Factors of religious violence and a path to peace: a study of the 16th century Anabaptists
McLaughlin, John M., III
Everton, Sean F.
Gregg, Heather S.
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Religiously motivated violence is and always will be a relevant topic. To address and effectively counter contemporary violent groups, it is important to investigate similar historic groups. This thesis attempts to answer the research question: During the Radical Reformation, why did some Anabaptist groups accept the use of violence while others did not, and how did the movement evolve to pacifism? To answer this question, this study utilizes a mixed methodology of case study analysis and social network analysis of Anabaptist leaders during the 16th century. This thesis argues that violent ideology is largely a function of three factors: charismatic leadership, isolation, and apocalypticism. The interaction of these factors led to the emergence of Anabaptist groups that embraced the use of violence. However, groups’ internal characteristics can also lead them away from violence. In the case of the Anabaptists, social proximity assisted leaders with a counter-message to speak effectively to violent ultra-radical factions. The goal of this thesis is to identify characteristics of religious groups that may signal the potential for future violence, while also providing insight into which leaders may be capable of re-directing groups that have become violent.
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