I have an article with the above headline published in The National today. It is in response to a silly piece which tried to equate the Covenanters with ISIS. A piece which was welcomed by the historically illiterate secularist atheists only because it fitted their prejudices. It was a piece greeted with general ridicule by people who actually know anything about the subject (as evidenced by the letters accompanying my article). I also find it interesting the ‘editing’ that the National did to my article. I reproduce my article in full, the parts in bold, are the parts they did not print.
We Should Celebrate, not Demonise the Scottish Covenanters
Chris Bambery’s article in The National is an interesting rewrite of Scottish history. The demonization of 17th Century Scottish Calvinists as the Daesh of their day may suit the prejudices of 21st Century atheistic secularists today (‘look at how we have advanced away from religion, if only these poor ignorant Arab Muslims could become as enlightened as we are), but it is historically illiterate and logically absurd.
Chris is entitled to have his own opinions, but he is not entitled to have his own facts. Space does not permit a catalogue of all his errors but to illustrate the point here are a few inconvenient truths. Archbishop Sharp was responsible for the deaths of many Covenanters including eleven prisoners at Rullion Green who had surrendered on the promise of mercy. Sharp was a member of a ruling class that persecuted, murdered and tortured those who dared to challenge their rule. His assassination was part of a civil war and many in Scotland rejoiced at the death of a persecuting tyrant. To equate it with the Paris murders is like saying that the French resistance were the Daesh of World War II!
The Monarch did not remain the ‘head of the Church’. It is a basic doctrine of Scottish Presbyterianism that the head of the Church is Christ. No monarch can take the role of the King of Kings.
Scottish Presbyterians did not hold to the ‘rigid views’ of the Old Testament. They were New Testament Christians, who, whilst not disregarding the Old, knew that the Mosaic civil law was superseded by the New Testament. If Chris Bambery had bothered to read their primary document, the Westminster Confession of Faith, he would have saved himself from making this embarrassing faux pas.
Likewise with the assertion that the Scottish Covenanters believed that they were on a ‘fast track to heavenly rewards’, an attempt to put them on a par with Islamist terrorists and their promise of 70 virgins awaiting them in paradise. The Covenanters did not believe that martyrdom was a fast track to heaven. They taught that only Christ could save them and that their own good works, including martyrdom, had nothing to do with it.
His figure of thousands of women being burned at the State for being witches is to say the least speculative, as it his claim that homosexuals were burnt to death on Carlton Hill. In terms of religious persecution rather than being an early modern version of the Taleban in Afghanistan, the Scottish Calvinists ran a society that was, for the times, remarkably tolerant and in which the Scottish Enlightenment flourished.
The trouble is that Chris is reading into past history what he wants to be true. His narrative is shaped by his prejudged view of religion and his Marxist analysis of society. He has faith that human beings are progressive and that society is evolving for the better. In this fantasy world it is clear that what went before was bad, and what is now (at least in self proclaimed ‘progressive’ societies) is better. With such a meta narrative it is easy to read back into history what you wish to see. But that does not make it true.
Rather than this ridiculous and racist attack on Scottish history we should be celebrating that it was the Calvinists who taught that there should be a school in every parish, a welfare system and healthcare for everyone. It was the ‘radical Calvinist’ Samuel Rutherford who wrote a key work, Lex Rex, which influenced the founders of the USA. He was sentenced to death for his pains. As were hundreds of ordinary Scottish people who were killed by the forces of the absentee Kings Charles II and James VII, including the infamous case of the two Margarets who were staked out to drown in the Solway Firth. As HJ Paton, in his book, The Claim of Scotland, states, “It requires some ingenuity to ascribe the resultant savagery to the intolerance of the persecuted Scottish Presbyterians” – although it appears that post-modern Marxist ingenuity can achieve that feat! The spirit of Pravda is alive and well. None of this is to say that the Covenanters were perfect or did nothing wrong but given that the author of this unwarranted attack upon them is an adherent of a far more devastating faith than Calvinism perhaps its time to remember the adage that people in glass houses should not throw stones. Calvinism may have slain its thousands, but Marxism has slain its tens of millions!
Rather than Calvinists being the Tartan Taleban, they were the freedom fighters of their day and a key part of the founding of modern Scottish democracy. The National should be celebrating their heritage, not comparing them with the Islamist fascists of ISIS.
Rev David Robertson – Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland
Note: I had originally put in the article that Rutherford was executed. Of course he was not – he was charged with treason but died before it could be carried out.