Saturday, December 10, 2016

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History 48 Prophets of Doom: A Review

So I was going to blog about this a couple months ago.  And then I didn't (for whatever reason--just got distracted by other things).

But now that Whisky Prajer has written about it, I figured I might as well jump on with the momentum and put down my thoughts as well.

Over the years I've been reading Whisky Prajer's blog, I've been fascinated by his thoughts on Mennonite and Anabaptist history.   (Unfortunately my memory is not good enough to recall where all the links are.  Perhaps, Whisky, if you're reading this, you'd be so good as to supply me with the links of the specific blog posts in which you discuss Mennonite and Anabaptist history?  At the moment all I can remember is Shared Texts, and MennonitesAnneken Haunts Me and "Fools In Old-Style Hats & Coats": A 21st Century Blasphemer Reads Anneken Heyndriks).

I have no personal connection to Anabaptism myself, but Whisky's thoughts on the subject have captivated my imagination for a couple of reasons:
1) The history of Anabaptism is a small piece in the larger story of the Protestant Reformation, and  the Protestant Reformation, and the social upheaval and religious wars that followed it, are something I've always been vaguely fascinated by, and have been meaning to read up on one day.
2) The way Whisky relates this history, it is apparent that this history is still very important in the Mennonite community.  The idea of history still being alive and meaningful to a community is fascinating in general (especially to us history geeks) but perhaps equally interesting for us history geeks is how the memory of history is so fragmented and balkanized.  Realizing that this history is so important to the Mennonite community, and realizing that I know absolutely nothing about it, makes me wonder what else I don't know about.

All that is background as to why Dan Carlin's episode about the Munster Rebellion--a particularly gruesome piece of Anabaptist history--so fascinated me.  (I wrote before about how my co-workers have recently turned me on to Dan Carlin).
"Hmmm" I wondered.  "Was this included in Whisky's Mennonite education as well?"

I asked him, and it turns out that it was.  A whole 2 weeks of his secondary education at high school were devoted to this one event.

As for me, I really don't have anything intelligent to say about the whole thing.
My co-workers and I have been talking about this episode at work, but the depth of our conversation is pretty much: "Did you listen to that episode on Prophets of Doom?  It was really interesting, wasn't it?"

So I hope I may be forgiven for taking an extended quote from Whisky.  (The blog post that I'm quoting from is here).

While I'm at it, though, thanks to YouTube and Joel's generous heads-up I tucked into this lecture about the Münster Rebellion (it's three hours long, so you might want to bookmark it).

Mm -- "lecture" is a little dry, actually. Dan Carlin is apparently a radio personality who has transitioned into an entertaining history buff. His delivery aims to "engage," and alas for me I find it has quite the opposite effect. I say "alas" because it is evident that Carlin and his researchers go to great lengths to assemble and synthesize some very complicated episodes from our distant past -- and the corporate misbehaviour of Jan van Leiden and his hapless followers is nothing if not complicated.

Complicated, if familiar. If you're a Mennonite you doubtless know about the Münster Rebellion -- two weeks were devoted to its study in my high school. It is largely considered the genesis of the Mennonites, because our namesake lost a brother in the mêlée, and consequently hammered out the pacifist doctrine that his beleaguered flock have (with occasional exceptions) adhered to for the last 500 years.

Two weeks of study -- seems a reasonable precaution for a roomful of kids not far removed from the ages and passions of this particular rebellion. I wouldn't mind if this became a familiar chapter in everyone's common history, so Dan Carlin gets another link from me. Take and read -- or listen, as the case may be.

Other odds and ends:
* The Peasants' War, which Dan Carlin covers as a prelude to the Munster Rebellion, was covered briefly in A People's History of the World by Chris Harman.

* As I mentioned above, I've not read up as much as I probably should have on the Protestant Reformation and the resulting religious wars which followed, but it's graced my reading list tangentially here, here, here, here, here , here and (if we're counting movies television) here, here and  here as well.

* As luck would have it, just yesterday, I linked to a youtube discussion about the connection between religious beliefs and violence.  Sam Harris and Cenk Uygur Clear the Air on Religious Violence and Islam .  Sam Harris makes the case that Islam creates more violent acts than other religions.  Cenk Uygar makes the case that while Islam is currently the most violent religion, it is not inherently more violent than Christianity, and at different periods of history Christianity has been more violent than Islam.
This history would fit right into Cenk Uygur's point.
(Although to be perfectly fair to Sam Harris, I don't think Sam Harris ever denies this.  Sam Harris concedes that Christianity has had some dark periods, but Sam Harris is more concerned with the present).


Whisky Prajer said...

Hey Joel - thank you for the extended thoughts and interest in my ramblings. I have to admit I panicked when you asked if there were other posts related to tribal history: I tend to think everything I write is in some way related, just because neither my imagination nor intellect can successfully untether themselves from it (I've tried).

I think you've got the big three, but there are others that might also qualify. A long line of Nüscht, The Mennonite/Neo-Calvinist Drinking Game, Masculinity, Patron Saints of Mediocrity, Prairie Cemetery, David Bergen, "What's Your Magisterium?". There are probably some others, but I can't recall them just now.

Joel Swagman said...

Awesome. Thanks a lot for the links

Whisky Prajer said...

I should maybe add: "two weeks" sounds impressive, but it's not like we devoted 14 days to poring over source material. It was a Biblical Studies/Church History class, and I no longer recall how many days of the week we had it. Anyway, you've taught high school material to high school students -- you know the drill. :)

dpreimer said...

Oops: one more meditation on Mennonite history (this one looms large in my mind).