A Small Cheer for Paul Best And All Who Think Freely

Frank Schulman’s delightful This Day in Unitarian Universalist History mentions Paul Best for today in 1645 – although it doesn’t actually say why this day in this year.

Doesn’t matter to me. Best is a worthy person to note, most any day…

Born somewhere in the neighborhood of 1590, Best was educated at Cambridge, fought in Europe as a mercenary and later with Cromwell’s Parliamentary Army.

In his travels he encountered the Polish Brethren and embraced Socinianism, holding for the pure humanity of Jesus.

He foolishly shared an ms holding forth his belief that Jesus was not God but a human being with a friend who denounced him for his heresy. While in prison he may have met with John Biddle who would play a more prominent role in introducing Unitarianism to Great Britain.

He was tried and convicted and sentenced to death.

Unitarianism was considered a dangerous thing. I have to agree…

For reasons different sources speculate about, but possibly with the influence of the Lord Protector himself, instead of being put to death, he was given a pension (I think of Socrates insisting his sentence upon conviction of perverting the youth of Athens should be free meals for life) and sent home…

On this day when we learn of the burning of an ancient library in Timbuktu by religious zealots, it is not a bad time to think of free thinking and publishing what one finds…

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  • Jeanne Meliori

    I’ve always maintaintained that Jesus was a person, not a god. To think otherwise is lunacy. However, I think he was probably a deeply troubled person, perhaps bipolar. What else would account for him trashing other people’s temples?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/monkeymind James

    Distant psychoanalysis is always problematic, Jeanne. To the degree the gospels record accurate accounts of what happened, the temple wasn’t someone else’s. Best I can tell from the admittedly questionable texts we get to work with (The John gospel for instance was written so long after he died it’s hard to take any of it as history, so even though still a generation or two after him, the Synoptics, flawed as they are as historical sources are all we get to work with), Jesus appears to have been a pretty mainstream Jew really, really annoyed at what was happening at his and his people’s temple. All of it as part of the apocalyptic vision that haunted those times, where things are so bad, something has to happen…