Thursday, 20 October 2011

Wars of Religion

For this assignment we were to read about civil wars that occurred during the high middle ages. We were given an article, I tried to find the original location for this article, but it was removed...but found it here (with that Washington U link at bottom, which was removed)

Anyway...our assignment was to read this article, and then decide if the English Civil War ....(this article was not part of our assignment, but I don't want to type out all that our textbook had to say about it) was a religious war...

So what do YOU think? Was the English Civil War a "religious war"?

I'll edit this post later to add my paper and a dialogue of back and forth between my prof and I :)



Ok, that sparked alot of interest, lol :)

Oh well, that's ok. This was an interesting assignment for me because it examined the reasons for people fighting and for feeling justified to kill other people. If you read the linked article it acknowledges the fact that many people in England were fighting about spiritual matters. They were fighting about a prayer book. They fought about the Catholic influence seeping into the Anglican Church. They were angry with Charles for taking a Catholic bride. However the article gives the long time bickering over whether the king should have all the power, or if Parliament (who had been getting used to making some of the decisions) got to share some of that power with the king. The king thought he should have all the power and control of England. Parliament disagreed with him. The people were divided, some backed the king, and some backed Parliament.

This is what I wrote for our assignment:

The religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries were between Protestants and Catholics. It started out with no bloodshed, just a lot of bickering and arguing about whose religion was right, each accusing the other of heresy. But that peace was shattered when “Protestants and Catholics would (later) shed each other's blood in prodigious amounts in national wars and in civil wars.”(from the article: Discovery and Reformation; Reformation Religious Wars). In France it was between the Huguenots (Protestants) and Guises (Catholics). There was already animosity between these families, which were intensified with the spiritual conflicts. “It is important to understand that the rivalry between the Guises and the other two families was primarily a political rivalry; this political rivalry, however, would be swept up in the spiritual conflict between the Catholic church and the new reformed churches.” (Ibid.)
The Guises “understood what this religious tolerance was all about and quickly clamped down on it. In March, 1562, an army led by the Duke of Guise attacked a Protestant church service at Vassy in the province of Champagne and slaughtered everybody they could get their hands on: men, women, and children—all of whom were unarmed. Thus began the French Wars of Religion which were to last for almost forty years and destroy thousands of innocent lives.” (Ibid.)

By comparison, the English Civil War occurred during a time when there were religious factions that didn't like each other in England; the Puritans (Calvinists) and Anglicans. The Anglicans were of two main stripes: one that accepted many of the Catholic traditions minus a pope, and one that didn't accept any of the Catholic rituals. However England's civil war centered around a power struggle between the king and Parliament.

The English Civil War started in 1642 when Charles I raised his royal standard in Nottingham. The split between Charles and Parliament was such that neither side was willing to back down over the principles that they held and war was inevitable as a way in which all problems could be solved. The country split into those who supported the king and those who supported Parliament – the classic ingredients for a civil war.

It didn't help the king that he married a Catholic, it made a difficult relationship with Parliament even more difficult. It caused Parliament to trust the king even less than they already did. The king wanted absolute power, and the Parliament had gotten used to the fact that they had “enjoyed a real partnership with the royal government.” (Concise Survey of Western Civilization; Pavlac; ch 10 page 220) “In June 1642 the Long Parliament passed a new set of demands called the Nineteen Proposals that called for the King's powers to be greatly reduced and a greater control of government to be given to parliament. This move divided parliament between those who supported the Nineteen Proposals and those who thought parliament had gone too far.

Both Parliament and Charles began collecting together their own armies. War was inevitable. People were forced to choose sides and on 22nd August 1642, the King raised his standard at Nottingham”

It polarized the people to join either the king's side, or the side of Parliament.

This problem was all resolved in 1688. “In the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the English established the basic system of republican and constitutional government that still exists today...they forced James to flee to France. Parliament then invited James' Protestant daughter Mary to be queen, with her husband William of Orange, as co-ruling king...The victorious Parliament generously approved a small measure of toleration for religious dissenters, both Roman Catholics and Presbyterian Calvinists” (Concise Survey of Western Civilization; Pavlac; page 222)

The way I understand it, this civil war was a power struggle between the king who only wanted a Parliament who would offer him suggestions and remain meekly in the background giving him absolute power, and a Parliament who had gotten used to being able to make some of the rules. It was therefore not a religious war. Religion became a contributing factor to the problem but was not the main issue. Our system of government here in the states today similarly shares a “balance of powers” so no one individual takes totalitarian control that can be abused. All those that make up “the balance of powers” have their problems, just as the king and his Parliament did during the time of England's civil war, but it is preferable to a power hungry absolute dictator. The side of the war I would have picked would be Parliament's side. I would be leery of a king that wanted complete power and was trying to control what the church did, by making it more Catholic to please his bride.

In a few days I'll add a surprising comment from the professor that led to a little email dialoguing back and forth....until then...:-) Be well


  1. We actually were just studying this here at home. It's amazing how most wars boil down to "us" and "them".

    I'm looking forward to seeing your prof's comment;)

  2. Yes, and usually I agree with portions of what each side trying to find who is right or wrong isn't always a black or white issue....and then they might have had their "spin doctors" too that made "their side" have the appearance of being more right than it really was. This world is complicated. Jesus made it simpler. He said to just believe Him and He would make everything right. Here we have wars and rumors of wars, but in Him we find His perfect peace. :)


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