Kirk and Holyrood wrong to downplay Reformation date

A Roman Catholic writer has slammed the Scottish Government and the Kirk for their reluctance to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland.

Writing in The Observer, Kevin McKenna says the Reformation is a “crucially important event in the history of Scotland” and part of the nation’s “Christian heritage which bequeathed to us our schools, universities, democratic institutions and legal framework.”

Yet, he says, “The Church of Scotland itself seems to be almost apologetic about the anniversary and does not appear to have any plans for a fanfare.”

He adds: “The body politic in Holyrood though, with its atheistic and obsequious assortment of courtiers and placemen – our self-styled intellectual elite – would rather be chewing wasps than celebrating anything remotely to do with Christianity.

“For they regard themselves as the harbingers of a new philosophy where notions of God, grace and soul can have no place, while conveniently forgetting that it was the ideas of the first Christian enlightenment that gave them the opportunities to govern, to teach and to write.

“The Kirk ought to be planning, unashamedly and with some vigour, a year-long series of events to mark this crucially important event in the history of Scotland.”

Mr McKenna referred to an essay by Professor Tom Devine who sought “a national re-examination of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland on the eve of its 450th anniversary next year.

“The professor was seeking to rescue the reputation of John Knox’s Calvinism from the fashionable assessment of it which has been allowed to take root in modern Scotland.

“This holds that the Reformation was an unlovely beast which made of the nation a cultural desert by smiting anything that reeked of artifice, pretence and ostentation with a sword of righteousness.

“Ever since, the Kirk has stood like a sentinel at the gates of Scotland, glowering at its citizens. It is clothed in a coat of one colour, and buttoned right up to the top.

“The truth, argued Devine, is that the ideals of Calvinism encouraged the advent of the Scottish enlightenment 200 years later.

“Its profound sense of egalitarianism ensured that there would, indeed, be a school in every parish, so that the people would have access to the beauty and the art of the holy texts.

“Scotland became characterised by fresh and dynamic thinking on law, philosophy and science.

“Following Professor Devine’s thesis, the Scottish government and the Catholic Church were asked if they would support a national celebration next year of this landmark anniversary of the Reformation.

“There was a palpable sense of agitation by the spokesmen of each body. Basically, neither would be against it, but they viewed it with about as much enthusiasm as an elephant contemplating its first bungee jump.”

Mr McKenna concludes that the Roman Catholic Church and the Kirk should both celebrate the Reformation.

“Together,” he says, “they can show Scotland its Christian heritage which bequeathed to us our schools, universities, democratic institutions and legal framework.

“And then ensure that it is never again forgotten.”

Next year 5 August will mark 450 years since the first Scottish Parliament passed an Act recognising the Reformation and changing Scotland from a Catholic country to a Protestant one.