The Purge of the Huguenots

On this date, November 26th, back in 1580, one of the very significant religious treaties was signed between longtime enemies – the French Huguenots and the Roman Catholic faction of the Christian faith. For years, there was a very deep divide between the Catholic and Protestant factions of the faith, as they believed in very different theologies concerning the church, death and dying; and the sacraments such as baptism and communion.

While the original Baptists can trace their history all the way back pre-dating the Catholic church, most of the modern day Protestant denominations came into existence by protesting the Catholic faith of the day. As a bit of trivia, that is why the Baptists do not, to this day, consider themselves a Protestant denomination – they insist that since their heritage goes all the way back as far, or farther, than Catholicism, they never were members of the Catholic faith and, therefore, never broke away or protested their origins, separate from Catholicism.

Denominations such as Methodist and Presbyterian were born out of memberships of believers, originally Catholic, who no longer believed in following the traditions of the “mother” church. They followed the beliefs of Calvin, a strong Baptist, and others, such as Wesley; and thought that the Catholic church concentrated too much on formal pageantry and process of death and dying, as well as giving unusual value to the sacraments – including baptism and communion. So… they broke away from the Catholic church and started their own belief system, focusing more on their dedication to redemption and less traditional as far as adherence to the formal liturgies of the Catholic church headed by the Pope.

The Huguenots, as they came to be called, also believed that the Pope was vested with too much authority and ran the church as if it was headquartered in Rome, while the Protestant denominations believed that the ultimate church, the church “in prospect” was in heaven and this additional divide caused holy wars between these two diverse groups. The Catholic faction had many millions of members, and at their zenith, the Huguenots numbered around 2 million, located primarily in central and southern France.

These groups were annihilated in religious wars and many of the Huguenots fled to other countries – including Scandinavia, Wales, England, Germany and other countries, including the Netherlands, where my ancestors are from. In fact, members of the Toussaint clan fled to the Netherlands many years before finally emigrating to North America – primarily Canada and then later, the United States. Even then, although my ancestral family came down into Minnesota and, later, Chicago – although Charleston, SC was a very well known destination for those to fled to this country.

Many thousands of people from both faiths were killed in these holy wars and the Catholics had the stronger armies. The battles were fierce and when the smoke cleared, there was a permanent divide between the two religious groups – both believing that they were in the will of God.  A peace treaty was signed on this date in 1580, at least temporarily putting a stop to the hostilities. To this day, we see vestiges of those religious differences. For example, Protestants tend to believe in the church located in heaven and that the “universal” church is still forming – eventually meeting in heaven. Catholic doctrine centers around the “universal” church on earth, headquartered in Rome and represented by the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. There are many other differences as well, but you get the idea.

The verse for tonight is the verse that started it all – the claim by Jesus that Peter had been divinely informed by the Father – and therein lies the difference in translation. While some believe that the church was built on Peter, others believe that the church was built on the proclamation by Christ that the church was built on Peter’s revelation – not on Peter himself.

From Matthew 16:15-19, we are told about the exchange between Christ and Peter, “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

My encouragement this evening is that whatever you believe, Jesus is the Christ and He died for all of us – Catholic, Protestant, Jew and every other person who has ever been on the earth. My prayer is that we can put aside our religious differences and focus on the most important elements of the whole argument. That is, that believers can look forward to the promise of spending eternity with God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

 
 
 
 

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