Why Choosing the Supposedly Correct Side is Difficult, Part 3

I believe most people in most of history (and now) do not fall into neat categories. They don't want exactly one narrative to win: only the programs/outcomes/views of one particular side. Human beings are as complex as the times and events they encounter. They can want several things at once.

The wrap-up of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in England illustrates this point. It is a world in which extremists battled while ordinary people tried to survive.  

English Civil War

The Presbyterians are back! They control Parliament. They want to pass all kinds of laws telling people how to act and think and be.

Meanwhile, in America, Roger Williams has emphatically declared that mixing religion and politics is JUST WRONG (Mr. Separation of Church and State) and gotten kicked out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. But not executed (the leaders in Massachusetts rather liked him despite their differences).

The English Presbyterians, on the other hand, want to shut up people like Roger Williams by passing laws about blasphemy, so "[people] would either have to keep to [themselves their] conviction that God in his goodness would not damn people to hell for eternity or face execution" (Winship).

So it sounds like the Presbyterians are the bad guys--

Except, they didn't want to execute King Charles I, which they rightly considered far too extreme an act. The Congregationalists did want to execute him, in part because Cromwell's army was pissed as stink about not getting paid by the aforementioned Parliament (and Parliament and the king were lumped together despite Charles I having zero interest in Presbyterianism).

The army was filled with a whole bunch of people who didn't much like other people telling them what to think. Much more my cup of tea, EXCEPT--

(1) Charles I really shouldn't have been executed. It was pretty shameful; he was no worse than any other monarch and WAY more confused since his godly right to rule (which was still a given at that time) had come right up against the radicalism of a whole bunch of so-called freethinkers.

Oliver Cromwell: Somewhat less nutty
than his supporters.
(2) The Congregationalists were rather horrible. They were like high school cliques--or social justice warriors--who determine that anyone who doesn't stay in their little church/clique/supercool group is evil and satanic and just-so-baaad and deserves to be bullied and mistreated.

Cromwell takes over as Lord Protector. The Congregationalists (little personal churches) and Presbyterians (national church) get together in Parliament to pass as many laws as they can think of telling people how to think and behave.

Interestingly enough, many of these laws were rarely enforced since Cromwell's cronies (judges, magistrates, etc.) were far more interested in getting paid than getting in people's faces.

Cromwell dies. The world falls apart. Charles I is succeeded by a pro-Catholic son, which upsets everybody. Eventually, the English get sick of the whole thing and ask William and Mary to step in. They do. Separation of church and state moves remorselessly and inevitably forward.

So the Presbyterians and the Congregationalist didn't exactly come out ahead.

However, one can believe that the ordinary person who thought that God was loving and that executing kings was bad and that somebody should have paid the army and that going to the theatre is a positive (however much the plays might offend somebody's sensibilities): that person might have come out ahead in the long run.

Or at least that person's grandchild--if one starts with the upheaval of Henry VIII's break with the Catholic Church all the way to the Glorious Reformation when the boring kings and queens arrived in England. There were probably a few peaceful decades in there somewhere.  

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