Heresy Then and Now

Today is the Lesser Feast of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer–bishops who were burned at the stake during the English Reformation.

As we were reflecting on their brave sacrifices at Morning Prayer, I was struck by how minor the differences between their heretical views and the orthodoxy of the time. Of course, historians are quick to point out that the persecutions of many churchmen had more to do with power and money than faith. Queen Mary wanted to solidify her reign and was happy to get rid of Henry VIII’s supporters however she could.

Perhaps this is something to remember when we are horrified by contemporary punishments of “heretics” by Islamist zealots. Often the judicial violence is as much about political power as religious purity. —J. Douglas Ousley

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