by Lorette C. Luzajic
Part 25 of Pillars of Faith
This Great Apostle of Murder
John Knox was a pivotal leader of the Reformation. The vastly important changes he made in liturgy and worship included abandoning the idolatrous tradition of kneeling during the Eucharist. He was also concerned with such substantial issues as what type of garments the clergy should wear. Knox was a priest who became a Protestant around 1545. He is praised for standing tall for religious freedom. But as today, “religious liberty” was a thinly veiled privilege extended only to the advocate’s religion, not to any other faiths. Knox rallied for the punishment and execution for those who wished to continue with Catholic styles of worship.
Knox endorsed death for all who differed from his personal interpretation of The Word, for which historian W.E.H. Lecky called him “this great apostle of murder.” “His law most streatly commandeth idolaters and fals prophetes to be punished with death,” Knox wrote. (Thanks to positiveatheism.org for this reference.) He openly proclaimed that any Protestant man had the right to slaughter any Catholic. He rejoiced publicly at the murder of Cardinal Beaton, who had burned one of Knox’s mentors at the stake, gleefully endorsing the brutality with which the cardinal was dragged from his bed, mutilated, and stabbed. For his role in the murder conspiracy, Knox was captured and imprisoned for two years to work in a ship galley.
Famous for two-to-three hour sermons, Knox wrote continually, including The History of the Reformation. He spoke bits of Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French and more. For his scholarship and for preaching against “the synagogue of Satan,” Knox is revered today alongside John Calvin and John Wesley.
The Monstrous Regiment
The presence of Mary may be what Knox detested most, even above inappropriate vestments. Knox burned with something much stronger than the love of the Lord — his whole life was fuelled by hatred of women. When forced to kiss an image of the Virgin Mary, Knox flung her into the ocean. “Let our Lady learn to swim!” he allegedly declared. Of course, had the male God been flung out, he would have walked to shore upon the waves.
Knox’s countless writings against the queens of his time are heralded as bravery, for said queens were adulteresses not fit to rule over men. The book The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women was written to defy the corrupt Mary Tudor, Mary of Guise, and Mary Queen of Scots. It was filled with reprehensible venom towards women shocking even in the 1500s.
The 1558 treatise made it clear that “woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man.” Speaking for God, Knox wrote that He would say, “Your free will has brought yourself and mankind into the bondage of Satan, I therefore will bring you in bondage to man…because you have deceived your man, you shall therefore be no longer mistress over your own appetites, over your own will or desires. For in you there is neither reason nor discretion… [Man] shall be lord and governor, not only over your body, but even over your appetites and will.”
The idea of women’s equality or rule is “detestable,” “repugnant to nature,” and “treason and conspiracy committed against God.” Women are “weak, frail, impatient, feeble, and foolish; and experience has declared them to be inconstant, variable, cruel, lacking the spirit of counsel and regiment.”
And what of those learned men who disagreed with Knox and saw women as equals? Why, off with their heads, of course! “If any presume to defend that impiety… the sentence of death.”
Doomed to Repeat
There are no easy answers to the bloodbath of religious history at the end of the Medieval Age. The Mother Church was steeped in just as much hatred and superstitious nonsense as the new church. Warring faiths and interfaith tyranny had been going on since kingdom come.
Indeed, we have still not achieved a separation of church and state. While it is impossible to revise history with the fuzzy peacenik sentiments I espouse, it is reprehensible to erase history and present figures like Calvin and Knox as “godly men.” If we don’t tell it like it is, how will we learn from our mistakes?