Knox casts a shadow…

We spent today over in Haddington with my brother Steve and his wife Kate. It was a really lovely time, spent walking around the old market town and visiting one of the lovely beaches that are all over the coast thereabouts.

Haddington is a quiet market town these days, but this was not always the case. It was at one time the fourth biggest city in Scotland, after Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Roxburgh.

As we walked back to Steve and Kate’s house, I noticed a little set of stone stairs, all overgrown and boundaried by old railings. It seemed to lead up to a platform under an old tree. Further investigation revealed a stone monument…

It was hard to read, but basically it commemorated the birthplace of John Knox, protestant reformer, scourge of the unrighteous, whose memory is marked by a far more visible column that towers over the city of Glasgow;


Knox lived a long and colourful life. His reforming zeal burst into a political/religious powder keg and led to armed revolution and murder. Ends justified the means. The Prince of Peace required the intervention of armed mobs.

And it all started in Haddington, when Knox was born a farmer’s son, and lost his mother early. Perhaps in a different place, with a happier childhood…

Today it all seemed to me to be sad, and a little absurd. I found myself asking again what good came out of all this religious warfare. Was any of it necessary? Is there anything that we can still be proud of with the benefit of hindsight?

Knox himself seems to scowl out at us from the pages of history. What kind of splenetic wrath would he subject us to if he could but see the outcome of his reformation?

Meanwhile the sea rolls over the beach and grains grow finer. And I seem to have fewer answers.

And that is OK.

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