Campus: CSU, Northridge -- November 4, 1999


CSUN Professor's Book Raises Parallel Between Anabaptists and Today's Religious Fanaticism

Cal State Northridge professor Anthony Arthur explores the depth of religious fanaticism in his new narrative history "The Tailor-King: The Rise and Fall of the Anabaptist Kingdom of Münster" published in September by St. Martin's Press.

Arthur's book brings to mind parallels between the Anabaptists' attempt to take over Münster, Germany, nearly 5 centuries ago and what happened with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas in 1993.

"This story is crucially important in our own time because of its remarkable similarities to events like Waco and its lesson that basic human nature does not change, despite the passing of centuries," said Arthur, who has taught writing and American literature at CSUN for 29 years.

His book throws a new light onto not only the Branch Davidian incident, but also the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the Heaven's Gate suicide in Rancho Bernardo and the Jim Jones disaster in Guyana.

In "The Tailor-King," a Dutch tailor's apprentice leads a group of Anabaptists to take over Münster, Germany, about 500 years ago. By 1534, the Anabaptists had displaced the elected council, evicted the Lutherans and Catholics from the city and dared Münster's Prince Bishop to attack.

When the attack did happen, the Anabaptists regarded it as their confirmation from God as the "chosen" ones to fight in the final battle between good and evil. The battle ended in a bloodbath and the execution of the tailor-king. His body and those of two others were placed in iron cages. Those cages still hang today in the city of Münster.

Arthur said people reading the book can find lessons and explanations in events from the past that are similar to the tragedy in Waco.

"I was struck by the similarities between the charismatic young leaders of the two sects, removed from each other by so many centuries, not to mention cultures," Arthur said, "and what happened to them when they challenged the state."

Kirkus Reviews calls the book "a well-researched and skillfully told account of ill-fated 1534 uprising of the Anabaptists in Münster, Germany...A useful case study in religious fanaticism and political totalitarianism...The many parallels that the author establishes between the Müenster Anabaptist and Waco, Texas's Branch Davidians as charismatic cults are chilling."

]Publishers Weekly calls it "vividly written and credibly researched. This book is entertaining history with implicit contemporary relevance."

The Library Journal said "Arthur has written an excellent account of the Anabaptist kingdom...Highly recommended for public libraries and undergraduate collections."

Arthur is the author of two narrative histories of World War II. He lived in Germany to write and research this book. Also, Arthur was a Fulbright Scholar in 1980 and 1990.

For more information, Anthony Arthur can be reached at the CSUN's English Department at (818) 677-3134 or by e-mail at tony.arthur@csun.edu.

A preview of the book can be seen at its website http://www.canyonweb.com/thetailorking/.



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