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Margaret Thatcher torystoryOn April 27, 2013, BBC2 aired a 90-minute documentary on Margaret Thatcher’s early years, Young Margaret.

The programme content was based largely on the many letters the future (late?) Prime Minister exchanged with her sister Muriel, four years older.

It is still difficult for people to imagine that Margaret Thatcher was ever a youngster — or human. The debate goes on in our own home. SpouseMouse maintains she ‘ruined Britain forever’. I say she was preferable to James Callaghan or Neil Kinnock. My better half replies, ‘She killed off our society. End of’.

Anyway, onto the programme, which I found fascinating. I touched on some of these topics after Lady Thatcher died several weeks ago. Young Margaret elaborated more on them.

The Methodist Church

Alf and Beatrice Roberts were faithful Methodists.

Alf did not allow Sunday newspapers in the house. He did not find them suitable Sabbath reading material.

For Alf, the Methodist Church was the only church. He was dismissive of other Protestant denominations and had a particular distrust of the Catholic Church. He became concerned when Margaret made friends with one of her schoolmates, Mary. Alf feared that Mary would lead Margaret to Catholicism.

Alf was a lay minister. As such, the Roberts family attended church services three times on Sunday. Alf preached at many of these. Margaret absorbed these sermons, which in many ways, defined her spiritual and temporal values.

Although Margaret later attended more Anglican services as an adult, she and her husband Denis (Anglican) were married in the Wesleyan Chapel in City Road, London.

High fashion and impeccable appearance

Alf and Beatrice raised their two daughters above Alf’s corner grocery in Grantham, Lincolnshire.

Beatrice preferred to stay in the background, and it does not appear as if the girls were particularly close to her. That said, Beatrice was a seamstress and the girls absorbed their knowledge of fabric and fashion from her. Beatrice made items of clothing for Margaret, including lingerie. Beatrice also sewed a variety of items for the home, including curtains.

As an aside, anyone who has had a tailor or seamstress in the family cannot help but be interested in good taste with regard to clothes and appearance. Some readers might wonder why I place such value on aesthetics. It is because my paternal great-grandfather (whom I never met) was a tailor. Like Beatrice Roberts, he made many outfits — including coats — for his daughters, among them my grandmother. My grandmother took all of this on board, and what she couldn’t sew for my late father and aunt when they were young, she bought with a particular eye for fabric and cut, even during the Great Depression. My aunt didn’t sew too much but always bought stylish suits and skirts. Similarly, my father was very careful in choosing his attire. My mother also had an eye for clothes — quite possibly because my maternal grandmother spent hours at the sewing machine for her daughters. Along with attention to clothes goes hair and accessories. Dad had two or three pair of high-quality cufflinks which he wore; he was particular. The women in the family chose jewellery with care and their hair was immaculate.

So it was with the Roberts girls, Margaret in particular. Although Alf did not allow his daughters to go to dances until they had finished secondary school, both had fashion sense. When Muriel was away in Birmingham studying physiotherapy, Margaret would write her asking if she could borrow a strand of pearls for social events.

In an interview from 1982, Mrs Thatcher (as she was then) explained why she enjoyed wearing pearls:

They give the face a little lift.

She also advised:

Never press a hem. If you want to let the skirt down, you won’t be able to [because of the crease].

In letters to Muriel, Margaret described in great detail what she wore to dances and, once she went up to Oxford, dates with her beaux.

In fact, even one of Margaret’s boyfriends from Oxford — Tony Bray — could recall years later what she wore when they once went out for a country pub lunch. It was a fetching blue dress with matching coat. Bray said his date looked stunning.

Incidentally, the programme revealed that it was Tony Bray who, years later, mooted the idea of council tenants purchasing their own flats and homes. He and Margaret — then Prime Minister — discussed the plan privately at his suggestion.

Margaret also illustrated her letters with new additions to her wardrobe, including lingerie. She was particularly delighted when another suitor, Willie Cullen (more about whom later), gave her a beautiful black leather handbag with a monogram on the flap: MR. She wrote Muriel saying that, although she had no intention of marrying Willie, she was duty bound to continue dating him now that he had given her such a lovely gift.

Margaret also went into great detail about every meal she had, including drinks. She described the restaurant or ballroom decor in a way that must have made Muriel feel she was there with her.

Mark Thatcher — her son — told the interviewer that he rarely saw his mother in trousers. She wore them only when instructed to for certain official visits (e.g. military).

Home life in Grantham

Alf ran the corner shop, conveniently placed right at the dividing line between the middle and working class neighbourhoods of Grantham. By all accounts, he was a good grocer.

Conversation at home revolved around either the church or politics. In later years, Alf became mayor of Grantham and an alderman.

Therefore, it is no wonder that Margaret became politically active as an adult.

Alf was conscious that he was providing Muriel and Margaret with advantages that few of their contemporaries had. He later wrote Muriel about this, lamenting that Margaret did not seem very appreciative of the sacrifices and trail blazing he had done on their behalf.

He was right. My late mother-in-law was about the same age as Margaret Thatcher. She desperately wanted to go to university, but her father — an executive — said that girls were unsuited to higher education. My mother-in-law waited until she was married to pursue her interest in painting and art history. As a young mother, she also earned her City and Guilds certification in tailoring. She sewed many of her own outfits as well as items for the home: curtains, silk lampshades and cushions.

Schooldays and a love of America

Margaret was a diligent student and won a scholarship to Kesteven & Grantham Girls’ School, which describes itself as ‘a specialist science school’.

Note that she later took the title Baroness Thatcher of Kestaven (pron. ‘KESS-tuh-vun’), not Grantham!

It was at this time that she and Muriel began many years of correspondence. Margaret wrote of teachers she disliked, students whom she considered academic deadbeats and her own detailed school reports.

Margaret became a prefect and, in 1943, head girl. Her classmates remember her as a young woman with presence who was self-contained, mature beyond her years. One said that most were ‘impressed’ and ‘in awe of her’.

In her free time, Margaret enjoyed going to the State cinema in Grantham. She wrote Muriel about the films she and Beatrice saw. The same year she became head girl also saw the arrival of the United States Air Force at a base near Grantham.

The combination of American films at the State and American military in her town started her lifelong love affair with the United States. Thatcher biographer, journalist Charles Moore, explained that Margaret would have known of Ronald Reagan from the movies she saw and that he represented the American man she knew from the Second World War. Therefore, it was normal that the two would create or cement ‘the special relationship’ between the two countries in the 1980s.

Somerville College, Oxford

When Margaret went up to Oxford to read Chemistry at Somerville College, her life and connection with Grantham ended.

Again, Alf deserves much credit, especially for encouraging Margaret to apply to Oxford. Many fathers would not have done so. In fact, as Kesteven & Grantham Girls’ School did not offer Latin, Alf hired a a local schoolteacher to tutor Margaret in Latin so that she could pass the entrance exam.

Oxford students were encouraged to do their part for the war effort and Margaret, not surprisingly, joined the committee which provided entertainment for American troops stationed nearby.

It took Margaret time to settle in to life in college. She wasn’t close with the other girls at Somerville. Some of her contemporaries interviewed said this was because Somerville was known for being left-wing. However, I think Margaret had the outlet for her feelings and experiences in her correspondence with Muriel, so that need was already answered. It is also worth noting that both young women had similar forthright and feisty personalities.

The other girls, those interviewed said, noticed that Margaret was self-contained and had an intellectual curiosity.

It wasn’t long then before she needed an outlet for this. She joined the Oxford University Conservative Association. One of her contemporaries was the Duke of Buccleuch (pron. ‘Bookh-lew’). (The Duke, incidentally, is probably the most qualified by heritage to be our monarch.) He described Margaret Roberts as

very focussed — she knew what she was doing.

These qualities impressed not only the Duke but also the other members of the aristocracy who belonged to the university’s Conservative Association. In fact, the Duke once organised a whipround for Margaret when she was low on funds. Other members donated gladly.

Margaret’s social life largely involved around parties and dances with Conservative Association members. They frequently met at the city’s iconic Randolph Hotel, which features in a number of Morse episodes.

So esteemed was Margaret that the Conservative Association elected her president.

She earned a Second Class degree in Chemistry in 1947.

The world of work — and courtship

As is common for many university graduates, the real world is a letdown. Margaret had the same experience as she interviewed for her first job.

She also had the handicap of being a woman who was forthright and knew her own mind — qualities which, even today, are valued in men but not the ‘fairer sex’. One ICI interviewer wrote that she was too overbearing to ever have a career there. This may go some way towards explaining why there is no ICI today.

Margaret Thatcher thatcher-chemist Washington PostMargaret was hired by a plastics firm in Manningtree, Essex, on the River Stour. Manningtree was close enough to London, which pleased her as she had hoped to enrol in law school. However, letters to Muriel reveal that Margaret found the work tedious and, contrary to what she had thought, the post to which she was assigned offered no advancement to management.

Still, work, as we know, pays the bills and finances social activities. Margaret missed her sparkling Oxford social life and decided to join the Colchester (Essex) Young Conservatives.

Another aside here. In the years following the Second World War, the Young Conservative associations were a gateway to courtship and marriage. My mother- and father-in-law met through the Young Conservatives as did their closest friends, with whom they maintained lifelong contact. Friendships and marriages formed there were strong and, from what I understand, the enthusiasm was infectious not only on the hustings but at social gatherings.

Margaret briefly dated a fellow Young Conservative, Brian Harrison, who had recently graduated from Cambridge. He remembers her as being a very good dancer.

In October 1948, Margaret was part of Oxford’s graduate delegation attending the Conservative Party conference that year. It was through that meeting that she met the people who would later propose her in 1950 as Conservative candidate for Parliament in Dartford, Kent — a safe Labour seat. One Dartford Conservative described her enthusiasm:

Hearing her speak was exciting!

Margaret began dating a farmer, Willie Cullen, aged 35 — the man who would later buy her the monogrammed handbag. Margaret seemed to find out all sorts of financial details about Willie and described his situation to Muriel. Whilst he seemed to fit the bill, she was unsure whether she could live as a farmer’s wife. She also wrote Muriel about a dinner party he had where the other farmers’ wives went off to the sitting room afterward. Margaret stayed with the men to talk politics, which was not well received by some of the farmers. One leapt to her defence saying that there was no way the women would be discussing politics. Margaret was allowed to remain with the men.

Margaret enjoyed being with men a few years older than she. Those who were interviewed for the programme suggested that she actively sought them out. In the latter days of her relationship with Willie, she also met 36-year old Denis Thatcher and 47-year old Dr Robert Henderson. Thatcher, divorced, owned his own business. Henderson, never married, was the inventor of the British version of the iron lung. He worked at a hospital in Dartford.

In 1950, Margaret was the Conservative candidate for MP of Dartford. At a local civic event, her Labour opponent expressed his fascination with her and asked her to dance. Although Margaret later lost the election, she was able to increase the number of Conservative votes by several thousand.

It was at this time when Margaret was seeing more of the doctor and less of Willie. She felt obliged to make the break as painless as possible for Willie. In a letter to Muriel, she effectively handed the farmer over to her sister, provided she was in agreement. Muriel met Willie and within several weeks they were engaged. Margaret was maid of honour at their wedding. Muriel settled in to farming life easily and the couple raised three children. One of them, Andrew, was interviewed for the programme. Muriel bequeathed her letter collection to him.

Meanwhile, Margaret had concerns about Dr Henderson, despite her great admiration for him. She was aware that they had come from different social classes and feared he would marry someone else. She believed it was only a matter of time.

Life in London — and marriage

In 1951, Margaret moved to London. She worked hard to fix up her own flat with some assistance from decorators. Denis Thatcher proved a welcome distraction from hours spent on DIY.

Three months after moving into the flat, Margaret broke off her relationship with Dr Henderson. However, she seems to have remained friends with him as evidenced by a medical question she put to him some years later when her son Mark was born.

Although Margaret was not keen on Denis when she first dated him — prior to moving to London — he grew on her and they enjoyed each other’s company. Alf also gave his stamp of approval to the relationship.

Later that year, Margaret ran again as Conservative candidate for Parliament for Dartford. Again, she lost to her Labour opponent but continued to build on the Conservative votes from the preceding year. Denis helped to campaign for her but they kept their engagement a secret; as Denis was divorced, it would not have looked good for her. Recall that, two years later, Princess Margaret was forced to break off her relationship with Group Captain Peter Townsend for the same reason. It would not have reflected well on the Royal Family, especially the young Queen.

Margaret Thatcher wedding day_107484309 Walking in MayOn December 13, Margaret and Denis were married at the Wesleyan Chapel in City Road, London. In a 1985 documentary, she exclaimed:

This [marriage] was the biggest thing in life!

The couple spent their wedding night at the Savoy before flying to Madeira for their honeymoon.

And so it proved an enduring, loving union. Denis was a reliable and unfailing source of support for his wife. He was happy to remain in the background, offering advice in private. He also acknowledged that he didn’t care much for meeting people, although he did meet many. He had a close circle of loyal friends. Private Eye parodied these friendships whilst Margaret was Prime Minister in the series Dear Bill, a collection of fictional and witty letters from Denis to one of his friends.

The Thatchers lived in Denis’s home in London’s fashionable Chelsea, where they often entertained their friends.

It wasn’t long afterward that Margaret began studying law. As if this were not enough, she applied to Conservative Central office in June of 1952, asking them to put her forward as a Parliamentary candidate. Even then, the Conservatives were looking for more female candidates — this is nothing new. Yet, this proved difficult. Margaret’s forthright personality did not always gel with the local Conservative associations. Central Office made other excuses: she didn’t understand farming; industrial constituencies needed men, not women.

In August 1953, Margaret gave birth prematurely to fraternal twins Mark and Carol. Denis, who hadn’t expected his wife to go into labour so early, was at a test match at the Oval at the time.

Five months later, Margaret passed her law exam. A nanny minded the babies, but Margaret wrote Muriel that she was conscious that the nanny also needed her rest, so she shared night duty with her. To give her more time at home, Margaret decided to specialise in tax law.

It was around this time that Margaret and Muriel wrote each other less. Each had their own lives by now. Muriel was on the farm in Essex and Margaret was still eyeing a political career. However, the families still visited each other, which continued even when Margaret spent prime ministerial weekends at Chequers.

Andrew Cullen said that Margaret Thatcher — one of the most famous women in the world for over a decade — was an affectionate aunt, ‘like anyone else’s aunt’. He added that she remembered the Cullen children’s birthdays and big occasions. He described their parents and the Thatchers as

all good friends.

Life in politics

In 1958, Margaret was selected as candidate for Finchley and won the seat in 1959 with a majority of 16,000 votes. One of her constituents at the time said:

We were lucky to have her!

At last, Margaret Thatcher was able to take her place as a Member of Parliament.

Alf was ‘proud as punch’ to see Margaret in the House of Commons. He died in 1970, so never saw her become Britain’s first Prime Minister in 1978.

Once she became an MP, Margaret’s correspondence with Alf became rarer and rarer. Alf wrote Muriel with his concerns. Muriel’s contact with her sister was somewhat more sustained.

All credit to Alf and Denis

Mrs Thatcher was careful to credit Alf with her success.

Indeed, it could be Methodism’s prominent placement of women as church leaders which influenced Alf in ensuring his daughters were well educated. He also had no objection to Margaret’s entering politics.

John and Charles Wesley’s mother Susanna was a powerful influence not only in the home but during Mr Wesley’s absences. Susanna, a lay preacher told me, used to lead prayer meetings in the family home whilst Wesley was in London.

John Wesley granted a licence to preach to six women, the first being Sarah Crosby in 1761. It seems unlikely that these women softened the church. As he was such a keen evangelist, I doubt he would have chosen women who were seen to dilute the Methodist message.

This is what Wesley had to say in a sermon of his from 1786, ‘On Visiting the Sick’. He, like I, believed that keeping women submissive is Islamic (emphases mine):

It has long passed for a maxim with many that “women are only to be seen but not heard.” And accordingly many of them are brought up in such a manner as if they were only designed for agreeable playthings! No, it is the deepest unkindness; it is horrid cruelty; it is mere Turkish barbarity. And I know not how any women of sense and spirit can submit to it.[3]

It is heartbreaking to read today of ‘Christian’ men — Catholic and Protestant — who want to restrict women in society.

My Catholic maternal grandfather was guilty of this around the time when Alf was encouraging his girls to fly the coop. My mother, Lady Thatcher’s age, was forbidden to move out of the house until she married. My mum — gifted, responsible and diligent — dreamed of moving to the big city and pursuing her own career, but he said no. My mother did not marry until she was 35. She had a long wait. Even then, she was handed over to my dad. She never had any independence in between. Yet, her Catholic friends from childhood did; by the time my mother got married, her girlfriends had been living on their own for years.

Therefore, finding out more about Alf’s fatherly example is important to me. We need good models of manhood, fathers who do not fear or denigrate women.

Denis Thatcher falls into this category, too.

Again, it is soul-destroying to read about Catholics and Protestant husbands who think it’s all right to beat their wives into submission.

I give Denis full credit for being such a wonderful husband and support to his wife. Her ambitions were not his, yet he was there for her. He was his wife’s confidant. They were best friends as well as a married couple.

I would ask all men to reflect carefully on their attitudes towards women. Some are angry at them. Some love them as long as they are subjugated. Some fathers have a really unhealthy relationship with their daughters (purity rituals). Some husbands have a pathological and abusive relationship with their wives.

To those men, my message is to look at the example of Alf and Denis and to learn well from it.

It doesn’t matter what we think of Margaret Thatcher’s politics. What does matter is that she had a father who raised her to lead and a husband who faithfully encouraged that leadership.

This post is for adults only.

It is also not recommended for those of a sensitive nature.

What follows is the beginning of a historical study into the treatment of children and women from ancient times until the 20th century.

Lloyd deMause (pronouced ‘de-Moss’) is an American social thinker who specialises in psychohistory — uncovering the whys and wherefores of our behaviour over millenia.

De Mause leaves no society or civilisation unturned in his book, The Origins of War in Child Abuse. Although it focusses on children, you will also read men’s thoughts on women.

Be prepared for a shock.

I shall go into deMause’s ‘psychohistory’ — as he calls it — in another post. For now, here is a set of historical quotes and citations from the beginning of recorded history on men’s relationship with women and children.

I shall be censoring as appropriate for my audience and excluding the worst descriptions.  Emphases are mine. Chapter sources are given at the end.

Ancient Egypt

“The family in Egypt was matriarchal. The most important person in the family was not the father, but the mother. The Egyptian wife was called the ‘Ruler of the House.’” (Evelyn Reed, Woman’s Evolution: From Matriarchal Clan to Patriarchal Family. New York: Pathfinder, 1974, p. 438)

When babies cried a lot because they were starving, they were given beer, wine, liquor or even opium to quiet them; as one Egyptian papyrus tells parents about opium for infants: “It acts at once!”111

In many areas of the world, beginning in early Egypt and continuing to modern European nations, the head was painfully molded to reshape it by putting another board on the forehead so as to squash the head into the angle formed by the boards.115 ( E. J. Dingwall, Artificial Cranial Deformation. London: J. Bale & Sons, 1931; Armando R. Favazza, Bodies Under Siege. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996, p. 62.)

The Ancient Western World

Xenophon reports that the women and children were “separated from the men’s quarters by a bolted door” 3 where the men “dined and entertained male guests,” especially the young boys they used in sexual intercourse in preference to their wives.

Herodotus could admit that “a boy is not seen by his father before he is five years old, but lives with the women.”4

Herodotus tells how during wars soldiers “no sooner got possession of a town than they chose out all the best favored boys and made them eunuchs,” this simply repeated the regular castration and then anal raping of little boys in their own societies.150

Often first-born babies were routinely sacrificed to the avenging goddess. Hippocrates said that Greeks often experienced “convulsions, fears, terrors and delusions” and physicians were expected to treat the possessions and hallucinations of their dissociated personalities.14

Often women would become so possessed by their Killer Mother alters that, as Euripides describes them during Dionysian rituals, “Breasts swollen with milk, new mothers clawed calves to pieces with bare hands, snatched children from their homes” and killed them.18

Hilarion to his wife: “If it is a boy let it live; if it is a girl, cast it out.”19

Poseidippos stated, “Even a rich man always exposes a daughter.”

Children playing in dung heaps, rivers and cess trenches would find hundreds of dead babies, “a prey for birds, food for wild beasts to rend” (Euripides).24

Quintilian said, “To put one’s own children to death is at times the noblest of deeds.”30

Martialis: “How pitiful, to be the owner of thirty girls and thirty boys and have only one [male member].”46

Petronius depicts men raping a seven-year-old girl, with women happily clapping in a long line around the bed.48

“It was not uncommon, since Greek girls married very early, for them to play with their dolls up to the time of their marriage.”56 (Philip E. Slater, The Glory of Hera: Greek Mythology and the Greek Family. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968, p. 24.)

Plutarch said boys should be taught about being raped to “put up with it; not as a pleasure, but as a duty.”62

Plutarch and others wrote essays on what was the best kind of person a father should give his son over for raping.

Plutarch wrote: “Genuine love has no connections whatsoever with the women’s quarters.”85

Plutarch reports that “if a woman left the house in daylight she had to be chaperoned” to avoid rape.103

Homer’s word for “wife” damar, means “broken into submission.”

Ovid wrote in his Art of Love: “Love is a kind of war”

Ovid describes how children were often terrorized by saying they would at night be eaten by witches, strigae.122

Hipponax put it, “There are only two happy days in man’s life with a woman: The day he marries her and the day he buries her.”97

Men say they split their relationship with women into three parts: “We keep prostitutes for pleasure, slave concubines for the daily care of our bodies, and wives for the bearing of legitimate children.”100 (Sue Blundell, Women in Ancient Greece, p. 268)

Solon passed a law decreeing that “a man should consort with his wife not less than three times a month—not for pleasure surely, but as cities renew their agreements from time to time.102

Women rarely learned to read, since “He who teaches letters to his wife is giving poison to a snake.”106 (Jack Holland, Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2006, p. 21)

Juvenal’s plays portray the fears of all men in early states, concluding that “A wife is a tyrant…Cruelty is natural to women: they torment their husbands, whip the housekeeper, and enjoy having slaves flogged almost to death…their sexual lusts are disgusting.”107

Tacitus said, “At birth our children are handed over to some silly little Greek serving girl—but more often they were sent out and not seen for years.”108

Philo wrote: “It is right that parents should rebuke their children, beat them, disgrace them and imprison them…If they still rebel, the law permits that they even be punished with death.”117

Seneca described the public floggings of children in Sparta, where it was considered patriotic to beat children to death in public squares.

In Athens, over 800 portrayals have survived of Greek heroes stabbing and clubbing Amazons to death.”134

If a young woman should simply speak to someone who was not approved by her father, that was enough of a sin for Constantine, the first Christian emperor, to decree a penalty of “death by having molten lead poured down her throat.”15

Ancient India

[T]he Mahabharata says, “Let the man of thirty years wed a ten-year-old wife, or let the man of twenty-one get one seven years old.”57

All kinds of rationalizations were given early marriage, as when Indian mothers married off their daughters at age seven because otherwise “the men of the family” might rape her “if she was left home alone for an hour.”59 (Lloyd deMause, “The Universality of Incest,” p. 136, 142-5.)

one Indian proverb has it, “For a girl to be a virgin at ten years old, she must have neither brothers nor cousins nor father.”60

Early Doctors of the Church

Tertullian told Romans, “Although you are forbidden by the laws to slay new-born infants, it so happens that no laws are evaded with more impunity.”26

Women, said Tertullian, were “irrational, more prone to lust than men, and at every turn waiting to seduce men,” so husbands had to beat them all the time to keep them from sinning.5

Everyone agreed girls should be fed less than boys; as Jerome put it, ‘Let her meals always leave her hungry.’”3

John Chrysostom maintained, “All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable.”8

John Chrysostom tells believers to “constantly think on death, speak of it all the time, visit tombs and attend to dying people, because nothing is so edifying as watching impious people die.”185

Augustine put it, “If the infant is left to do what he wants, there is no crime it will not plunge into.”11

The Aztecs

“The trinity of war, sacrifice and cannibalism made up a combined religious service…the Aztec state existed solely to produce sacrificial victims.”148 (Burr Cartwright Brundage, The Fifth Sun: Aztec Gods, Aztec World. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979, p. 195)

Aztec armies would even fight “Flower Wars” where they would split into smaller groups and kill their own fellow soldiers in order to feed the goddess.154

Christians during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Teaching girls in schools was not allowed, Aelred said (1170), because the teacher might be tempted to show them affection.

Peter Damian said in the 11th century that sex with boys in monasteries usually “rages like a bloodthirsty beast,” yet only the boys and not the priests were punished.158

When their children returned from the wet-nurse, mothers in the Renaissance followed the prescriptions of friars like Dominici [St Dominic] to avoid “hugging and kissing them” so they won’t be “sensual,” and instead “scare them with a dozen bogies [bogeymen],” to make them more fearful.26

Giraldus Cambrensis relates that the English sold great numbers of their children to the Irish as slaves as late as the 12th century.80

[Bernard] of Siena said fathers regularly “pimped” their own sons for money, and mothers colluded in the sexual use of their boys, giving them a separate bedroom on the ground floor so rapists could more easily use him sexually.137

[Bernard] of Siena could still complain about fathers who “make pimps” of their own sons, saying boys were so likely to be raped in the streets that “a boy can’t even pass nearby without having a sodomite on his tail” and urging mothers to “send your girls out instead…This is less evil.”153

As Henry Suso [Heinrich Seuse] put it: “Suffering quells my anger [and] makes me no part of the world.”175

Medieval clerics themselves said most Christians suffered from acedia, “a disgust of the heart, an enormous loathing of yourself, your soul is torn to pieces, sad and embittered.”166 Doctors during the medieval period said that most of their emotionally ill patients were either “melancholic” or “manic.”167

Even by the 16th century, a priest admitted that “the latrines resound with the cries of children who have been plunged into them.”50

Jean Bodin spoke of “the husband’s power over the wife as the source and origin of every human society.”67

The Reformers

Luther may have been one of the first fathers to spend time with and to teach his children, but because his mother had thrashed him “until his blood flowed” he also beat his own children, and his teaching goal was mainly to show them from the Bible how sinful their every act was.47

Luther claimed his wife Kate only existed as a housewife and mother, saying, “Take women from their housewifery and they are good for nothing.”48

John Calvin decreed: “Those children who violate parental authority are monsters. Therefore the Lord commands all those who are disobedient to their parents to be put to death.”14

Colonial America

If the parents’ regular beating of their children still did not result in obedience, the child should be “put to death [if they] curse or smite their father or mother,” according for instance to a 1646 Massachusetts law.93

Thinkers of the Enlightenment and Romanticists

One [mother] is praised by Locke because she was “forced to whip her little daughter at first coming home from Nurse, eight times successively…before she could master her Stubbornness.“66

Rousseau, who became famous for saying that mothers should nurse their children, sent all five of his own children to foundling homes. He also declared that “woman is made specially to please man and to be subjugated.”19

Talleyrand wasn’t that unusual in stating that he “had never slept under the same roof with his father and mother.”22

Most parents agreed with the French musician and mathematician Vandermonde in 1756 who admitted, “One blushes to think of loving one’s children.”29

As Kant declared, wars are needed because “prolonged peace favors effeminacy.”40

[Giacomo] Leopardi said his mother “experienced a deep happiness when she saw the death of one of her infants approaching.”3

Patriarchal fathers considered their children from their earliest years as theirs to beat, as with this British father:

“A gentleman was playing with his child of a year old, who began to cry. He ordered silence; the child did not obey; the father then began to whip it, but this terrified the child and increased its cries. The father thought the child would be ruined unless it was made to yield, and renewed his chastisement with increased severity. On undressing it, a pin was discovered sticking into its back.”36

(Albertine Adrienne Necker, Progressive Education, Commencing with the Infant. Boston: W. D. Ticknor, 1835, p. 180)

Doctors well into the nineteenth century thought having sexual intercourse with three-year-old girls was a good idea because it was “instructive to familiarize them with carnal matters…”91

The belief that “one could cure venereal disease” by means of sexual intercourse with children”96 was of course one of the main underlying motivations for the frequency of paternal abuse, in addition to the need of fathers to prove their masculinity.

Non-conformist Christians

[A]s John Wesley put it, “Never, on any account, give a child anything that it cries for…If you give a child what he cries for, you pay him for crying.”91

20th century parents

When in 1908 incest was finally made a criminal offense in England, it was considered a minor felony, rarely prosecuted.83

Even when a British study in 1991 found 45 percent of girls and 30 percent of boys admitting to remembering having been sexually abused as children (the actual rates being much higher due to underreporting and repression), British doctors surveyed at that time said they thought the sexual abuse rate was probably “less than one percent.”78

Sexual abuse of little children is still routine in the rest of the world, starting with Asian maternal masturbation of little children from India to Japan.80

[Prior to the Great War] Germans feared women would “take over men” and “oversexed wives would threaten her husband’s life with her insatiable erotic demands.’52 Females were depicted in art and cinema as vampires devouring helpless men.53 “On the eve of the 20th century, the image of the New Woman was widespread…university-educated and sexually independent, she engendered intense hostility and fear as she seemed to challenge male supremacy and turn the world upside down.”54

The origin of [John F] Kennedy’s need to prove his masculinity was his early child abuse. His mother had battered him as a child with coat hangers and belts, his father smashed his childrens’ heads against walls, so that his resulting fears of impotence made him fill the White House during evenings with sexual partners to demonstrate how hyper-masculine he was.101

Lyndon Johnson had an alcoholic father who whipped him with a razor strap and an abandoning, overcontrolling, disrespectful mother who sometimes “walked around the house pretending I was dead.”110 His mother was described as “tough, stern, unyielding, obstinate, domineering.”111 He kept running away from home because he felt “smothered … oscillating between grandiosity and gloom and always questioning his worth.”112 Like Kennedy, he had to have many sexual affairs to prove his masculinity.113

John McCain described his parents as beating him so hard that he often passed out as he held his breath during the beatings. He reports they punished him for holding his breath and passing out by filling the bathtub with ice cold water and throwing him in while unconscious, fully clothed.129  He says “this went on for some time until I was finally ‘cured.’ Whenever I worked myself into a tiny rage, my mother shouted to my father, ‘Get the water!’ Moments later I would find myself thrashing, wide-eyed and gasping for breath, in a tub of icy-cold water.”130

The advance in the Soviet Union from abandonment of children in street gangs and “round-the-clock boarding schools” to actual family care of children began to take place in the 1970s,128 resulting in a switch in parenting from traditional “hardening” childrearing like that experienced by Joseph Stalin—who was “kicked and tried to be killed”—to that of Gorbachev—who was treated with respect and was remembered as being “very joyful” as a child.129

Tony Blair recently admitted on television that he hit his one-year-old baby “to discipline him,” explaining that “I had to hit him, because he could not talk.”37

A recent survey of 652 Palestinian undergraduates asking if they recalled sexual abuse showed 18.6 percent said they had been used sexually by a family member, 36. 2 percent by a relative and 45.6 percent by a stranger.147 … In many Islamic areas 90 percent of the women surveyed say they have genitally mutilated all of their daughters.151

For further reading:

Chapter 8: Infanticide, Child Rape and War in Early States (quotes and footnotes for Ancient Egypt, Ancient Western World, first Tertullian quote in Early Doctors of the Church and The Aztecs)

Chapter 9: Bipolar Christianity: How Torturing “Sinful” Children Produced Holy Wars (quotes and footnotes for Constantine in Ancient Western World, Early Doctors of the Church, Christians during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, The Reformers, Colonial America, Thinkers of the Enlightenment and Romanticists for the Locke quote, Non-conformist Christians)

Chapter 10: Patriarchal Families and National Wars (quotes and footnotes for The Reformers’ Luther quotes, Christians during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance for the Jean Bodin quote, Thinkers of the Enlightenment and Romanticists for citations other than Locke’s, 20th Century Parents)

Chapter 11: Global Wars to Restore US Masculinity (quotes for 20th Century Parents — footnote sources are brief, as they are included in de Mause’s books listed at the end)

Tomorrow: More on the global history of the abuse of children and women

For students of Church history — actual and amateur — there is no finer summary from the Reformation to the present day than Tim Naab’s Pentecostal History page. (H/T: Reformation Anglicanism — thank you!)

Catholics often accuse Protestants of an incapability to make up their minds about what church they ultimately want to be members of, however, in response, they should note that all the smaller denominations which Naab lists — also see his Too Many and Pentecostal Denominations pages — came from Holiness and Pentecostalist movements rather than from the Reformation churches. Yes, the Reformation churches have had some splits, but nowhere near the frequency and number that these 19th and 20th century movements have had.

Could it be the emotion-driven — ‘enthusiastic’ — orientation of these church members which drives them to keep splitting off into more discrete congregations? They think with their hearts and not their heads. Some splits happened because, with the best will in the world, early 20th century Holiness and Pentecostal adherents were unable to gather for bi-racial conferences which were hampered by America’s segregation laws. It was more expedient for them to reluctantly agree to split into racially-determined churches of similar enough names to be recognised by other congregants.  That said, in general, most of the splits occurred because of religious disagreement. I hesitate to use the word ‘theological’ as most of them don’t have much in the way of formal theology, which is deemed unnecessary.  You can read Naab’s potted histories to verify this. It’s all experiential. (This post of mine discusses the ‘testimony’ experience.)

These are the denominations where, largely, ‘pastor as prophet’ and ‘touch not mine anointed’ are the order of the day. Meanwhile, the members must be born again in the Spirit, otherwise, they face accusations of lack of faith or demon possession.

Even John Wesley — inspiration for the post-Methodist Holiness and Wesleyan churches and, by extension, Pentecostalism — wrote in his sermon ‘The Nature of Enthusiasm’:

As to the nature of enthusiasm, it is, undoubtedly a disorder of the mind; and such a disorder as greatly hinders the exercise of reason. Nay, sometimes it wholly sets it aside: it not only dims but shuts the eyes of the understanding. It may, therefore, well be accounted a species of madness.

Enthusiasm there, and in a theological sense, refers to charismatics and continuationism.

Two centuries earlier, John Calvin had this to say in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 9:

Those who, rejecting Scripture, imagine that they have some peculiar way of penetrating to God, are to be deemed not so much under the influence of error as madness. For certain giddy men[1] have lately appeared, who, while they make a great display of the superiority of the Spirit, reject all reading of the Scriptures themselves, and deride the simplicity of those who only delight in what they call the dead and deadly letter.

Note that both men mention ‘madness’, alluding to a leaving of one’s senses where faith is concerned.

Much better to be a Berean, absorbing Christian doctrine whilst seriously and quietly reading and dividing Holy Scripture.

For more information on some of the denominations Naab — himself raised as a Pentecostalist — see his many additional links as well as the ‘Pietism and Small Groups’ and ‘Evangelical and Enthusiasm’ topics on my Christianity / Apologetics page.

Two of last week’s posts introduced pietism. The first explored its origins in Germany and the second examined its expansion in Methodism.

As we saw, pietism is based on the theology of Christian perfection, which comes from the perfection of Christ. Whilst all Christians are enjoined to sanctification — bearing increasingly holy attitudes and behaviours as a result of God’s grace and the Holy Spirit working through them — the danger is semi-Pelagianism. A list of proscribed activities — dancing, drinking and smoking — is not only a form of legalism but gives some believers in Arminian (‘free will’) denominations the idea that they can save themselves by obeying this checklist of behaviours.

Therefore, a number of pastors and theologians have condemned it over the centuries. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

denounced the basic aim of Pietism, to produce a “desired piety” in a person, as unbiblical.

Pietist denominations and Wesleyan denominations follow a doctrine called theosis in their interpretation of personal holiness and sanctification. Yet, everyone’s journey on the road to sanctification is different and personal piety happens in different ways at various times. One person might never be tempted by alcohol yet fall into sins of pride; another might drink in moderation yet conduct themselves in perfect humility. Nowhere in Scripture — as Bonhoeffer said — does the Bible proscribe or prescribe a variety of things that the pietists and Wesleyans say it does.

A case in point is Methodist Hillary Clinton banning smoking in the White House during her husband’s presidency. Mrs Clinton was trying to save other people from themselves and to get them to practice this little bit of holiness. Another aspect is social justice, also popular with many striving for Christian perfection. They like to impose this notional holiness on others by supporting government policies for higher taxes to ensure that wealth is evenly distributed. The Welsh, despite their increasingly secular nature, are still influenced by their Presbyterian Church’s teachings, which are more Methodist than Presbyterian with regard to morality. As such, they are becoming prohibitionists where drinking and smoking are concerned. They claim that society would be so much better if only these two pleasure outlets were done away with.

None of these ‘good for you’ policies works. We have seen this throughout history. Nevertheless, pietism and theosis of whatever kind can lead to mysticism, introspection and what is known as radical pietism, involving utopian communities.  Radical pietism promotes separatist communal living rather than church membership, a Christian experience based on emotion and sensation rather than doctrine and holding each other to behavioural accountability — often publicly.

The word ‘heart’ features prominently in any pietist movement and, in some situations, can trump what the Bible says.  What is important is what the person feels and what he does. Therefore, it is no surprise that Lutherans, Calvinists and orthodox Anglicans condemn it as works-based righteousness. These works are not necessarily spontaneous but carefully engineered by oneself and monitored by others.  Many of the ‘holy’ behaviours are manmade diktats, based on a leader’s personal likes and dislikes.

However, one of the greatest perils of semi-Pelagianism is that Nature abhors a vacuum. And Satan enters in quite easily, constantly tempting people.

This is why a Christian who believes an orthodox confession of faith will be able to better resist temptation as he prays for more grace to guide him spontaneously in the direction of holiness in obedience to Christ’s commandments.  Christ and the Apostles never said that faith was an ethereal experience or a lengthy to-do list.

That said, we come to the subject of Methodism and pietism as it developed in the 19th century to the present day. Emphases below are mine.

John Wesley’s legacy

Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, died in 1791 at the age of 87. His

call to personal and social holiness continues to challenge Christians who attempt to discern what it means to participate in the Kingdom of God.

Denominations which Methodism influenced include not only the Methodist churches around the world, but also the Methodist Episcopal churches, Wesleyan Church, the Church of the Nazarene and the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Charismatic and Pentecostal denominations also have their origins in Wesleyan holiness movements.

Wesley’s circuit riders helped to spread Methodism in the United States as did Anglicans emigrating from England who considered themselves more Methodist than Anglican. At the end of the 18th century, Methodists had their own chapels but without their own clergy, still received the sacraments in the Anglican church.

Wesley ‘laid hands’ on an Anglican priestThomas Coke — for his role as Superintendent of Methodists in the United States. He also ordained two presbyters who would accompany Coke on his journey.  However, Wesley was loth to offend the Church of England by ordaining any more Methodist clergymen.  Wesley and his brother died in the Church of England.

Francis Asbury joined Coke as co-Superintendent. Together, they founded the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784. The name implied that a Methodists would meet in chapel and receive the sacraments in the Episcopal Church. Later, the word ‘Episcopal’ would refer to its church government of bishops.

The Methodist Episcopal Church relied on modestly-paid circuit riders, unsalaried local ministers, stewards who were administrators and

class leaders who conducted weekly small groups where members were mutually accountable for their practice of Christian piety

The earliest Episcopal Methodists in North America were often drawn from the middle-class trades, women were more numerous among members than men, and adherents outnumbered official members by as many as five-to-one. Adherents, unlike members, were not publicly accountable for their Christian life and therefore did not usually attend weekly class meetings. Meetings and services were often characterized by extremely emotional and demonstrative styles of worship that were often condemned by contemporary Congregationalists and Presbyterians. It was also very common for exhortations — testimonials and personal conversion narratives distinguishable from sermons because exhorters did not “take a text” from the Bible — to be publicly delivered by both women and slaves. Some of the earliest class leaders were also women.

Note the pietist characteristics of behaviour monitoring, small groups and emotional worship.

The founding of the AME Churches

On a positive note, Methodism was egalitarian in welcoming active participation and leadership from women and slaves.  It was also very much at the forefront of the abolition movement.  A number of Methodists participated in the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves to freedom.

However, not all black freemen in the North felt welcome in Methodist congregations and formed their own:

– In 1799, Francis Asbury ordained freeman Richard Allen. The congregation to which he was assigned, St George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, allowed him and another minister Absalom Jones to preach only to black congregations. Blacks could also only sit in specific galleries in the church. Consequently, Allen, Jones and others founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in 1816.

– A similar situation took place in New York City at John Street Methodist Church in 1800. Blacks were told to leave worship.  Blacks left to form their own congregation, the name of which was Zion. By 1820, other Zion congregations had grown from the original church. In 1821, elder James Varick was named the first General Superintendent of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and became its bishop the following year.

Both AME churches exist today. The AME Church has become increasingly involved in liberation theology. After the Civil War the AME Zion Church expanded into the American South and today has many missions in the Caribbean and Africa.

Mergers in the 19th century and German immigrants

At the end of the 18th century, other splits in Methodism were already occurring. In 1793, the preacher James O’Kelly rebelled against going where his bishop assigned him. He and other preachers who wanted the right to refuse a church assignment formed the Christian Church — Christian Connection — which later merged with the United Church of Christ.

There were also Methodist congregations which catered to German settlers in Pennsylvania. In 1767, Philip William Otterbein and Martin Boehm formed the United Brethren in Christ congregations, a branch of which is now part of the United Methodist Church. In 1800, German immigrant Jacob Albright (originally Albrecht) founded the Evangelical Association — the Albright Brethren — for German immigrants. Most of the group’s members became part of the United Methodist Church in 1968, however, a small group still exists as the Evangelical Church of North America:

probably in protest against perceived theological and social liberalism in American Methodism.

The German churches were heavily influenced by pietism not only from Methodism but also that from the Moravian and Mennonite communities.  Albright placed a good deal of emphasis on his personal religious journey, brought about by adverse family circumstances during which he rejected the Lutheranism of his youth. He was known to preach in a moving, emotional style.

Otterbein was ordained a German Reformed (Calvinist) minister in Herborn in 1749 and was assigned to a church in Pennsylvania, where he met Boehm.  Boehm was born in Pennsylvania into a Mennonite family and became a preacher.  The two men developed a close friendship which resulted in Boehm’s excommunication from the Mennonites. Otterbein, like Wesley, remained in the denomination into which he was ordained although he, with Boehm, began organising the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.  The two men were the first bishops of the new denomination.

The desire for holiness

Whilst most Methodist Episcopal Church members gradually merged into what is today’s United Methodist Church, a number of the offshoots of the Methodist Episcopal Church during the 19th century involved a quest for holiness and greater purity.

The Wesleyan Church was formed in 1843 in Utica, New York, and still exists today. Its members wanted a stronger abolitionist stance from the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1848, the Wesleyan Church also began its strong support of women’s rights and ordained its first female minister, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, in 1856.

However, revivals were sweeping across the United States and Canada in the 1850s, and the Wesleyan preachers, particularly the Revd James Caughey

brought in the converts by the score, most notably in the revivals in Canada West 1851-53. His technique combined restrained emotionalism with a clear call for personal commitment, coupled with followup action to organize support from converts. It was a time when the Holiness Movement caught fire, with the revitalized interest of men and women in Christian perfection. Caughey successfully bridged the gap between the style of earlier camp meetings and the needs of more sophisticated Methodist congregations in the emerging cities.[4]

In the 20th century:

the denomination merged with the Alliance of Reformed Baptists of Canada and 1968 with the Pilgrim Holiness Church. It spread through revivals emphasizing a deepening experience with God called holiness or sanctification. Heart purity was a central theme. During this period of time, many small churches developed through revivals and the emphasis of sanctification (taught by John Wesley, but not emphasized by many Methodists). As many as 25 or 30 small denominations were formed and eventually merged with other groups to enlarge the church. The church was strong in missionary and revival emphasis. The merger took place in 1968 at Anderson University, Anderson, Indiana.[5]

The Free Methodist Church was founded in Pekin, New York, in 1860, after disagreements with the Methodist Episcopal Church over a perceived lack of emphasis on holiness:

The name “Methodist” was retained for the newly organized church because the founders felt that their misfortunes (expulsion from the Methodist Episcopal Church) had come to them because of their adherence to doctrines and standards of Methodism. The word “Free” was suggested and adopted because the new church was to be an anti-slavery church (slavery was an issue in those days), because pews in the churches were to be free to all rather than sold or rented (as was common), and because the new church hoped for the freedom of the Holy Spirit in the services rather than a stifling formality.[5] However, according to World Book Encyclopedia, the third principle was “freedom” from secret and oathbound societies (in particular the Freemasons).

The Free Methodist Church has a loose liturgical structure for its worship and professes

the standard beliefs of evangelical, Arminian Protestantism, with distinctive emphasis on the teaching of entire sanctification as held by John Wesley

It supports egalitarianism, however, like the aforementioned Evangelical Church of North America, it draws a line with regard to the social and political activism which characterises the United Methodist Church.

In England in 1865, former Methodist minister William Booth began evangelising in London’s East End, dispensing soup, soap and salvation. His mission work became the Salvation Army and spread internationally:

The Salvation Army’s main converts were at first alcoholics, morphine addicts, prostitutes and other “undesirables” unwelcome in polite Christian society, which helped prompt the Booths to start their own church.[8] The Booths did not include the use of sacraments (mainly baptism and Holy Communion) in the Army’s form of worship, believing that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself.[9] Other beliefs are that its members should completely refrain from drinking alcohol (Holy Communion is not practised), smoking, taking illegal drugs and gambling.[10]

Meanwhile, back in the United States, the holiness movement was gaining strength. Pietism, quietism (‘let go and let God’ and silent prayer) and Methodism through small meeting houses, Quaker influence, revivals and camp meetings stirred the emotions of many people in towns and cities:

Two major leaders of the holiness revival were Phoebe Palmer and her husband, Dr. Walter Palmer. In 1835, Palmer’s sister, Sarah A. Lankford, had started holding Tuesday Meetings for the Promotion of Holiness in her New York City home. In 1837, Palmer experienced what she called entire sanctification and had become the leader of the Tuesday Meetings by 1839. At first only women attended these meetings, but eventually Methodist bishops and hundreds of clergy and laymen began to attend as well. At the same time, Methodist minister Timothy Merritt of Boston founded a journal called the Guide to Christian Perfection, later renamed The Guide to Holiness. This was the first American periodical dedicated exclusively to promoting the Wesleyan message of Christian holiness.[5] In 1865, the Palmers purchased The Guide which at its peak had a circulation of 30,000. In 1859, Palmer published The Promise of the Father, in which she argued in favor of women in ministry. This book later influenced Catherine Booth, co-founder of the Salvation Army. The practice of ministry by women is common but not universal within the denominations of the holiness movement.

Camp meetings attracted large crowds:

The first distinct “holiness camp meeting” convened at Vineland, New Jersey in 1867 under the leadership of John S. Inskip, John A. Wood, Alfred Cookman, and other Methodist ministers. The gathering attracted as many as 10,000 people. At the close of the encampment, while the ministers were on their knees in prayer, they formed the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness, and agreed to conduct a similar gathering the next year. This organization was commonly known as the National Holiness Association. Later, it became known as the Christian Holiness Association and subsequently the Christian Holiness Partnership.

The second National Camp Meeting was held at Manheim, Pennsylvania, and drew upwards of 25,000 persons from all over the nation. People called it a “Pentecost,” and it did not disappoint them. The service on Monday evening has almost become legendary for its spiritual power and influence. The third National Camp Meeting met at Round Lake, New York. This time the national press attended and write-ups appeared in numerous papers, including a large two-page pictorial in Harper’s Weekly. These meetings made instant religious celebrities out of many of the workers. Robert and Hannah Smith were among those who took the holiness message to England, and their ministries helped lay the foundation for the now-famous Keswick Convention.

The Keswick Convention, founded by an Anglican Canon and a Quaker, still exists today as an ecumenical gathering of evangelical Christians in Cumbria (northwest England).  It is connected with the 19th century Higher Life movement in England which promoted

“entire sanctification,” “the second blessing,” “the second touch,” “being filled with the Holy Spirit,” and various other terms. Higher Life teachers promoted the idea that Christians who had received this blessing from God could live a more holy, that is less sinful or even a sinless, life. The so-called Keswick approach seeks to provide a mediating and biblically balanced solution to the problem of subnormal Christian experience. The “official” teaching has been that every believer in this life is left with the natural proclivity to sin and will do so without the countervailing influence of the Holy Spirit …

Little by little, Methodist churches in the London area became open to the concept of Christian holiness, which was their rightful inheritance from their founder. Robert Pearsall Smith warned them that they would end up falling behind other churches who had embraced the movement, and they began to invite Higher Life teachers to explain the doctrine to them.

Back in the United States in 1871, the famous evangelist Dwight L Moody met with two Free Methodist churchwomen and, although he did not become part of the holiness movement, greatly admired their teachings.

In a quest for holiness, two other new denominations were founded in 1895. One was the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church, which Benjamin Hardin Irwin founded. Irwin was a Baptist minister in Lincoln, Nebraska, who met with members of the Iowa Holiness Association. (Iowa is the state east of Nebraska.) He ended up joining the Wesleyan Methodist Church and believed there must be more to faith than sanctification — an additional experience. As such:

After receiving this experience in October 1895, he began to preach this “third blessing” among holiness adherents in the Midwest, particularly among Wesleyan Methodists and Brethren in Christ. His services were highly emotional with participants often getting the “jerks”, shouting, speaking in tongues, and holy dancing and laughing.[2] Thousands attended his meetings and his teaching was circulated widely within the holiness movement, with its greatest strength in the Midwest and South. His message was largely rejected, however, and was denounced as a “third blessing heresy”.[3]

He disapproved of:

women wearing “needless ornamentation”. However, he also applied this prohibition to men, making it a sin to wear neckties. He also said it was a sin to eat anything forbidden by the dietary laws of the Old Testament.[10]

As is the case with pietist clergy, Irwin, too, had trouble with serious temptation:

In 1900, Irwin confessed to “open and gross sin” which brought “great reproach” to the church. He resigned as general overseer and was replaced by Joseph H. King, a 31 year old former Methodist from Georgia.

The Fire-Baptized Holiness Church would help to pave the way for Pentecostalism.Through mergers with the Pentecostal Holiness Church it became the International Pentecostal Holiness Church in 1975.

The second denomination founded in 1895 is the better known and less emotionally charged Church of the Nazarene. Phineas F Bresee was a pastor in the Methodist Episcopal Church but joined with a physician, Dr Joseph Pomeroy Widney, and a number of laypeople in the Los Angeles area to form this new church.  Widney thought of the name.  Its focus was to create family-oriented congregations for and of the urban poor.

The Church of the Nazarene took root in San Francisco, then expanded eastward throughout the United States. By 1907, its congregations were dotted all over the country. Church planting was also taking place in Canada.  Both of these developments were thanks to a merger with the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America which marked the denomination’s formal incorporation.

The Nazarenes are deeply committed to higher education and have undergraduate and graduate schools around the world.

They adhere closely to Wesleyan teachings:

A key outgrowth of this theology is the commitment of Nazarenes not only to the Evangelical Gospel of repentance and a personal relationship with God, but also to compassionate ministry to the poor …

Throughout its history, the Church of the Nazarene has maintained a stance supporting total abstinence from alcohol and any other intoxicant, including cigarettes. Primary Nazarene founder Bresee was active in the Prohibition cause. Although this continues to be debated, the position remains in the church. While the church does not consider alcohol itself to be the cause of sin, it recognizes that intoxication and the like, are a ‘danger’ to many people, both physically and spiritually. Historically, the Nazarene Church was founded in order to help the poor. Alcohol, gambling, the like, and their addictions were cited as things that kept people poor. So in order to help the poor, as well as everyone, Nazarenes have traditionally abstained from those things. Also, a person who is meant to serve an example to others should avoid the use of them, in order not to cause others to stray from their ‘walk with God,’ as that is considered a sin for both parties.

Interestingly, in light of the holiness movement’s origins in pietism, faithful Nazarenes are horrified (rightly so) to see their denomination move towards mysticism and contemplative prayer in their denomination. However, a study of pietism reveals that this is not uncommon.  Some of their leaders are also questioning biblical inerrancy, another characteristic of pietistic churches where personal experience overshadows Scripture and doctrine.

Worship includes personal testimony, and camp meetings still take place annually although revivals are less numerous than previously. Also:

A distinct approach to worship, especially in the early days of the Nazarene church, was the belief that ultimately the Holy Spirit should lead the worship. Services that were considered to be palpably evidenced by leadership of the Holy Spirit were marked by what was called “the Glory.” Almost equal to the emphasis on the doctrine of entire sanctification was the emphasis on these unusual worship experiences. Church leaders were careful to avoid emotional techniques to bring about such services. Ritual and the usual order of services were not abandoned but were held loosely. While some of the services were marked by shouting, others were marked by testimony, weeping, and individuals seeking spiritual help.

Other holiness and Methodist churches

In closing, there are two other Wesley-influenced churches worth mentioning. One is the small group of snake-handling churches in the American South, about which I wrote in 2010. They are an offshoot of the holiness movement.

The other is the Primitive Methodist Church, whose members were sometimes called ‘ranters’. They had their origins in England during an All Day of Prayer in Mow Cop, Staffordshire, in 1807. Four years later, this group grew to encompass other camp meeting groups.  The mainstream Methodists in England, called the Methodist Connexion at the time, frowned on the noise and unseemly emotions of this group of poorer brethren. Some groups fell into trances, some evangelists talked about the supernatural.  Both evangelists and their audiences were uneducated people. For these reasons, Thomas Coke was very much opposed to the Primitive Methodists. However, mainstream Methodists feared that the Primitives were giving them a bad name, at a time when the Church of England had scant regard for Wesley’s teachings.

Primitive Methodists used child evangelists in their preaching. Their worship music was seen to be undignified, inspired by popular melodies of the day.  By the end of the 19th century, however, they moved closer to mainstream Methodism and discarded their more eccentric denominational characteristics. In the 20th century, both Methodist groups were reconciled to each other.  In 1932, the Primitive Methodist Church became part of the Methodist Union. However, offshoots still exist in the United States and, perhaps, in Australia.

The Temperance Movement

A commonality between mainstream Methodists and the Primitives was their dislike for alcohol:

both the Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists wanted to reform popular behaviour. Again the Primitives were more radical than the Wesleyans and less in keeping with bourgeois correctness. [Co-founder Hugh] Bourne was not just in favour of temperance, he disagreed with alcohol altogether and thought of himself as the father of the teetotal movement. The Primitive Methodists were a religion of popular culture. While the Wesleyans attempted to impose elements of middle-class culture on the lower classes, Primitive Methodists offered an alternate popular culture. They timed their activities to coincide with sinful events. For instance, as an alternative to the race week at Preston they organised a Sunday School children’s parade and a “frugal feast”. Both tried to inculcate the doctrine of self-help into the working class. They promoted education through Sunday Schools, though the Primitives distinguished themselves by teaching writing. Through a combination of discipline, preaching and education both Primitive and Wesleyan Methodism sought to reform their members morality.

Of Methodism in the United States, Wikipedia states that John Wesley abhorred alcohol. Similarly:

The temperance movement appealed strongly to the Methodist doctrines of sanctification and Christian perfection … Therefore, those who believe are made new in Christ. The believer’s response to this sanctification then is to uphold God’s word in the world. A large part of this, especially in the late-19th century, was “to be their brother’s keepers, or […] their brother’s brothers.”[38] Because of this sense of duty toward the other members of the church, many Methodists were personally temperate out of a hope that their restraint would give strength to their brothers. The Methodist stance against drinking was strongly stated in the Book of Discipline. Initially, the issue taken was limited to distilled liquors, but quickly, teetotalism became the norm and Methodists were commonly known to abstain from all alcoholic beverages.[30]

In 1880, the general conference included in the Discipline a broad statement which included, “Temperance is a Christian virtue, Scripturally enjoined.”[38] Due to the temperate stance of the church, the practice of Eucharist was altered — to this day, Methodist churches most commonly use grape juice symbolically during Communion rather than wine. The Methodist church distinguished itself from many other denominations in their beliefs about state control of alcohol. Where many other denominations, including Roman Catholics, Protestant Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Unitarians, believed that the ill-effects of liquor should be controlled by self-discipline and individual restraint, Methodists believed that it was the duty of the government to enforce restrictions on the use of alcohol.[38] In 1904, the Board of Temperance was created by the General Conference to help push the Temperance agenda.

The women of the Methodist Church were strongly mobilized by the temperance movement. In 1879, a Methodist woman, Frances E. Willard, was voted to the presidency of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, an organization which was characterized by heavy Methodist participation. To this day, the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Missions holds property across on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, which was built using funds provided by laypeople. Women of the church were responsible for 70% of the $650,000 it cost to construct the building in 1922. The building was intended to serve as the Methodist Church’s social reform presence of the Hill. The Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morals was especially prominent within the building.[39]

Apologies for the long post, however, it shows in one place the recurring themes of pietism: small groups, behavioural control, personal religious experience, loose worship styles and less emphasis on doctrine.

Next: Pietism and Pentecostalism

Yesterday’s post explored the origins of pietism, which originated in the Lutheran Church in Germany as a reaction to a doctrinal, established church of the state which many regarded as lacking in moral and religious fervour.

From Germany, the movement spread throughout Scandinavia, particularly Norway, and to Prussia. It also extended beyond Lutheranism, bringing about a Moravian revival. Lutheran and Moravian immigrants took their pietism to North America. Pietism, however, also influenced the practices of some Calvinists, particularly Anglicans attracted to the preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield. This, too, was due directly to a Moravian influence which had come to England and Wales.

Wesley’s Methodist movement would eventually inspire further pietism in other churches, mainly those under the Holiness and Pentecostal banners.

John Wesley and the Moravians

At Oxford in 1729, John Wesley’s brother Charles, George Whitefield and other students formed a society called the Holy Club. John Wesley, older and by then ordained in the Anglican Church, had already begun devoting his life to the pursuit of holiness.

The Wesleys, together with the members of the Holy Club, developed a methodical way to achieve what they saw as a sanctified, obedient life. This rigid system of holiness would become known as Methodism.  The word ‘pietist’ was initially used by those critical of the movement; and so it was with the word ‘Methodist’, used against the Holy Club by its critics at Oxford.

The Wikipedia entry on pietism describes the German influence on Wesley as coming from both the Lutherans and the Moravians:

Moravians (e.g., Zinzendorf, Peter Bohler) and Pietists connected to Francke and Halle Pietism.

However, Wesley’s first encounter with their pietism initially occurred not in Germany but on his journey to North America with Charles in 1735.

A storm broke one of the ship’s masts en route to the American colonies. The story has it that, whilst the English (Anglicans and/or Calvinists) panicked, the Moravians on board remained calm by praying and singing hymns.  Their reaction impressed John Wesley, and he befriended them.

Yet, the pietists’ way of life dovetailed with Wesley’s own and that of the Holy Club in Oxford. Therefore, it was natural that he would have been attracted to it.

Once Wesley arrived in the southern colony of Georgia at the invitation of Governor James Oglethorpe to head a new congregation in the city of Savannah, he maintained his connections with Moravian pastors which affected his ministry there adversely.

Common pietist problems: women and the law

Reading biographical details of pietist pastors reveals two common themes: legal and women  troubles.

Wherever a dominant doctrinal and state-established church is in place, pietist pastors have run afoul of the law. As we saw yesterday, the Norwegian Hans Nielsen Hauge spent a number of years in prison for opposing the state church (Lutheran).

We will also see another Lutheran example — involving women — in a few days’ time.  Further on in this post is a Welsh example.

Wesley also experienced problems in Georgia. Many settlers were Anglicans and, as such, opposed to his Methodism. However, he also became romantically involved with Sophia Hopkey, a woman who sailed from England on the same ship as the Wesley brothers. A Moravian pastor advised Wesley against further involvement.

Hopkey maintained that Wesley promised that he would marry her. However, she went on to marry another — William Williamson — and, attending Wesley’s church with her new husband, presented herself at the Lord’s Table for Communion. Wesley refused to give Mrs Williamson the Sacrament.  This was an act which had grave overtones for a congregant’s or guest’s personal character.

The couple filed a lawsuit against Wesley, who stood trial, although the case was dismissed.  Mr Williamson filed another suit against Wesley in an attempt to forbid his leaving Georgia. However, a shaken and debilitated Wesley managed to return to England, escaping the law.

Wesley’s return to England — more Moravian influence

Upon his return to England, John Wesley continued his Moravian associations.

Moravians in London worshipped in Aldersgate Street, then at the Fetter Lane Society, which Peter Böhler established in 1738. Both Wesleys and George Whitefield, as well as other Anglican clergy and laypeople, began attending Moravian services.

Although technically Anglican, John Wesley and George Whitefield were no longer allowed to preach in certain Church of England parishes. They had strayed too far from the established Church.

It was in Aldersgate Street that Wesley had a profound religious experience whilst listening to a reading of a Martin Luther sermon introducing St Paul’s letter to the Romans. He travelled to Germany to study at the Moravian headquarters in Herrnhut.

Upon his return, Wesley would go on to help to devise the polity of the Fetter Lane Society and publish a hymnal for them.

Eventually, however, Wesley and the Moravians broke their association over disagreements about assurance and faith. Some at the Fetter Lane Society believed in a type of quietism — a ‘let go and let God’ philosophy — of doing nothing until they felt they had the full assurance of salvation.  Wesley rightly pointed out that this was heretical, which it is. He tried to impress upon the group the importance of nurturing a relationship with God through prayer, worship and study.

Pietistic worship style and revivalism

The Moravian worship style at the Fetter Lane Society was typically pietistic, inducing meaningful religious experiences, surges in emotion and a subjective notion of the presence of God.

This emotionally- and self-absorbed style of worship would become part of the First and Second Great Awakenings, which adopted an enthusiastic and revivalistic preaching style. It is one of the reasons that some Anglicans and social critics made fun of it.

As mentioned earlier, Wesley and Whitefield were restricted in what Anglican parishes they could preach. In 1739, Whitefield began preaching in the open air near Bristol to miners and encouraged Wesley to join him. Initially reluctant, Wesley went along two months later to preach outdoors in the same location.

Both men were powerful preachers, stirring the soul to give that characteristically pietistic sensation of an inner stirring — a notional religious experience which makes the listener feel a divine presence.

In pietism — then as now — doctrine matters little. Sermons are intended to be sensational and  personal in order to encourage repentence and to goad one into a manmade pursuit of holiness.

The Second Great Awakening of the 19th century would bring revivals and their enthusiasm to full fruition. Preachers like Charles Finney in the United States would capitalise on this, lending a Pelagian flavour to certain independent Evangelical and Bible churches springing up throughout America.

Lay and itinerant preachers with little to no formal training would travel from town to town spreading their message, collecting money from the crowds to finance their ministries and sometimes dupe followers in the process.

Methodist polity and popularity in western England and in Wales

After joining Whitefield in Bristol in 1739, Wesley noted that he lacked preachers. Nonetheless, he opened Methodist chapels in the area and would later return to London to do so there.

In order to have enough preachers to serve the chapels, and as he (as an Anglican priest) was under no authority to ordain any, Wesley decided that laymen were the answer. Indeed, the Methodist movement expanded rapidly as a result. The Methodist Church relies heavily on lay preachers to this day.  They preach and do pastoral work. For many Methodists lay preachers are the pastors in most respects.

By 1744, the Methodist movement had grown to such a size that a formal organisation and doctrine needed to be arrived at. However, 18 months prior to Wesley’s first conference to decide such matters, the Welsh — under the chairmanship of George Whitefield — organised their first Methodist Association. They would organise the movement in Wales into districts.

The Welsh also had Anglican preachers — some of whom had also studied at Oxford — who subscribed to a Methodist way of life. As such, they, too, preached at outdoor revivals. Whitefield would encourage and mentor the Welsh movement, which had its beginnings in 1735.

It was that year when Howell Harris had an awakening during an Easter church service and decided to begin holding services in his own house.  He had wanted to pursue ordination as an Anglican priest but was refused because his approach was too Methodist. Like Wesley and Whitefield, Harris found pietism the pathway to holiness.

Harris ran into much difficulty, even physical danger, because of his religious views but he continued to travel around Wales preaching in a deeply moving style which attracted many people.

However, he, like a number of other pietist pastors, experienced problems with the opposite sex. Harris had developed a close friendship with a wife and mother, Sydney ‘Madam’ Griffith.  Mrs Griffith’s marriage was an unhappy one. Already a devotee of Methodism, hearing Harris’s preaching in 1748 further moved her emotionally.  She made Harris’s acquaintance as well as that of his Methodist associate, Daniel Rowland, another prominent preacher of the day.

Wikipedia states:

For a short time, Madam Griffith was Harris’s constant companion. Although she had made considerable financial contributions to the Methodist cause, she was left without any income following her separation from her husband. Soon her health deteriorated, and Harris took her to London, where she died (her husband having died three months earlier).

Before she died, however, their association had become quite public and scandalous. As a result, Harris had returned to his home in Treveca in 1752.  Following the Moravian example, he established a religious community there called Teulu Treveca (‘The Treveca Family’), where he presided as ‘father’.

However, in 1763, Harris resumed public preaching and is considered the founder of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, also known as the Calvinistic Methodist Church.  To many, this name will appear an oxymoron.  It combines Calvinist doctrine with Methodist polity and practice.  I cannot but help wonder whether the influence of this church on the Welsh is one of the reasons they clamour so loudly for Government controls on tobacco and alcohol.

Back now to Wesley’s first conference in 1744. Whereas the Welsh Methodists had organised districts, Wesley organised circuits, which exist to this day in the Methodist Church. In fact, the first men to make the rounds of regional congregations rode on horseback — as did Wesley — and were called circuit riders.

Wesley wanted his lay preachers to move to a new circuit every two years, making them ‘itinerant’. Even today, many orthodox Christians disparage ‘itinerant preachers’ for this reason, asking, ‘What formal theological training do they have? What is their history? Where are they from?’

As for the possibility of ordained ministers, the Wesleys knew that the chasm between them and the Church of England was growing ever wider and deeper. The brothers both stayed in the Church of England and were loth to leave it or to cause too much offence. When John Wesley laid hands on an Anglican priest, Thomas Coke, in order to appoint him Superintendent of Methodists in the United States, he also ordained two presbyters to accompany him across the Atlantic. Afterward, Charles begged John to stop:

before he had “quite broken down the bridge” and not embitter his [Charles’] last moments on earth, nor “leave an indelible blot on our memory.”

Wesley and Whitefield part ways theologically

It is sometimes unclear to the casual reader exactly where Whitefield ended up on the theological spectrum. As he was part of the First Great Awakening and was an emotive, charismatic preacher, not to mention connected with Wesley, some might think that Whitefield stayed within Methodism.

However, he never really left his Calvinistic roots and eventually separated theologically from Wesley — as did his proteges in the Calvinistic Methodist Presbyterian Church of Wales. That said, the two ministers remained good friends. Whitefield’s patron was Selina, Countess of Huntingdon.

Sanctification and holiness

Wikpedia’s entry on John Wesley states:

Wesley taught that sanctification was obtainable after justification by faith, between justification and death. He did not contend for “sinless perfection”; rather, he contended that a Christian could be made “perfect in love”. (Wesley studied Eastern Orthodoxy and particularly the doctrine of Theosis). This love would mean, first of all, that a believer’s motives, rather than being self-centred, would be guided by the deep desire to please God. One would be able to keep from committing what Wesley called, “sin rightly so-called.” By this he meant a conscious or intentional breach of God’s will or laws. A person could still be able to sin, but intentional or wilful sin could be avoided.

Secondly, to be made perfect in love meant, for Wesley, that a Christian could live with a primary guiding regard for others and their welfare. He based this on Christ’s quote that the second great command is “to love your neighbour as you love yourself.” In his view, this orientation would cause a person to avoid any number of sins against his neighbour. This love, plus the love for God that could be the central focus of a person’s faith, would be what Wesley referred to as “a fulfilment of the law of Christ.”

Wesley believed that this doctrine should be constantly preached, especially among the people called Methodists. In fact, he contended that the purpose of the Methodist movement was to “spread scriptural holiness across England.”

However, it would seem that his subsequent followers — including some Methodists I knew in the United States — had a different notion of holiness. Alcohol was often eschewed and even actively discouraged for non-Methodists, to be covered in the next post which concerns the 19th century temperance  movement, also associated with Wesleyanism.

Wesley Covenant Prayer and pietism

Early each January, Methodist churches in Britain and the Commonwealth hold a Covenant service, open to all. I have attended three and recommend that those who are interested go at least once.  This is at least one service during the year where more traditional hymns and liturgy are used.

The purpose is to affirm aloud one’s covenant with God. To this end, everyone recites in unison a special prayer known as the Wesley Covenant Prayer, said to be influenced by pietism.

The traditional form of the prayer is as follows:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

Next week: The Holiness movement, temperance and Pentecostalism

Before I get into the topic of this post, I’d just like to set the backdrop for it.  In researching this subject, I came across an essay by Dr Dean O. Wenthe, the President of Concordia University in Ft Wayne, Indiana.  (For my overseas readers — Concordia is affiliated with the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS).)

Dr Wenthe discusses modern university education in ‘Postmodernism & Sacred Scripture’. It goes some way in explaining why our everyday world is so puzzling on so many levels.

Many of the prominent names come (as indicated) from the larger circles of philosophy and literature: Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Stanly Fish, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jurgen Habermas, Paul Ricouer, Richa[r]d Rorty-to mention only select authors. Similarly, certain schools of thought take on labels: contextual pragmatism, deconstructionism, feminism, liberation theology, power-interests, semiotics, speech acts, structuralism, etc.

I studied semiotics, reading Roland Barthes and Walter Benjamin at university for film class, so, yes, this is a fairly typical list of thinkers and topics.  Note that Habermas was part of the Frankfurt School.

The way we think today

Dr Wenthe comes up with some amazing quotes.  First, what about this from David Lyon of Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario)?

Only tribal truths and tribal decisions about right and wrong can be made.

In other words, your personal truth depends on what you have gleaned from your national origins and what faith you practice.  A ‘tribal truth’ is, therefore, based on a collectivist  perspective.  The people around you — through their actions, conversations and governance — will tell you what your notion of right and wrong is.

But someone following Jacques Derrida’s theories can always manage to ‘deconstruct’ these truths.  As Dr Wenthe explains:

Every statement invites a plurality of interpretations. Possible meanings multiply.

And we end up with the relativism that we encounter today.  This is one reason why people get so emotional when they come up against hard data and historical evidence.  As my better half often jests, ‘Surely you’re not going to bring fact into this discussion!’

Therefore, when it comes to Scripture, about which untold books have been written since Christ’s time on Earth, all this has been overturned (emphases mine):

Robert B. and Mary P. Coote have applied such a lens to the Bible in their book Power, Politics, and the Making of the Bible, (Fortress 1990) … Consider these exegetical adventures: (a) The Yahwist was “designed to appeal for the loyalty of tribal sheikhs in the Negeb and Sinai. It is David’s buttress against Egypt in the south and therefore suggests that Israel’s early chiefs, the Patriarchs were southern sheikhs like themselves.”5 (b) Or, when the texts describe the “fear of God” they remind us “that like all the privileged, Jeroboam feared himself in other men and hence projected this fear, in the guise of cultic and judicial respect“, or the “fear of God” as public policy.6 Hence, the fear of God becomes a nervous politician’s effort to handle his insecurities. (c) And, disingenuously, the beautiful Messianic psalm-Psalm 2-is described as a “raucous salute to the Davidic imperialism.”7

Jesus and the Gadarene Swine

So, it’s no wonder that we end up with conversations such as this British one on the United Reformed Church forum about Jesus’s ‘cruelty’ to animals.  This thread discusses the story of the Gadarene Swine: Mark 5:1-20, Matthew 8:28-34, Luke 8:26-39). (This scene — courtesy of the Tate Collection — is pictured above in an 1883 painting, The Miracle of the Gadarene Swine, by Briton Riviere (1840-1920).)

Robbie, who does not appear to be a Christian but rather a strong apologist for animals, writes (24 October 2010, 7:05pm):

My motivation is to discern the truth but it is also irrelevant – what matters is whether the argument is correct o[r] not

It is the awful fact of Je[s]us’s appalling cruelty that you seem unable [to] escape. Think of the reports to the RSPCA if that happened today.  And all the evidence is in the bible.

The FACT is that if we bel[i]eve the evidence of three gospels Jesus was cruel to animals in a way that would make him utterly reviled by decent modern society.  I certainly have vastly more compassion than thatas do very many 21st century humans. I denounce him for his cruelty just as I denounce Luther for his vast works of evil.

In addtion it would be clear that Jesus’ suffering on the c[ro]ss was not suffering at all – just appearance

It’s the breathtaking postmodernist reasoning in that quote which, putting it politely, stuns me.  First, the truth doesn’t matter as much as the validity of the argument does. (Huh?) Then, he sets himself up to be higher than the Son of God.  (Oh, boy.) Then, that Jesus never suffered on the Cross is ‘clear’? (It’s incredible that someone can even write those words.)  Yet, this is fairly common argumentation today.  And, of course, we have the mention of the all-powerful, pathological RSPCA.

But note Robbie’s lack of relief and gratitude that Jesus cast the demons out of the man, that the demons recognised Him and they themselves asked to be cast into the herd of swine. From the Bible story written by a retired schoolteacher and linked to in the preceding sentence:

The people of the area, the Gadarenes, believed this person was possessed by a devil. When he had started acting strangely, they had bound him with chains and forced him to live outside the town among the tombs. However, the wild man had superhuman strength and easily broke his restraints …

A strange thing happened when he saw Jesus. He ran up and bowed before Him. The demons inside knew who Jesus was all right, and they were forced to acknowledge His Divinity. Jesus commanded in a stern voice:” Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” …

The man’s rasping voice replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Then, all the evil spirits who possessed the man begged Jesus not to send them away, but to send them into a herd of pigs who were  grazing on a nearby hillside. Jesus granted their request, but it did them no good.

As soon as the demons entered the pigs, the animals immediately stampeded down the hillside into the Sea of Galilee and were drowned.

This story is really about the continual battle between Jesus and Satan. Yet, today, people worry more about a demon-infested herd of pigs than a man’s mental health which Jesus, in His mercy, restored?  Something is seriously wrong with Western society.

From this type of reasoning, we progress to Christians drawing in their denominational founders to support claims of vegetarianism.  This thread comes from another British blog post with comments from vegetarians. The blogger, the Revd Richard Hall, a Methodist minister in Wales, balances out the discussion, particularly on whether John Wesley was a vegetarian:

Certainly JW went through veggie phases. On Dec 29th, 1747, he wrote in his journal, “I resumed my vegetable diet (which I had now discontinued for several years), and found it of use both to my body and soul; but, after two years, a violent flux which seized me in Ireland obliged me to return to the use of animal food.” Then in September 1749: “Today I resumed my spare diet, which i shall probably quit no more.” But whether he did or not, I don’t know.

Now, on to the main topic.

The biblical-based relationship between humans and animals

It’s important to really study this carefully and not just through a few hand-picked quotes. (This blog post is not meant to be a definitive statment on the subject but to give you ideas for further research.)

Going back to John Wesley for a moment, this is what the United Methodist Church has to say on the matter:

… some United Methodist theologians who’ve studied the issue say Wesley did forgo meat occasionally for health reasons.

“There’s no doubt about it—he followed a vegetarian diet from time to time,” said Randy Maddox, a United Methodist theologian and John Wesley specialist at Duke University.

He never made that a requirement, and it wasn’t his consistent practice,” Maddox said …

Wesley stopped eating meat at times because it made him feel better, said Charles Wallace, a religion scholar and chaplain at Willamette University in Salem, Ore …

Maddox said Wesley ate animals while also crusading for their welfare.

“At one time, if an Anglican priest preached against cock fighting, they were accused of being Methodist,” Maddox said.

An Evangelical minister, Dr Stephen Vantassel, who teaches Theology at King’s Evangelical Divinity School in Kent (England), is also the webmaster for the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.  In ‘Why Christians Cannot Support Animal Rights’, he observes:

People are generally intrigued by my line of work, but become unsettled upon learning that I am also a minister with a Ph.D. in theology. They seem puzzled that a minister would be teaching the public about techniques that involve shooting, trapping, and killing wildlife. After all, aren’t they God’s creatures? Shouldn’t ministers be about peace and love and harmony?

Unfortunately, what they fail to understand is that there is no fundamental contradiction between responsibly killing animals and following Christ. In fact, the contradiction lies with those who reject our right to kill animals on the grounds that such actions are non-Christian …

Dr Vantassel explains what Man’s God-given ‘dominion’ over the animal kingdom means:

First, Scripture clearly says that God gave dominion to humanity (Gen 1:26-8). Dominion does not mean despotism. Humans were to govern the world in service to God as managers run an apartment block for the interests of the owner. Genesis 2 explicitly relates God’s command to work the garden and to protect it. The evidence suggests that God wanted humans to protect species from extinction. Individual animals did not receive that protection. If you have any doubts, ask how our lives would be different if Adam and Eve decided to express dominion over the Serpent rather than listening to it. Adam and Eve failed to protect the garden because they failed to eject, or dare I say kill the Serpent, for its blasphemy. In short, they failed to express dominion over the serpent.

He also gives evidence for Christ’s pronouncing that all foods are ‘clean’ — suitable and good to eat.  Also note the mention of the Gadarene Swine:

Contrary to the limits in diet proffered by animal rights activists, Christ gave humanity permission to eat all animals. By declaring all foods ceremonially clean, Christians were no longer bound to follow the restrictions of Kosher Laws (Mk 7:19) and could enjoy the flavors of pigs and lobster with divine blessing. Christ’s actions towards animals are even more telling. He allowed demons to drown pigs without ever bothering to run into the Sea of Galilee to save them (Lk 8:33). He even helped the disciples kill more fish through the miracle of the fishes (Jn 21:6).  If we listen to the claims of the Christian animal rights activists, then we have to wonder whether Christ sinned by his treatment of animals. Of course, if Christ was not perfect, then we are still lost in our sin and we know that is not true.

Well, yes, as we saw above, some believe the RSPCA would have run Jesus out of town.

Dr Vantassel elaborates further in another essay, this one on hunting.  Before I take a quote from there, I would like to interject that, until recently, good stewardship of nature meant that man hunted not only for food but to ensure that the number of animals — particularly game — was kept at optimum levels.  Too many deer or pheasant, for example, led to starvation and disease. Leaving predators to multiply also threatened animal populations, in the wild or on farms. Therefore, hunting was a form of population control.  Similarly, at the end of the harvest, farmers used to burn their fields.  The ash from their crops would penetrate the ground and enrich it for the following year.  Now, both practices are frowned upon — if not forbidden — in places.

Christianity teaches that humanity has a stewardship role on the earth. Unlike the preservationists, we believe that it is our job to manage the animal kingdom with the natural predators that God has provided to keep populations in balance. We disagree that letting nature take its course is the correct action. For we are part of that nature. It always strikes me as strange how animal rights people think its okay for diseases to reduce a burdensome animal population, but they don’t think it’s okay for a human to preemptively reduce that population and even make money doing it …

In Christian terms, since animals are not humans they do not command the same moral rights as humans do. Just as plants are not on the same vital plane as animals … Scripture and experience both tell us that humans, while sharing many animal like characteristics, have something in them that is fundamentally different than what animals possess. Some call this different thing, soul, others spirit, still others reason

… the Bible clearly teaches that humanity is created in God’s image (Gen.1:26). Scripture never asserts that animals are created in God’s image. The image of God consists of our ability to self-aware, to control our surroundings and to create.

How man came to eat meat in the Old Testament

James Hughes, an elder in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Canada, has traced man’s food consumption in the Book of Genesis, noting the disagreement of Protestant theologians on what was eaten.  John Calvin believed that man might have been eating meat all along.  Over a century later, the Calvinist minister and Bible scholar Matthew Henry wrote that man’s eating habits changed after the time of Noah and the flood.

Mr Hughes offers these hypotheses:

– They may have resorted to cannibalism. Cannibalism is found among the most degraded portions of mankind after the Flood, so it is not far fetched to surmise that this same evil also occurred before the Flood. If men ate the flesh of other men, it is not inconceivable that they also found a reason in their invented religions to eat animal flesh.

– It appears that God introduced animal sacrifice after the Fall (Gen 3.21; Gen 4.4,5) as a symbol of atonement from sin. It may be that men lusted after the ‘food of God’ and took animal flesh for food so that they could be ‘like God’.

He then explains Calvin’s and Henry’s points of view:

Calvin, assuming that men ate meat before the Flood, says further in his comments on Genesis 9.3 that the reasons God explicitly granted animals for food to men were: 1) to control unbridled licence since the right was granted by God after the Flood, 2) free men from having doubts about the propriety of eating meat. In other words, God validated what men had been doing without explicit licence before the Flood

Matthew Henry states that he thinks that men were vegetarians before the Flood, and provides another perspective on why God may have granted man the right to eat meat.[2] He suggests that immediately following the Flood, there was a shortage of food since all the vegetation had been washed away, and thus men needed to eat meat. This seems like a peculiar reason since God had told Noah to take into the ark sufficient food for himself and the animals (Gen 6.21), and it does not explain why man was permitted to continue eating meat once the vegetation had re-grown.

Mr Hughes, however, believes the shift was in relation to a change in God’s covenant with Man.

There is however, an element found in all the subsequent covenantal administrations that is not found in the Covenant of Creation. This is the redemptive-substitutionary element …

With the introduction of the redemptive-substitutionary element there was an associated change in the covenant fellowship meal. In the first covenant administration the meal was based on life—fruit from the Tree of Life, and did not involve sacrifice or blood since there was no sin and no need for substitution. The second covenant administration, however, required both sacrifice and shedding of blood (Heb 9.22). The covenant fellowship meal was changed from ‘life’ to ‘death’ in that it involved eating a portion of the redemptive-substitutionary sacrifice—a portion of the meat of the clean animals that were sacrificed to God …

In the New Covenant we find the same concept. Those who partake of the covenant fellowship meal eat a portion of the redemptive-substitutionary sacrifice (Mt 26.26; 1 Cor 11.24). However, in the New Covenant, at least two changes occur: 1) the redemptive-substitutionary component is no longer bloody, because Christ’s blood has been shed once for all time (Heb 7.27); and 2) the participation in the eating is not physical but spiritual. The covenant fellowship meal has been changed from eating a portion of the sacrificed animals to symbolical elements (bread and wine) that allow us to participate spiritually in the once-for-all-time sacrifice of Christ …

I have emphasized the permissive aspect with regard to meat eating found in the Covenant enactment in Genesis 8 and 9. Without doubt, God permitted man to eat meat. However if we read the passage carefully, it appears that the provision of meat eating is not just permissive, but also prescriptive. Just as there is the command to “be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (Gen 9.1), there may also be a command embedded in the words “everything that lives and moves shall be food for you” (Gen 9.3 ESV).

As such, he has strong words for those who choose vegetarianism as a lifestyle choice:

Vegetarianism, even if not participated for ‘religious’ reasons, is rebellion against the Covenant. Personal-choice vegetarianism may be a slap in the face of God, and is to go the way of the heathen.

Meat in the New Testament

Dr Kim Riddlebarger, the widely-cited Reformed pastor and author, studies the church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) in ‘To the Church in Pergamum’.  He clarifies what the issue was with food.  It was not with the fact that the Nicolaitans were eating meat but that it was meat sacrificed to idols:

That the Nicolaitans were not denying Christ directly, but doing so implicitly can be seen when Jesus warns this church about eating meat sacrificed to idols, as well as reminding them that Christians must avoid all sexual immortality, especially when these things are directly connected to paganism. These are very prominent themes throughout the New Testament even though they seem foreign to us so many years removed. Recall that Paul speaks about this same matter in his first letter to the Corinthians. It is addressed at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, when the leaders of the church affirmed with one voice the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone, while at the same time insisting that Gentiles avoid eating meat used in pagan sacrifices and sexual immorality.

What is in view here is not vegetarianism or celibacy. God is not against meat or sex. What is in view is the fact that Christians cannot eat meat which was left over from pagan sacrifices and rituals, and then sold in the marketplace at a discounted price. For a Christian to eat such meat is, in effect, to sanction or condone the pagan practice of animal sacrifice and bloody fertility rites. Paul calls this sharing the table with demons in 1 Corinthians 10 …

The principle for the church in Pergamum as well as the application for us today is very simple. Christians cannot worship Christ and at the same time participate in pagan or non-Christian religious practices

Although Dr Riddlebarger does not touch on the subject, I shall interject that it is for that reason many Christians are in a quandary as to whether they should eat halal meat.

However, generally speaking:

25Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.  — St Paul (1 Cor. 10:25-27)

And, very importantly:

1Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. — St Paul (1 Tim. 4:1-5)

In fact, the Lord instructed Peter to eat meat:

9The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15And the voice came to him again a second time,  “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. — Acts 10:9-16

Jesus ate meat:

41And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. — Luke 24:41-43

Romans 14 is hotly contested between Christian carnivores and vegetarians because of verse 15:

15For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love.

Note, however, that vegetarians apply it against carnivores but carnivores have the good grace not to apply it to vegetarians!

Jim Sawtelle, writing for the Reformed Herald, discusses Romans 14, legalism and Christian liberty — an article well worth reading.  Mr Sawtelle writes:

Two groups had emerged, the “strong” and the “weak.” The strong were able to grasp the significance of Christ’s death for daily living, such as receiving and using food, drink, etc. The “weak” were not able to sort out these things as of yet. But the heart of the problem, as Paul identified it, was not that there were differences of views. The problem was that the strong were despising the weak, and the weak were judging the strong (verse 3) …

First, both weak and strong are received by God in Christ. Both are justified. Behavior has nothing to do with acceptance before God. You are accepted because of the Christ’s death and righteousness. Therefore, receive the one who is weak in the faith and do not dispute with him or her over these minor differences. Do not despite this weak one, for this is one for whom Christ died; this is one whom Christ loves (see also Chapter 15:1,7).

Second, God is the judge of both the weak and the strong (verse 4). In other words, God is God and you aren’t! I’m not perfect and neither are you.

Third, God knows how to preserve and sanctify His people …

Because we are received by Christ, and in Christ, we can have differences of opinions; and yet these differences must never lead us to either “despising” or “judging” one another. No one’s actions and behavior led to God receiving them. Therefore, these differences over doubtful things … must never tear us apart from one another.

In conclusion, let’s not proscribe what God allows and may have actually prescribed: meat.  Furthermore, in our concern for our surroundings, let us take care not to exalt animals over humans.  Above all, let us love one another in Christian charity.

Believe it or not, someone did arrive on Churchmouse Campanologist recently searching for an answer to this question.  The response below is from a Catholic and a Calvinist perspective.

First, for my Catholic readers.  When I was growing up, most of the priests I knew smoked — cigars, mainly, although they had the occasional cigarette.  Then, as I recall, sometime in the 1990s, John Paul II said that smoking was a sin.  Well, despite the best efforts of ASH, WHO and Tobacco Control, Catholic Answers tells us:

Smoking in moderation is not a sin at all (CCC 2290).

Those who smoke heavily (how much is unspecified) may wish (but are not obliged) to discuss the matter with their confessor.  Confessing venial sins of excess brings grace. 

I would add that underage smokers are sinning — although not mortally — because they are breaking the law.  Whilst they can still receive Holy Communion, they should stop smoking illegally.

The Catholic forum tells us that Pope Paul VI smoked.  At Catholicism Pure, Fr Cumanus tells us that St Teresa of Avila, St Alphonsus Liguori and St John Vianney (the Cure d’Ars) took snuff, which was ‘the appropriate form of tobacco consumption for distinguished ecclesiastics’.

Now, to readers of a Calvinist persuasionThe Nicotine Theological Journal editors, John R. Muether and Darryl G. Hart, explain why their publication is so-called (emphases mine):

Now about our name.  Vice President Gore’s sanctimonious and tearful pledge to fight the wicked weed that produced part of his family fortune is but the latest example of the fierce public hostility to tobacco in our day. And it is another reminder of the necessity to explain why we employ the metaphor of tobacco for the purposes of this publication. We should begin by clarifying what we are not. This is not a Reformed version of Cigar Aficionado

Then why nicotine? First, in order to affirm the social utility of tobacco. As Wendell Berry writes, “Tobacco is fragrant, and smoking at its best is convivial or ceremonious and pleasant.” Smoke and drink are conversation stimulants and together they suggest the relaxed and engaging atmosphere that we want to establish for the arguments and topics you will find here. We also want to suggest that the kind of conversation that accompanies the moderate use of tobacco and alcohol is very important for sustaining us on our pilgrimage this side of glory. It may even be a foretaste of the fellowship we will enjoy when our Lord returns.

Second, tobacco exposes the hypocrisy with which people, including Reformed believers, treat the matter of health and well-being. The anti-tobacco crusade can be a convenient way to overlook the many other distractions of modern life — from sports, to entertainment, money, politics and sex. We have reduced health to mere physical health, but physical health is not man’s chief end. So the modern obsession with physical fitness and material well-being is often unhealthy. In this connection, we can hardly improve on the words of Garrison Keiller (whom we promise not to quote often), “nonsmokers live longer, but they live dumber.”

Third, the cultural antagonism toward tobacco mirrors well the evangelical dismissiveness toward confessional Presbyterianism. Our commitments to things like Sabbath and psalms can’t even gain a hearing in most evangelical quarters. (Raise a question about holidays like Christmas and Advent and evangelicals think you just arrived from Mars.) Like most smokers, confessional Presbyterians are feisty and cantankerous because that is the only way one can take the Reformed confessions seriously in our day. In the light of the ascendency of mass-marketed evangelicalism, it is necessary for confessional Presbyterians to be resistance fighters. Our resistance will often take confrontational, dogmatic and sectarian forms — and we believe in the good senses of those words. But we will endeavor to avoid arrogance and narrow-mindedness. So, for example, along with offering reflections about the value of Sunday evening services, we will also recommend a good blend of Scotch every now and then. And while we have yet to be persuaded of exclusive psalmody, we also remain unconvinced about the virtues of chewing tobacco; nevertheless, we will entertain arguments for both.

Finally, our name sets a tone of lightheartedness that we want to characterize these pages. The NTJ will be occasional and occasionally serious. Along the way we hope to have fun, not least by poking fun at ourselves. Several friends have asked if smoking and drinking are requirements for membership in the Old Life Theological Society. Of course, the answer is no. One can be an Old School Presbyterian in spirit if not Old School in spirits (though there are some things we will expose as irredeemably New School, such as light beer or any alcohol-free pretender). As for smoking, to borrow a phrase from Richard John Neuhaus, we only ask those who refuse to light up that they at least strive to lighten up.

How much is advised?  The Nicotine Theological Journal says:

Smoking two packs a day because you know you’re going to die anyway is not the best response to the blessings of this life (one pack should be sufficient).

So, to clarify, one pack a day to enjoy the blessings of this life. 

Dr R Scott Clark at Heidelblog uncovered a poem by a pipe-smoking Church of Scotland minister, the Revd Ralph Erskine (1685-1752) of Dunfermline:

Part Two: The Gospel
WAS this small plant for thee cut down!
So was the Plant of great renown;
Which mercy sends
For nobler ends.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
Doth juice medicinal proceed
From such a naughty foreign weed?
Then what’s the power
Of Jesse’s flower?
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
The promise, like the pipe, inlays,
And by the mouth of faith conveys
What virtue flows
From Sharon’s rose.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
In vain th’ unlighted pipe you blow;
Your pains in outward means are so,
Till heav’nly fire
The heart inspire.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
The smoke, like burning incense, tow’rs;
So should a praying heart of yours,
With ardent cries,
Surmount the skies.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.


I hope that answers any question Catholics and Calvinists might have about tobacco and sin.  For Methodists and Wesleyans, the answer may vary depending on how the doctrine of perfectionism is interpreted locally.  Having said that, it should be noted that:

Wesley was clear that Christian perfection did not imply perfection of bodily health or an infallibility of judgment.

In closing, recommended are 1 Timothy 4:4-5 and 1 Corinthians 10:31, respectively:

For everything created by God is good, and nothing to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving:  For it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

If Johns Calvin and Wesley could have gone head-to-head in an interview, would they have differed?

Fundamentally, not very much.  If you wish to understand more about Calvinists (conservative Presbyterians) and classic Methodists, check out this 2005 link from Keith Drury: An interview with Wesley, Calvin and a Modern Wesleyan.  It’s interesting, easy to follow and short.  Moving forward to today, I reckon we can see a bit of the Modern Wesleyan in each of ourselves. 

H/T: Kevin Jackson at Wesleyan Arminian

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