christian women whose houses were a center of the church, and something happens there that is a bit Pentecostal in a sense. But the upshot is that Conrad Grebel kneels down and asks a renegade priest there, Georg Blaurock, to baptize him. And then in turn baptizes Felix and the others. And this is the beginning of Anabaptism and of the Radical Reformation.

    Susannah Black Roberts: So there’s actually a line that in his defense Manz wrote about why they refused to obey the ruling of the Zurich elders, and that I think is really striking. Manz wrote, “Even an angel from heaven can’t teach other than what has been mentioned above. The eternally true word of God will sing in every man’s heart, whether he works against it or not. It remains the truth of God.” And for some reason this sort of reminded me of Galileo, like there’s an element, there’s something very, I mean obviously it’s deeply Christian, but there’s also something that’s sort of distinctively early renaissance about it. Nevertheless, the earth moves. There’s a sort of clarion call to reality that was just striking to me.

    Peter Mommsen: And it is the Renaissance, it’s also the spirit of the Reformation everywhere. It’s Luther standing before the Diet of the Holy Roman empire and saying, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” And so this group, now newly radicalized, and through this act of civil disobedience, voluntary outlaws, began to preach in public, not so much in Zurich because that’s dangerous, but in the surrounding areas, and offering baptism to any who request it. They find an enthusiastic audience, especially among you could say the working class, the farmers, artisans, who are worn down by crippling tithes, want a better life, who also want autonomy in their local communities. For instance, the ability of a village to choose its own priest instead of having some absent curate wished on them, and for their own tithes to go to the upkeep of their own church, their own village’s church. And you could see right away that there’s huge potential for the civil authority to see this as absolutely seditious.

    Susannah Black Roberts: But at least by all accounts we have at this time, in this particular town, Zollikon, which is nearby to Zurich, there was a real renewal of life among the Christians there. They were starting to live out a changed life in a kind of distinctively remarkable way. This was a revival that led to changes in people’s lives.

    Peter Mommsen: From my point of view, and we’ll get into this a little later in the podcast, you can already see within days of that first baptism in January 1525, the first marks of this new movement. So the communitarianism in a little village of Zollikon outside of Zurich, people immediately break off the locks and doors of their houses. They share their food, they share their resources with each other. They confess their sins to each other. They ask each other for forgiveness. There’s reconciliation. You know, you can imagine feuding farmers who’ve had grudges against each other forever, like people do in every farming village I’ve ever been in, reconciling. And it’s an immensely inspiring time. In Jason’s book, he ties it, I think a bit speculatively, but convincingly to the vision of utopia that Thomas Moore had imagined, but only literarily, of this new society where people are committed to nonviolence, they’re committed to communitarianism, to economic sharing, and they’re committed radically to this idea of freedom of conscience that a coerced faith is no faith at all. And the city council is very unhappy.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Yeah, so this does not last very long.

    Peter Mommsen: I think we pulled an interesting letter from the Zurich City Council that kind of describes their view of what’s going on.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Go for it. Why don’t you read that.

    Peter Mommsen:

    For a long time we have had among us one who calls himself Felix Manz. The same has created much trouble and discord among our people by baptizing old people and corner preaching to such an extent that we ordered him to leave the city. After this, he returned and did as before, disregarding the public proclamation in the church forbidding adult baptism on penalty of death, loss of honor, and a loss of property. Therefore, we arrested him and held him a few days. Interestingly, despite the penalty of death thing, they didn’t kill him yet. But because he is an obstinate and recalcitrant person, we released him from prison. And because he is one of yours …

    This is the magistrate of Chur writing to Zurich actually, so he’s a Zurich citizen.

     . . . Because he is one of yours, we have sent him to you with a friendly request that you look after him and keep him in your territory please, so that we may be rid of him and our people remain quiet. Our people remain quiet. And in case of his return, we are not compelled to take severe measures against him.

    Susannah Black Roberts: So here’s my question there. He’s arrested and at one point, does he escape? Is that a separate arrest he escapes?

    Peter Mommsen: He’s arrested and escapes multiple times.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Oh, OK. All right.

    Peter Mommsen: He seems to be a bit of a handy guy. There’s actually a record of him escaping once, well, we’re not quite sure how, procuring a set of tools with which he returns and frees everyone else from their fetters and leads them out of the city dungeon where a group of his fellow believers are being kept and they all go out to the woods. And interestingly enough, so this is what, just not quite thirty years after Columbus yet, a little more than thirty years after Columbus, they imagine translocating to North America and living with “the red Indians over the sea.”

    Susannah Black Roberts: Wow. So at this point, he has been arrested and escaped a couple times. And at this point the Zurich government passes legislation threatening the death penalty for any re-baptizers.

    Peter Mommsen: And you can see this, the city council and Zwingli who is increasingly politically powerful in the city, he’s no mere spiritual leader anymore. He’s not officially the dictator of Zurich, but increasingly has made himself the king maker, is extremely frustrated. And that brings us up to 1527 where he’s caught one more time.

    Susannah Black Roberts: That’s December 1526, so right at the end of 1526 it looks like.

    Peter Mommsen: Yeah, 1526 exactly. Held for a number of months. One of Zwingli’s priests tried to change his mind, even right up as he’s being rowed to the execution place. And that’s when his mother is calling to him not to give in. Now, we don’t have that much written by Felix Manz. There’s a letter to Thomas Müntzer, the leader of the peasants’ revolt in 1523 that seems to be largely, at least a section of it, by Manz. At least that’s the going hypothesis, in which he supports Müntzer’s advocacy for the peasants and for what he views as their just cause, but admonishes him that the way of Christ cannot be advanced by the use of force of arms. He’s nonviolent right from the beginning.

    We do, however, have a hymn that’s in actually the Amish hymnal, the Ausbund. It’s unclear whether he wrote the hymn or whether he wrote prose text that was then made into a rhyming hymn. We actually sing it in a number of communities to this day. And I’d like to read that because it gives you a bit of a sense of Felix Manz. This is written shortly before his execution.

    The hymn is called, “I sing with exaltation.” And that’s the first line. So he is not desperate or questioning himself right before his execution.

    Sing praise to Christ our Savior, who in grace inclined
    to us, reveals his nature. Patient, loving, kind.
    His love divine outpouring he shows to everyone,
    Un-feigned and like his father's, as no other has done.
    Christ bids us, none compelling, to his glorious throne.
    He only who is willing Christ as Lord to own,
    He is assured of heaven, who will right faith pursue,
    with heart made pure do penance, sealed with baptism true.

    So in that last stanza, we see some of those main themes. Christ bids us, none compelling. There’s no role for state coercion in the following of Christ. He only who is willing Christ as Lord to own. So that voluntariness pursuing right faith and doing penance sealed with baptism. So baptism as a seal of repentance.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And there’s also a real political, there’s a sort of a focus on political allegiance here. So Christ as Lord, you’re throwing your lot in with Christ’s kingdom as opposed to the kingdoms of the world. That’s sort of how he would’ve understood it.

    Peter Mommsen: Right. So this is very much inspired by the statement of the first apostles in Jerusalem when they’re in trouble with the Jerusalem civil authority saying, we must obey God rather than men. And so this is Felix Manz. It’s a fantastic story. It’s a story of this strange father-son relationship between Zwingli the reformer and Manz, his protégé, which then ends with Zwingli’s blessing, the execution of his erstwhile spiritual son. Really, really compelling.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Just a little housekeeping before we continue with the rest of our discussion. Heads up – we have a new format! As opposed to each episode containing two segments, we’re switching to just one segment per episode. But you’re not getting any less content – rather than having six weeks on and six weeks off, we’re just going to be giving you an episode every single week. There’ll also continue to be Plough reads, audio versions of our articles, however, which you’ll be able to access through a different channel.

    Peter Mommsen: And don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes! We’ll be back with our conversation with Jason after the break.


    And with that, we should probably invite on Jason Landsel, who is the lead author. This is a graphic novel, so there’s a few. Jason is, I guess in film language, sort of the producer director of the book, Rich Mommsen, who’s my brother and the producer of this podcast is the script writer, and Sankha Banerjee did a lot of the art. He’s, we’ll talk about him a bit with Jay later, an artist from Calcutta, India. So, welcome Jason.

    You know that line, “Christ bids us, none compelling.” So people hear the word Anabaptism, they probably think of Amish, Mennonites, people driving around in buggies, the whole debate over the age at which one should be baptized. I think we’ll get into that a little bit later. But really what it boils down to is this issue of compulsion, of coercion, of what is the place of state power in regard to faith and to freedom of conscience. So we’re going to dig into this a bit later in this podcast, but just to kind of tease for our readers, one of the topics we’d love to return to on this podcast is the relation of faith, of Christianity, to public life, to society now. Political theology is the word.

    And so there’s some things in Anabaptism, in this story of the radical Reformation, that leap out, Jason. The question of nonviolence, right. That death sentence that I read at the beginning singles out the fact that Manz condemns capital punishment, which ironically was one reason why he himself was put to death. So nonviolence, freedom of conscience, so this lack of compulsion. And then another thing that you bring out beautifully in the novel is what happens in this little hamlet of Zollikon. They have this revival, right. It’s like Asbury, maybe. And immediately, these newly radicalized peasants, basically, they share everything. I mean, there’s this kind of outbreak of this Book of Acts, Pentecostal, all things in common, sharing everything. Right, Jason?

    Jason Landsel: Yeah, no, there’s a remarkable little book written about this by a man called Fritz Blanke. And yeah, he describes that as a very spontaneous result of this renewal and people finding a new life, they talk about breaking locks off their doors, sharing possessions, meeting in each other’s homes, forgiving each other, greater looking after their neighbors. It was a very spontaneous, free, and lively church experience. And it didn’t last long, but it happened and it was quite remarkable.

    Peter Mommsen: So we’ll drill down on that in a bit. I mean, I bet you will, Susannah.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Oh yeah, I’ll be …

    Peter Mommsen: Some of these things, freedom of conscience, nonviolence, economic sharing and equality, that sounds kind of liberal.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Yeah.

    Peter Mommsen: Those are ideas that were super radical in 1525.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And are still radical today to a large degree. Well, some of them are.

    Peter Mommsen: Right, but they’re ideals that are pretty widely affirmed. So this is why the story matters. My point is only that, although it can sound like this really niche incident from the Reformation, it’s kind of relevant to a lot of the things we talk about today.

    Susannah Black Roberts: So what I’m wondering about first though is, how did you get interested in this? What’s your connection to the story? How did you first hear about this?

    Jason Landsel: It goes back quite a ways actually. I mean, this particular project was pitched to me a few years back, and I’ve had a very long standing interest in both medieval and early Anabaptist history. Coincidentally, back in the eighth grade already I was assigned to write a report on Felix’s story for history class. So we go back a ways. And I’ve been inspired to explore this story and that history more over the years. And on a more personal note, my wife, she is a descendant of these early reformers. Her background is from the Hutterite background. And so an inspiration for me was to also explore and bring this story alive for both my family and her family, and readers nowadays, to learn from and be aware of this. So those are a couple of the things that drove me to pursue and work on this project as long as we have.

    Peter Mommsen: And of course, this was the Manz story, what was happening in Zurich with Ulrich Zwingli. And so there’s this happening on the intellectual side, and then simultaneously there’s this pretty massive revolutionary movement that gets kind of lumped together under the category of Peasants’ War, which breaks out in 1525. Do you want to talk about that bit, Jason? What are the economic stressors, and what’s the connection between that and this kind of radical Christian vision that Manz is talking about?

    Jason Landsel: Well, from my reading and understanding, the Peasants’ War actually started out as a very Biblically based intention to reform society and use the Bible again as a sort of blueprint for how society should be structured. That of course, was not what happened due to the rejection of the petitions and efforts of the early peasant leaders. And then very quickly the movement became very violent. But interestingly, as the Anabaptist missionaries went out, they often went to these areas that had very close connections to the peasant revolt, and found actually great response and many converted from the ranks of these people that had been drawn to this revolutionary war-like effort. And as that failed and so many were horrifically killed, again, they were looking for something different and knew that might actually bring change and bring something new to their lives. So there was a very close connection between the two.

    Peter Mommsen: I mean, Marx and Engels identified that peasants’ war as a sort of a proto-socialist movement. I mean, what were some of the demands of the peasant war? You actually have a character in the novel who is associated with that peasants’ revolt.

    Jason Landsel: I have the twelve points of the peasant thing in front of me, but again, it was basically a restructuring of society. Economic justice, fair governance, equal rights to the land, the right to work and survive, be paid and fed in a way that people could live and survive, and freedom from just an oppressive governing system.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And also, of course, the social organization that happened during the revival in particular, it was called community of goods. It’s been called communism. And that is something that we associate now with state communism, but communism is a more general term. So it feels to me like these are all sort of political ideas, which are … we see them first looming out of the mist of the Middle Ages. We see modern political ideas, or political ideas that look sort of familiar. You talked about freedom of conscience, nonviolence, and communitarianism. And freedom of conscience is something that tends to be looked at as a kind of liberal value. Nonviolence and communitarianism tend to be looked at sort of as liberal, but more as left, if you want to make that distinction. And it is really easy to look back at this and see, as Marx and Engels did, or as contemporary progressive liberals might want to, see this as the first flowering of something that would later become its real self, later become political liberalism and secularism.

    Peter Mommsen: Which shed its Christian overlay, and we’d talk about the real good materialist socialist stuff.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Right. It seems to me though that that would actually be … and that sort of view of history where things are progressing, and this often we’d call the Whig interpretation of history. And this fits very well, in a way, into that interpretation, but it also seems to me like that would be to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of what was actually going on. Even though this might seem like proto-liberalism, it actually was built on something quite different. This was something that was thoroughly Christian. So how do we see the difference between those things?

    Jason Landsel: Well, I think what’s inspired me about this story is again, that their desire was to, in every way possible, to disconnect from any sort of worldly system, any worldly governance, any human institution, and to rely and live entirely based on what the gospels and the will of God was. And that’s one of the things that I think is so strong about the example of their story and all these different levels, whether it’s nonviolence, whether it’s the structure of the church, baptism, the church life is set up, it all came down to what is God’s will. This had nothing to do with what people thought. They cared very little or not at all for the opinions of perhaps people considered more learned, teachers and reformers, might have said or thought. They were convinced and felt in their hearts that this was the way to go.

    And they also wanted to live it out in very clear and specific ways. For example, the way they conducted and lived their lives was a very strong feature to this movement. And even their enemies and detractors had to point out … for instance, there’s this quote here from Zwingli’s … one of his last writings against the Anabaptists in 1527, where he says, “If you investigate their life and conduct, it seems at first contact irreproachable. Pious, unassuming, attractive, above this world. Even those who are inclined to be critical will say that their lives are excellent.”

    And many of their enemies throughout the years pointed out that the way they … this was a very strong component of the movement, that living it out, not just preaching and talking about, but living it out, was such an important, vital part. And very specific things are mentioned about how they conducted themselves in public. And for instance, there’s another take from a Roman Catholic theologian who wrote an article against the Anabaptists, saying, “As concerns their outward public life, they are irreproachable. No lying, deception, swearing, strife, harsh language, no intemperate eating or drinking, no outward personal displays, was found amongst them. But humility, patience, uprightness, neatness, honesty, temperance, straightforwardness, in such measure that one would suppose that they had the Holy Spirit of God.”

    Susannah Black Roberts: But it was something that, unlike with contemporary liberalism, wasn’t focused on self-determination so much as they were trying to live out the Sermon on the Mount because they believed that this is what God commanded, and God empowered Christians to do. They were just trying to live as thoroughly a distilled version of Christianity, like a double distilled discipleship, as they could. So what was the heart of the objection? I mean, it was kind of an interesting …when Pete was reading the death sentence, it seems to me that the heart of the objection was where it says, “Follow him and unite, follow Christ and unite himself with them through baptism and let the rest live according to their faith.” So this was kind of seen as a drawing apart from the rest of people in society and a breaking up of the church. This was a threat to church unity.

    Peter Mommsen: But wasn’t it, Susannah, actually not just the church, but it was the church allied with the state that they were breaking away from?

    Susannah Black Roberts: Right.

    Peter Mommsen: I don’t know if Jason disagrees with me, but my interpretation of this story is, why was this a threat? Why did it merit the death penalty? Not because it was somehow theoretically heterodox, primarily, but because it threatened the political and social and economic system of sixteenth-century Europe. And these were not new ideas. I’m not even sure that Manz would’ve seen it as a double distilled discipleship. So take the idea of freedom of conscience. This is a deeply Christian idea. It goes back to the early church. Tertullian famously was the first to identify freedom of religion, that was his term, as a “human right”, and had written, this was 200 years after Christ. “See that you do not end up fostering irreligion by taking away freedom of religion, libertas religionis, and forbid free choice with respect to divine matters, so that I’m not allowed to worship what I wish, but I’m forced to worship what I do not wish.”

    It gets not only at sort of a liberal idea of liberty, I can do whatever I want. It’s ultimately about the nature of faith itself. Is a coerced faith real worship of God in the first place? And so I think each of these claims, these characteristically Anabaptist claims, are not modern. They’re certainly not invented in the liberal enlightenment. They’re stuff that goes back to the very roots of Christianity. Certainly economic sharing does. The Book of Acts tells how the believers shared all things in common, sold everything, laid it at the apostles’ feet. And then nonviolence. Well, I know, Susannah, you and I disagree about this one, but …

    Susannah Black Roberts: Well, I’m not pro-violence.

    Peter Mommsen: No, no, no, no, you’re not pro-violence. The New Testament is a pretty explicitly anti-violence set of texts, I think it’s fair to say.

    Susannah Black Roberts: I would agree with that.

    Peter Mommsen: So Jason, what’s your feeling on this? Because I think a lot of what matters about Anabaptism today has to do with this idea of voluntariness, versus state coercion, state violence, the very literal state violence that Manz himself suffered.

    Jason Landsel: No, I think it’s a very vital part of this free choice, free decision element of their … they didn’t want people that didn’t want to do it freely and willingly, as he says, “in the joy and delight of your soul,” and weren’t also willing then to make the sacrifices this choice made at that time. I mean, going back to the inspiration where we got the title of the book from, the early Anabaptist text where members promised faithfulness until death. It says, “Each should first count the cost carefully as to what he has to give up, but he should not counsel with flesh and blood, for those who would enter God’s service must be prepared to be attacked and to die for the truth and for the name of Christ, if it be God’s will, by fire, water, or the sword.”

    So it was absolutely very much about a choice made freely and again out of the desire and intention of the individual’s soul and willingness to commit and give absolutely everything. Property, giving in their property, became a very, very important element of this, as they did in the early church as described, you know, where the people came and laid their property at the disciples’ feet, again, willingly. So I would agree very much.

    Peter Mommsen: And so this text, you just read this early sixteenth-century Anabaptist text, and I have it in front of me, before me, as well. It probably dates from after Felix Manz, but that’s where the title comes from, By Water, right. “To die for the truth and for the name of Christ, if it be God’s will, by water, by fire, or by the sword.” And just so folks know, Plough is the publisher of this book, and it’s the first of a trilogy, and there will in fact be not only By Water, but also By Fire and By a Sword coming up. Isn’t that true?

    Jason Landsel:Yes. We are currently in the process of working on the next one, which is By Fire. So look for that sooner or later.

    Peter Mommsen: There’s two other things in the air that are not completely visible in this first book of the trilogy, but I think it’s just worth mentioning because they’re both … also seem kind of relevant. So you have this violent sort of revolutionary moment from below, the peasants’ revolt. You have humanism, going back to the sources, both of Christianity, but also just of western civilization, with the classics and people studying Greek and Latin and Hebrew. But then you have a threat from without. You have the threat of Muslim invasion of Europe. So this doctrine of nonviolence and communitarianism is pretty threatening if you’re a ruler in sixteenth-century Europe and you are worried about the Ottomans invading with huge armies, as they in fact do just a few years after Felix’s death. There’s a kind of fifth column sense to the radical Reformation, that we’re undermining the will of Christendom to defend itself militarily. And then this system of tithing, which of course wasn’t a voluntary thing either, but a huge source of economic oppression for your ordinary person.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And I think that it’s interesting to see the question of the threat from without and the need for solidarity within as a kind of nested thing. Because of course Zwingli, who is the one who had power over Felix Manz, and Zurich, were themselves pretty shaky. They had some backing from German princes, the Reformation did, but it still must have felt like a very fragile thing within Catholic Christendom. And so there is this kind of perpetual fear of the fifth column that works on both the Catholics and Protestants together who are worried about the Muslims, and then the Magisterial Protestants who are worried about the Catholics. So the Anabaptists are kind of the subject of a lot of different nested layers of fifth columns here.

    Peter Mommsen: I mean, Conrad Grebel, Manz’s buddy and fellow fighter, I guess, fellow non-violent fighter in the Radical Reformation, he has this weird family. His father is the leader of the Catholic faction within Zurich against Zwingli.

    Susannah Black Roberts: I forgot about that. That’s so weird.

    Peter Mommsen: I mean we almost … Jason, you almost put this in the book, right?

    Jason Landsel: Yeah.

    Peter Mommsen: The untimely death of Grebel’s father.

    Jason Landsel: The sudden execution of his father. Yeah.

    Peter Mommsen: So Zwingli was also killing Catholics at the same time, in fact Grebel’s own dad. I mean, that was a weird story. How did that happen?

    Jason Landsel: Well, one of Zwingli’s reforms was to abolish the mercenary movement, which was quite a profitable enterprise for Switzerland, the canton of Zurich included, and in what later appeared to be trumped-up charges of Conrad’s father getting back involved and taking payments again from this mercenary system, he had him very quickly executed in public, beheaded in the town square in a very rushed trial. I believe, if I remember correctly, he had the gates to the city shut right in the middle of the day, and he was an older man, and had him dragged out in the middle of the town and very quickly beheaded.

    But again, I think as Susannah said, Zwingli himself was under a lot of pressure to give the impression of being in control of the situation in Zurich, whether it was of the other reformers or the surrounding cantons. There was definitely that element. And that’s also why he needed to come down so hard on Manz and the others, that there could be no indication of weakness or that there were loopholes in what he was trying to do there. So that’s absolutely played out in the story.

    Peter Mommsen: Zwingli is actually a kind of sympathetic figure to me, although in the way we’ve been talking about him today, he’s the bad guy who kills our hero. You could just imagine him trying to keep this city state together. And you have the old believers, what would later be called Catholics, opposing you as you dissolve the monastic foundations and reform the liturgy and so on. And then you have these radicals who are your old friends, who are actually … I mean, Zwingli is almost a father figure to Felix Manz.

    Susannah Black Roberts: That’s the sort of emotional center of the book, I would say.

    Jason Landsel: Yeah. So we tried to show that this man is looking for a father or a mentor in that sense, yeah.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Yeah. So we talked about the way that this is not a sharp break from things that were present in the very early church. It’s also … Anabaptism is often thought to be a sharp break from medieval Christianity, but again, it’s not necessarily as sharp a break as is often thought. Do you want to talk a little bit about things like the Devotio Moderna and the medieval spirituality that this was coming out of?

    Jason Landsel: The way I also see it, yes, my understanding of the history is the Anabaptist movement came out of a long thread of the spirit working in history for many, many hundreds of years prior to this. You look at the Waldensian movement, the Franciscans, the Beguines, the Beghards, many others, people wanted to get back to the spirit, the essence of what a true life lived in service to Christ and the gospel really meant. And so I would say absolutely, it was just a continuance and maybe just a bigger outbreak of this working of the Spirit through medieval throughout history and the world. Leading up to this there’s many, many figures and inspirational movements who in their own way, I mean, they didn’t break entirely out of the church structure, but worked to try and reform and, again, live a more godly, Christ-centered life in their setting. And then the Anabaptists I just see as a continuation of that movement and people working to live out a more true and pure faith.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And some of those figures are inspirations for the Bruderhof now, including Thomas à Kempis and Meister Eckhart. We can include some of those links in the show notes if anyone wants to dig more into that.

    Peter Mommsen: There’s this long tradition of the imitation of Christ. Of course it’s the title of Thomas à Kempis’s classic book, what, 500 years or a little less before Felix Manz. So this idea of discipleship, of imitating Christ, of going the way of the suffering Christ, was certainly not something that Anabaptists invented. They were carrying forward, you could say, some of those same inspirations that also made a Saint Francis or a Saint Clare or a Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. Forsake worldly success in order to be closer to Christ and to be closer to the poor.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And of course, the critique of worldly clerics, which obviously Felix’s father was one, because priests by this time really were not supposed to have concubines, was not something that the Anabaptists invented. There were reform movements within the Catholic church that had been critiquing these things for a long time.

    Peter Mommsen: They definitely took it to another level. I mean, I guess all these guys did. I mean, Luther on worldly clerics is quite something. But then again, some of the Counter Reformation Catholic authors on worldly clerics are quite something.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Yeah. They are not happy either.

    Peter Mommsen: Not happy at all. Switching the topic a little bit, it’d be great to hear, Jason, a little bit about the research that you put in. I mean, you’ve traveled over and gone to a lot of these sites, and that is also obvious in the artwork itself. One of the things that struck me about, I got to say, some fairly rave pre-publication reviews, from Kirkus reviews, Foreword reviews, from Mark Russell, who’s the Eisner Award winning author of the graphic novels Not All Robots and My Bad, focuses on the artwork, the way that this medieval visual idiom shows up in your book. So how did you immerse yourself in that whole world?

    Jason Landsel: Well, for one, I’ve had a longstanding interest in comics, going back to when I was a kid. More on the Marvel DC level. But then later discovering and reading the works of graphic novelists, like Alan Moore, Will Eisner, Mike Mignola, Hayao Miyazaki, and many others, and developed a real appreciation for the graphic novel format and just the work and the way these artists and many others presented stories and brought them alive. So I guess in researching this, I had a lot of this inspiration to the back of it. How can we tell this story, which again is a very unique story, very niche kind of story, in a way that would have a broad appeal to a wider range of readers and not just people maybe interested in religious history?

    So I, also being a person that enjoys research and this type of stuff, obviously it started out with just a lot of reading, dozens of books, looking at this story from all kinds of different angles, from historical to the art to the social, the uniqueness of the time, social practices, geography, maps, that sort of thing. I did a deep dive into the artwork, being, again, someone that enjoys and appreciates art, the many different artists at the time period, just seeing what their take was on life at this time, and then making notes of the different pieces and works that I thought might add and contribute to this story.

    And then as Pete mentioned, we had a chance to travel over to Europe a few years ago and do pretty extensive research on the different locations that we might consider including in the story, from caves up in the mountains to farms to paths up over the Alps where they, in the later, the upcoming books, would’ve evacuated and escaped, to churches, to execution sites, the prisons, dungeons, you name it. In this case, the street where Felix grew up and lived most of his life with his mother, the Grossmünster church, to see that the distance between Ulrich Zwingli’s house and where Felix lived is literally a minute or two walk, they were literally neighbors with each other, to bring these different elements into that story.

    And again, I enjoy museums, many, many museums, both in Europe, and then the Met down in New York has been an incredible inspiration and resource. And just again, details, things, elements we can include in the visuals. So in developing this as well as writing the story, then I also did a lot of concept art, character sketches. Prue drew a lot of spreads and ideas, which then when it came time to produce the book in collaboration with both Sankha, the artist, and then Rich and working on the script, all came to be very useful in putting this book and story together.

    Particularly the artwork, working very, very closely with Sankha. Again, as we discussed earlier, Sankha’s background is in Indian mythology. Wonderful books and presentations he’s done on that. And he had very little, actually no information or background in this particular story or the subjects we covered. And to be able to work together in creating this frame by frame, going back and forth, was remarkable, and again, great collaboration and working together. So I’m quite pleased how it turned out and that the reception has been as good as it is.

    Peter Mommsen: Sankha Banerjee did the actual artwork under your sort of creative direction. I mean, when we first started working with him, I was involved as the book editor from the publishing house side. And I remember wondering how this guy who specializes in some pretty out there, you could say, Hindu myths, was going to … how is he going to handle sixteenth-century Reformation history? And I thought he brought actually a really great sensibility to the project, kind of fresh eyes.

    Jason Landsel: Yeah, I was again, very appreciative, especially of the more imaginative spreads like the opening spread and some others throughout the book where you … again, we shared similar interests in artists, whether Hieronymus Bosch or Bruegel, Albrecht Durer or others. We based specific scenes around paintings and works by those artists specifically. I’m interested in a lot of the sort of apocalyptic art and fervor of the time, the Augsburg Book of Miracles, other similar works, and just sharing those together, creating the different spreads and frames. It really worked out and it was great.

    Susannah Black Roberts: I’m just so curious about what it’s like to come from a completely different culture and religious setting and encounter these ideas and these stories for the first time. Or maybe not for the first time, I’m sure he had some background of Christian knowledge, just because it’s part of culture in India as well. But what were the conversations like?

    Jason Landsel: I definitely had to explain things like baptism or … I think actually a lot of these things were quite new to him at the time. I remember him saying he has no particular religious faith per se. But then in working together and then as he began to understand the story and also understand our connection to the story, living here in the Bruderhof, and our personal interest in it, and how we also try and continue to live out a lot of this, his appreciation for it grew and it was actually really great. So lots of the back and forths we had just as it began to … the pieces sort of began to fall into place, and realizing what this was actually really all about. And I could say, after having done one book, and now we’re starting on the second, we’re a really good connection there on what we’re actually trying to accomplish, in the sense of also reverence for the story and an appreciation for what these people did and how they lived and the commitments and sacrifices they made.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And of course, the third person involved in this is actually our sound guy, Pete’s brother, Rich. Hi, Rich. Yeah, I mean, looking at the book, you can see it, you could see that it’s a labor of love and a labor of care.

    Jason Landsel: It’s been quite a journey and the fact that it’s actually … the book exists and I can now share it with the rest of the world, I find very inspiring and exciting.

    Peter Mommsen: There’s something so interesting about the graphic novel as a genre, right? I mean, just watching this take shape, it struck me that it’s a lot more like directing a movie than it is writing a text narrative. And it really jumps off the page. It’s super-intriguing to experience a story like this visually. I think there’s only like 3000 words in the book. And yet for this pretty complex little piece of history, which had huge repercussions down to today, far beyond just narrowly what happened to the Anabaptists, it’s just something I’m super excited about and very glad to share with our listeners today. Needless to say, dear listeners, check it out. We’re going to drop a link to the book in our show notes. You can also check out the first chapter, which we published in Plough Spring 2023 issue, which follows the boy Manz. And he has this kind of underwater vision of the founding saints of Zurich, Felix and Regula, whom he’s named after.

    Jason Landsel: That was one of my favorite … well, one my favorite threads in the story was working that legend into this, and making that connection where again, as a boy, he encounters these and how he later at the end of his life makes that connection to the wider circle of the cloud of witnesses. As it says in the Bible, the martyrs, those who have gone before.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Is there any indication that he thought of them or that he was like … do we know for sure that … do we have words from him or from others that he was inspired by them?

    Jason Landsel: No, just that it’s very much part of Zurich culture. I mean, the two towers, the Grossmünster church, the two towers, that each tower represents one of each of them.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Yeah, really …

    Jason Landsel: I’m sure he would’ve been aware of the legend. I mean, it’s very much still present in the culture.

    Peter Mommsen: This was the pilgrimage destination.

    Jason Landsel: It also was a pilgrimage destination, yeah.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Yeah. It really does seem like if you really want someone to not have a kind of passionate commitment to potentially dying for their faith, you don’t really want to tell them stories about people who they’re named after who did that, when they’re children.

    Peter Mommsen: So for folks who, like me, didn’t know the story of Felix and Regula, they are two early Christian martyrs, sort of the patron saints of Zurich, who I believe are from North Africa, but are in a Roman legion. Is that correct?

    Jason Landsel: Yes. It was a Theban Legion. They refused to pledge allegiance to the emperor, and then the emperor had the entire legion executed and the two of them …

    Peter Mommsen: Right there on the Limmat river where …

    Jason Landsel: Well, it was another site, but Felix and Regula and another individual escaped and then were captured by the Romans on the banks of the river there. And then actually there’s a crypt beneath the Wasserkirche under the Limmat where there’s what’s called the martyr stone, which you can still see today, where they were supposedly beheaded. And then there was the crypt and the bones which supposedly belonged to the saints, was again another pilgrimage site, which Zwingli did away with during the Reformation. So definitely Felix would’ve been aware of this.

    Peter Mommsen: Right. I mean, he literally was born a stone’s throw away from where these martyrs were buried and where pilgrims were showing up. So I think, like many things in this story, we of course don’t have a lot of Felix’s original words, but he absolutely would’ve grown up in a world …

    Susannah Black Roberts: Oh, yeah.

    Peter Mommsen: … where these were big figures. I mean, he was named after them. He was literally named after the martyr Felix.

    Susannah Black Roberts: And it’s so interesting to me to think about, obviously a huge part of the Reformation, both magisterial and radical, was kind of shedding of the cult of the saints, and yet understanding the saints, those saints and martyrs in general, as people to imitate and people who are part of the cloud of witnesses, it’s not shedding the cult of the saints. It’s sort of putting it into its proper place. There’s not a kind of alienation from them, it seems to me.

    Peter Mommsen: Well, it’s in that sense that we are recommending this book and thanks for joining us, Jason. This has been a great conversation.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Thanks so much, Jason.

    Jason Landsel: Thanks again for having me. It was great talking and I appreciate it.

    Susannah Black Roberts: Thanks for listening, be sure to subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast needs met, and share with your friends! For a lot more content like this, check out for the digital magazine. You can also subscribe: $36/year will get you the print magazine, or for $99/year you can become a member of Plough. That membership carries a whole range of benefits, from free books, to regular calls with the editors, to invitations to special events, and the occasional gift. Our members are one aspect of the broader Plough community, and we depend on them as a kind of extra advisory council. Go to to learn more.

    Contributed By JasonLandsel Jason Landsel

    Jason Landsel is a New York-based writer and illustrator with a lifelong fascination with the history of social and religious radicalism.

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    Contributed By portrait of Peter Mommsen Peter Mommsen

    Peter Mommsen is editor of Plough Quarterly magazine. He lives in upstate New York with his wife, Wilma, and their three children.

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    Contributed By portrait of Susannah Black Roberts Susannah Black Roberts

    Susannah Black Roberts is a senior editor of Plough.

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