Little Bits of History

January 22

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 22, 2017

1877: Arthur Tooth is taken into police custody. He was born in 1839 in Kent, England. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and graduated with a degree in science in 1862. He traveled around the world twice and was known as an accomplished horseman and a crack shot. During his travels, he became interested in the priesthood and took an interest in Ritualism. He became an ordained vicar and was assigned to a local parish, but he and his vicar disagreed on how to serve the parishioners. Tooth became an ordained priest in 1864 and served at several different churches. By 1868, he had been assigned to St. James’s Hatcham, a working class parish in southeast London.

His work there began to attract large congregations. He was an inspired preacher and introduced several more ritualistic practices within the parish. He also developed programs to help the more needy and established the Guild of All Souls at St. James’s in 1873. The Public Worship Regulation Act was passed 1874. This act, introduced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, had as its purpose the limitation of growing ritualism within Anglo-Catholicism and the Oxford Movement within the Church of England. Benjamin Disraeli, then Prime Minister, supported the bill as did Queen Victoria. Arthur Tooth did not and he continued his practice as he had.

On July 13, 1876 his case came before Lord Penzance at Lambeth Palace. Tooth did not appear before the court although he had been charged with using incense, vestments and altar candles. He ignored the entire proceeding in spite of getting legal counsel to submit. His services were now constantly being disrupted, not by parishioners, but by outsiders who were hired by his opponents for the sole purpose of disruption. After repeatedly ignoring the decisions of the Court of Arches, he was brought in for contempt of court and imprisoned at Horsemonger Lane Gaol in London. He was immediately cast into the position of martyr and his story became headline news. Due to public outcry, the Public Worship Regulation Act came into disrepute (although it was not repealed until 1965) and Tooth’s conviction was overturned on a technicality.

He lived for another 52 years but his health was adversely affected for the rest of his life. He was never again given his own parish to run but he had no desire for any further fame or notoriety. He established a chapel, convent, and orphanage school on property he purchased in 1878 and spent the rest of his life in the pursuit of helping disadvantaged children. In 1927, he moved his school to a new location and brought his 27 boys plus three religious sisters to Otford Court near Sevenoaks. The school became St. Michael’s Preparatory School and still exists today.

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others. – John F. Kennedy

Religious tolerance is something we should all practice; however, there have been more persecution and atrocities committed in the name of religion and religious freedom than anything else. – Walter Koenig

In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution. – Alexander Hamilton

Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution. – William Butler Yeats

January 20

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 20, 2017

250: Decius issues an edict. Trajan Decius was the 34th Roman Emperor and ruled from 249 until his death in June 251. In an effort to return Rome and her Empire to former glory days, the leader opted to return to the old ways and this included restoring public piety and adhering to the State religion. To that end, he sent out an impressive edict which is referenced in many surviving Egyptian texts. The gist of the edict was that all inhabitants of the Empire were compelled to make a sacrifice before the magistrate by a certain date which seemed to have been based on when the message arrived in a particular area. When the citizen made the appropriate sacrifice to the Roman gods, a certificate of libellus was issued, recording the sacrifice and the person’s loyalty to the old gods as demonstrated by eating and drinking the sacrificial food.

There is some supposition that Decius was not attempting to force the superiority of the Roman pantheon, but was simply trying to reaffirm his conservative vision of the Pax Romana and hoping to make all citizens of the Empire feel secure. The actual consequences were different. The newly flourishing sect, called Christians, were not totally aligned with the Old Testament but did adhere to the rule of not practicing idolatry. Because of this belief, many refused to perform the sacrifice and eat the blessed food and drink. For this offense, many were killed. Pope Fabian was among these, dying on this day although it does not seem he was executed, but rather that he died in prison.

Rather than being used to promote the State religion, the new edict was used to begin a pogrom to rid the region of the Christians. The edict remained in effect for eighteen months and while many Christians were killed, many more survived by simply performing the sacrifice and other rituals and then returning to their own faith. Fabian had miraculously been chosen as Pope in 236 when a dove descended and alit on his shoulder, a Christian symbol of selection by the Holy Spirit. During most of his reign as Bishop of Rome, he got along well with the secular rulers of the Empire.

During his time at the head of the Church, he divided Rome into deaconates in order to help with the task of cataloging all the activities of a growing religion. He is given credit for establishing four minor clerical orders in order to help with this work. He was also responsible for sending out apostles as missionaries. He got along well enough with the local rulers to assure that two previously exiled saints could be returned to Rome and given a proper burial. However, when Decius demanded that the leader of the Christians bow and sacrifice to the Roman gods, Fabian refused. He died as a martyr on this day and is now buried at St. Sebastian at the Catacombs in Rome (San Sebastiano fuori le mura) as Sebastian was also martyred on this day.

The Roman Empire was very, very much like us. They lost their moral core, their sense of values in terms of who they were. And after all of those things converged together, they just went right down the tubes very quickly. – Ben Carson

I got to thinking about the Book of Revelation that was written by a Jewish prophet who was also a follower of Jesus who hated the Roman Empire. I realized that the Book of Revelation could be a way to reflect on the issue of religion’s relationship to politics. – Elaine Pagels

The Papacy is not other than the Ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof. – Thomas Hobbes

I am utterly struck how, 300 years after his execution, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. – Peter Jennings

January 8

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 8, 2017

1697: Thomas Aikenhead is executed. The 20 year old Scottish student from Edinburgh had been indicted in December 1696. He was charged with spreading blasphemy in a number of nefarious ways. He called theology ill-invented nonsense and compared the Bible to Aesop’s Fables and accused the Savior of having learned magic in Egypt which impressed locals farther East as miracles. He went so far as to say he admired Muhammad over Christ and claimed the Scriptures were madness, nonsense, and contradictions. He wondered at a world so easily led astray by such nonsense. This did not sit well with the clergy of the time.

The case was brought before Lord Advocate, Sir James Stewart who demanded the death penalty for such egregious behavior. The idea was to set an example before any other might also be led to spread such opinions. On December 24, 1696 the jury found Aikenhead guilty and he was sentenced to be hanged. He appealed and asked the Privy Council to consider his young age and the fact that he was a first time offender. They were generally unimpressed. Two Privy Councilors did plead on his behalf and on January 7, after a second petition, the Privy Council demurred to the Church of Scotland saying if their General Assembly would ask for leniency, they would grant it.

Instead, the religious elders not only upheld the death penalty, but urged a “vigorous execution” in order to make sure this would never happen again. Since his sentence was confirmed, he was walked to the gallows early on this day. He had a statement prepared, but it is uncertain if he was permitted to deliver it. He then had a long walk from the Tolbooth to the gallows and, under heavy guard, went to meet his death. He became the last person to be hanged in Britain for this particular offense. His death came 85 years after the death of Edward Wightman who was the last man to be burned at the stake for heresy in England.

While Aikenhead was the last to be hanged for the offense of blasphemy, the crime was still on the books and still prosecuted. The last man to be sent to prison for the crime was John William Gott who was not only jailed, but jailed repeatedly for blasphemy between 1911 and 1922. He first came to the attention of the Home Office in 1902 when he published an unsanctioned book. By the time his Rib Ticklers or Questions for Parsons was published in 1911, it was deemed he needed a bigger lesson and he was imprisoned for four months. He became increasingly vocal after his wife died and his last arrest came in 1921 and he was released from prison for the last time in early 1922. His ill health was so compromised, he died later in that year. The law was finally removed from the books in 2008 by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of that year.

It is a principle innate and co-natural to every man to have an insatiable inclination to the truth, and to seek for it as for hid treasure… So I proceeded until the more I thought thereon, the further I was from finding the verity I desired. – Thomas Aikenhead’s final message

To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy. – Pope Francis

One man’s blasphemy doesn’t override other people’s free-speech rights, their freedom to publish, freedom of thought. – Dan Savage

Is it not a species of blasphemy to call the New Testament revealed religion, when we see in it such contradictions and absurdities. – Thomas Paine

Boston Martyr

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 1, 2014
Mary Dyer hanging - painting By Howard Pyle

Mary Dyer hanging – painting By Howard Pyle

June 1, 1660: Mary Dyer is hanged. Mary was born in England of unknown parentage, although it is assumed she was of noble birth since she was an occasional guest of the royal court of King Charles I. The ballgown worn at court was one of the possessions she brought with her when she moved to the colonies. She married William Dyer, a fishmonger and milliner as well as a fellow Puritan in London on October 27, 1633. The couple had eight children, two of whom died in infancy. In 1634 or 35 the Dyers came to Massachusetts where William Dyer took the Oath of a Freeman at the General Court in Boston on March 3, 1635 (possibly 1636). They were admitted to the Boston Church on December 13, 1635.

In 1637, the Dyers openly supported Anne Hutchinson who heretically preached that God spoke directly to individuals rather than only through clergy. Both women joined Rev. John Wheelwright in organizing Bible study groups even though it was forbidden by the theocratic law of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Mary gave birth to a deformed stillborn baby on October 11, 1637 and buried it privately. When Governor John Winthrop learned of this event, he had the corpse exhumed and outlandishly described the infant in horrific manner and sent the descriptions to numerous correspondents. Accounts of the birth were even published in England as a warning against heresy.

In 1638, the Dyers were banished from the colony and moved to Rhode Island, following Hutchinson. Roger Williams suggested they move to Portsmouth where William signed the Portsmouth Compact in March 1638 along with 18 other men. The Dyers settled in Newport where they successfully farmed and William served as Secretary for the towns of Portsmouth and Newport and ultimately became Attorney General from 1650 to 1653. Mary grew dissatisfied and went to England alone where she joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and eventually became a preacher in her own right. William briefly joined her in England but returned to Rhode Island in 1652 while Mary stayed in England for five more years.

By the time she returned to the colonies, John Endicott was Governor and far less lenient with religious dissention. When Mary’s ship landed in Boston, she was immediately arrested. Three months later William got Mary released as long as she promised to never return to Massachusetts. Mary preached throughout New England and was arrested in 1658 and expelled from Connecticut. She continued to preach and returned to Massachusetts to spread her teachings. She was arrested in April 1660 and refused to recant. She was convicted and hanged on this day, one of four executed Quakers known as the Boston martyrs.

Nay, I came to keep bloodguiltiness from you, desireing you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust law made against the innocent servants of the Lord. Nay, man, I am not now to repent. – Mary Dyer’s last words

Every one goes astray, but the least imprudent are they who repent the soonest. – Voltaire

Yes, one can repent of moral transgression. The miracle of forgiveness is real, and true repentance is accepted of the Lord. – Ezra Taft Benson

Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved. No religious activity will be sufficient, only true faith in Jesus Christ alone. – Ravi Zacharias

Also on this day: And Now – The News – In 1980 Ted Turner begins broadcasting with CNN.
Breathing – In 1974, the Heimlich Maneuver was published.
Not Hops Scotch – In 1495, Friar John Cor was listed as possessing ingredients to make Scotch.
Unlucky Ship – In 1813, James Lawrence took command of the USS Chesapeake.