Are Fifth Monarchists, Diggers, Ranters and Muggletonians punk rock or pop?

Are Fifth Monarchists, Diggers, Ranters and Muggletonians punk rock or pop?

Antinomianism – raised by orders of magnitude

Who were precursors to Quakers and what sort of treatment did their writings and performance receive by the State? How did they differ? Why do the names of early religious sects during the Protestant Catholic turmoils of statecraft in England sound like the names of pop bands?

1650 – in the borderlands between England and Scotland. Small bands of dissenters struggle to form a movement threatening the King.

Way was Open for friends to travel on the edges of England and share the spark of liberation. Persecution for Friends was also severely swift.  Quakers were jailed frequently in cruel ways during the Society’s first forty years.  “Historians estimate that 15,000+ had been imprisoned by 1689,” when the king’s Act of Toleration finally passed.  As if prison were not going to be enough, Quakers would be “whipped publicly or have to endure tongue borings and brandings” in the government’s efforts to rid both the colonies and the Isles of this peace church.  During his lifetime, George Fox was beaten, abused, and jailed eight times.  Conditions of the jails on both continents were horrifying. Vermin went unchecked, no clean water or sewer made it more disgusting. A closed ventless unclean horror filled with stench and filth.  There was no heat in wintertime; sometimes no shelter from wind and rain. Yet, the period of great incarceration led to organizing, strengthening the movement of Friends with resilience and determination. Still, 150 years on Elizabeth Fry could dedicate her life (at age 18) to prison reform; because in the USA “Prisoners were supposed to pay the jailers for their food, and to endure whatever whippings or other punishment the jailer saw fit to inflict.  There was no privacy for women, and lice were a common problem” (Bacon). How did we bring this same cruelty to American penal conduct?

Tragically, this persecution had somewhat little to do with Quakerism. Apparently, it was more a side-effect of King Charles’ secret scheming to reinstate Catholicism as the state religion.  Even as state torture and violence was metted out similarly on both sides of the sea, King Charles harbored a strong dislike of Puritanism. He organized their opponents. He sought absolution. He had had a sinful sexual history for which he may perhaps have been looking to be forgiven.  In pursuit of his plethora of personal wants, he mixed international intrigue with his own interests.  Thus, strangely, was born a Quaker colony. The king needed us! English alliance and victory over Sweden and Holland was beginning, offering two advantages.  First was an end to naval conflicts between the King and Holland. Second, the onset of a group of new Protestant countries would put pressure on French expansion in the colonies. King Charles secretly was negotiating with France for England to return to Catholicism as the official state religion.  Yet, a Secret Treaty of Dover brought England and France together against Holland. This made room for Quaker colonies in turn creating a diversity of colonial interests and independent behaviors. 

As a result, political and religious factions were freer, such as Levellers, Fifth Monarchists, Diggers, Ranters and Muggletonians. All thrived in spite of and alongside Quakers. Great dispute fermented. Some schisms blended. There were traitors and allieances. Risks that all seem enormous in retrospect. But the ‘Valiant 60’ strode in and out of prison with great valiance. Dungeons and dragons type of suffering seems so entirely cruel and medieval. However, history is dialectical when viewed over enormous periods of time. It rises and falls in action. Practices associated with specific spiritual experience and statecraft intermingle in an evolutionary way for the favor of new born societies. Quakers are one example in which unique class, educational access, disputing fixed views of existing circumstances caused an uprising of change and a revolutionary fervor.

Which elements of revolutionary experience that pass down to us without harms and violence?

Information on sources: Quakers: A Silent Influence, Connie Green Gritz, History of Quaker Faith and Practice. (2018). In S. Angell & P. Dandelion (Eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Quakerism (Cambridge Companions to Religion, pp. 11-12). Cambridge Univ. Press

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