The shadow of John Knox…

We tried to visit Glasgow Cathedral again today. The last time we were turned away as the Cathedral was ‘about to close’. Today we were turned away again as there was a service ‘about to start’ (the service was due to start in an hour.) It is not really fair to generalise from this limited experience, but we certainly did not feel welcome.

Perhaps we look like heretics?

Above the Cathedral, on the top of the hill that is Glasgow Necropolis, stands the John Knox monument- a reproachful finger wagging against the sky.

The Cathedral only just survived John Knox’s reformation. Stripped of all it’s ancient finery- its statues and pictures, along with all objects associated with ‘Popery’, but still the mob tried to burn it down- held back only by the Guilds men.

So was unleashed a time of repression in the name of freedom and violence in the name of peace. Driven by fervency and ‘truth’- religion used as a political meat tenderiser.

Did anything good come out of reformation? Was it necessary? Was it inspired of God- commanded by his angels and energised by his Spirit? My current answers to these questions are- Yes. Not sure. Don’t think so.

We used to talk of reformation being constant- it was not a one off event following which we had achieved Christian nirvana, but was rather a process of constant engagement with the refiners fire. This always seemed to be an aspirational thing for the most part however- that moralistic therapeutic Deism thing again.

My ambivalence about the Reformation is more in relation to my hope for a new kind of gentle reformation- a change again in emphasis, away from right belief and correct religious practise, towards the…. other. A kind of faith that inspires us to be agents of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness. And none of these things should be subordinate to pious correctness.

John will turn in his grave.

Or perhaps he will look at the course of his own reformation, and agree with me.