Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fellow Creatures at Xmas II

Those of you who know me or who have followed this blog will know that I am obsessed by the Ranters.

They were a sort of anarchist spiritual cult who flourished, briefly, in the period of the interregnum between the end of the English Civil War and the execution of Charles I in 1649, and the restoration of Charles II in 1660: sort of pantheist libertarians, ideological mad men. I keep saying “sort of” because, of course, none of these terms quite fit. They were Christians really, but they took a particularly radical form of Christianity known as antinomianism. “Antinomian” means “against the law”. It refers to the so-called doctrine of free grace, by which it is understood that Jesus came to overthrow the law, to forgive our sins - he died for our sins - and that therefore, we cannot sin any more.

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Anonymous said...

I love your three posts about Christmas. I think my husband is a Ranter. I am always telling him to put some clothes on. He is called Stone, too and comes originally from Kent. You have enhanced my appreciation of the coming festivities. Warm thanks.

kwattles said...

Actually, if you're interested in subtleties, the Ranters were pretty close to the Puritans in many respects, sort of a heretical spin-off but both rooted in the spiritual yearning sometimes called "salvation anxiety." You can see it in New England, where they all started out as Puritans of one sort or another. The antinomians there came from some of the best Puritan families.

They didn't "oppose" the Puritans so much as they enjoyed taking the piss out of them.

The Ranters who partied so hard were probably a small subset, and I think much of their debauchery was meant as a grand statement (gleefully reported by opponents) rather than an ongoing lifestyle. I'm reminded of a time in the 1970s when bi-sexuality was fashionable in some circles and widely discussed.

Christmas celebrations probably cross-cut this dynamic. Anyway, I'm not sure you can mix the two and claim the same historical pedigree for the hybrid.