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Children of the Reformation

The old Scots saw, “we’re aw Jock Tamson’s Bairns” testifies to our rampant egalitarianism, our deep-rooted democratic convictions and our fundamental belief that the rank “is but the guinea stamp, the man’s the gowd for a’ that.” But it was neither the poet Robert Burns nor a Caledonian Everyman cried Jock Tamson who planted these beliefs in the Scottish psyche, it was a former galley slave in the French fleet and intellectual visionary called John Knox who began a social and religious Revolution in 1560 which has been ingrained in our identity ever since. In my BBC Radio Scotland series Scotland at Prayer, contributors from very different backgrounds confirmed this phenomenon: committed Roman Catholics explained how the strict hierarchy pertaining elsewhere in the Church had never held sway to the same extent in Scotland, where it was against the grain of the people to show unquestioning deference to the Bishops; people of no religious affiliation described themselves as Presbyterian atheists who had absorbed the social radicalism and precociously advanced educational ideals of the Reformers but had abandoned any religious attachment to the Protestant faith! Are we aw John Knox’s Bairns then? Well, ecclesiastical historians would probably opt for the other leading Reformer called Andrew Melville as the chief architect of the Presbyterian form of governance which eventually prevailed in the Scottish Kirk and established its democratic structure….but whether we are John Knox’s or Andrew Melville’s benighted bairns, we are all of us, from Catholic to Episcopalian, Brethren to Baptist very much children of the Reformation.

We are all of us, from Catholic to Episcopalian, Brethren to Baptist very much children of the Reformation

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