Monsters of Münster: lessons from the apocalyptic narrative of the Anabaptist Kingdom
Steffens, Erich R.
Everton, Sean F.
Naficy, Siamak T.
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This thesis examines the role of apocalyptic narrative in shaping collective identity and collective action to help better understand groups that turn to violence. Because such narratives deal with the ultimate and supernatural, they can be effective in causing believers to disregard worldly consequences and forgo worldly benefits to support transcendent goals. In the Anabaptist Kingdom of Münster (1533-1535), a certain apocalyptic narrative developed that led to brutal acts of violence within the city, and a desire to spread the kingdom to the entire world. Several prominent elements in the kingdom's narrative developed over time to justify the Anabaptists' use of violence: (1) the arrival of the time of judgment, (2) a clear distinction between those who require judgment and those who do not, (3) a divinely sanctioned administration, and (4) a call for the group to administer justice on earth. These elements were not the inevitable result of starting with an apocalyptic narrative but were shaped by both internal dynamics and external conflict. By understanding how such elements develop, defense practitioners will be better able to exploit certain internal dynamics and anticipate (or even alter) how their confrontations with such groups affect the development of the narrative.
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