Monday, 22 June 2009

My Inspiration #3 John Ball

John Ball (priest)Image via Wikipedia

There's something peculiar to the evolution of socialist thought and practice in England that separates it from the continental version, and that is the influence of faith. Concepts of socialism, communalism and communism have all been touched upon in the emergence and history of the radical in English thought and politics.

John Ball was a man of faith, a priest who had some pretty radical ideas about faith and community in the 14th century, which led to him being excommunicated, imprisoned and finally executed for his support of the Peasant's Revolt.

Little is known about his early life but he was known to have fame as a 'hedge priest', a priest without a parish and not linked to any priestly order. Froissart referred to him as 'the mad priest of Kent'. He was likely to have been influenced by the teachings of John Wycliffe and would have been seen to hold Lollard views. His sermon at Blackheath to the insurgents of the Peasants' Revolt show his understanding of social equality, a radical concept at the time.

When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman? From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who should be bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty.

For his part in the Peasants' Revolt he was hung, drawn and quartered in the presence of Richard II on July 15, 1381, his head subsequently stuck on a pike on London Bridge.

Were it that more like John Ball would stand in the church!
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  1. Love this post. I'm also an admirer of the Christian socialists in English history.

  2. Indeed, there's so much christian content in the history of English radicals that it's a shame that it doesn't get the presence it deserves. It's sort of not talked about, a bit like an embarrassing eccentric aunt.

    As to todays crop of Christian Socialists it's a pity that the current lot who go under the title of the 'Christian Socialist Movement' weren't such lickspittles of Blair and the new Labour project.

    Least that's my interpretation of what I see on their site and their output.


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