Against the Monstrous Regiment of Men
My people—children are their oppressors,
and women rule over them-Isaiah 3:12, NRSV
In my first year of seminary, I did a book report on John Knox for Church History II: The Reformation, Rosalind Marshall’s John Knox. Rejecting Knox as the founder of Scottish presbyterianism, her approach was that in his historical context, John Knox preached the Word that made Scotland more receptive to Calvinism.
In 1562, Mary, Queen of Scots rose to power over Great Britain as Queen Mary I. Knox would engage Queen Mary in debates over the Catholic and Protestant faiths. I nis his text, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, Knox proposed God had the great Isle of Britain under judgment by placing a WICKED woman in power. The key word here I think is the adjective “wicked” and his reference to Mary as Jezebel. It is wicked women [note: Catholic women and men] whom Knox objected to being in power. Knox served three years as a galley slave while living in exile since Protestantism was illegal (1547-1549), but safely made his way back once Parliament repealed the laws against the heretics.
Knox was so opposed to Catholicism, he was even offended by those who would kneel at communion (they do in the Anglican and Lutheran churches today. Just sayin…). He suffered political persecution and was once more driven into exile (the dude had a martyr complex, seriously), and it was there in Geneva, he became acquainted with John Calvin. I would like to note that Knox came to see that his Reformation would exclude the dukes an nobility of Scotland [an interesting point I need to go back and study–thanks Joel for reminding me of this paper] since it was the rich and the powerful that corrupted his movement.
From this position, added to the fact that John Knox knew of Protestant preachers executed at the hands of Mary I (so much for a more peaceful world if women reigned, yes?), it was a matter of life and death for John Knox to oppose Queen Mary.
What hath this to doeth with today’s world? Well, remember that controversy over whether Southern Baptists should vote for the McCain/Palin ticket simply because she was a woman? Or now how we are wondeirng if Michelle Bachmann shall be “submissive” at her denomination’s request? All of this baggage has a history connected with John Knox’s struggle with Queen Mary and his interpretation. Now, I predict we will hear evangelicals use the story of Deborah over Knox’s narrative of Jezebel.
And that’s fine. But let us not apply John Knox’s use of the Old Testament universally, and let us do admit his influence on the current debates over the appearance of women’s bodies in the public square.