“The Whore Of Babylon”-Illustration.
From Alan Moore`s “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-Black Dossier” (DC Comics 2018).
Tonight the people of Lewes remember the scandal of Guy Fawkes and the foiled Gunpowder Plot with the biggest Bonfire celebration in the UK. However Lewes also remembers the fate of 17 of their citizens who were burned at the stake for professing their Protestant faith. These were 17 Protestants out of an estimated 300 who were put to death during a murderous five year spree of religiously motivated killings under the Catholic monarch “Bloody” Queen Mary I.
A cursory observation of the Lewes Bonfire would suggest that very few people have forgotten or forgiven the actions of the Catholic Queen who hounded and then murdered Protestants. However historical context should be applied. Some participants appear to lampoon “Popery” with scarlet robes and vestments, but it is ridiculing the Catholic excesses of Mary Tudor, not the more benevolent actions employed by the Catholic church of today. Overt anti-Catholic prejudices rarely feature nowadays.
Nonetheless there have been a few occasions when high profile figures have appeared ready to stoke the flames once more. In 1981 the late firebrand cleric Rev. Ian Paisley arrived in Lewes with his “anti-Popery” leaflets. Such overtly flagrant bigotry was unwelcome and the following year an effigy of him was summarily burned.
Rev. Paisley`s attempts to expunge the Catholic religion from the British Isles were regarded as provocative and foolhardy. His fiery sermons from the pulpit were lionised by his community but condemned by his detractors as the utterances of a prejudiced and ignorant man. However in later life his stance towards Catholics mellowed.
His metamorphosis now seems extraordinary. While he was growing up in the isolated Protestant backwaters of County Armagh, his Preacher father instilled in him a harsh and uncompromising version of Biblical scripture. His father`s example lead him to believe that the King James Bible was to be read literally and was there to revive a more authentic Christianity. He believed that the Word was truth.
A similar uncompromising view of the Bible and Christianity imbued itself into the consciousness of Queen Mary, and later into the minds of Guy Fawkes and his plotters. We need to remember that religious extremism of any kind is morally wrong. The fact that there have been people throughout history prepared to murder others for professing another faith should serve a warning for us all.