It is the 30th of October 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1680.
In 1976 historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote famously that "well-behaved women seldom make history." We will follow this line of thought as we look at a few stories from the year 1680. 1680 was the year that Elizabeth Cellier was arrested, tried, and acquitted. Cellier was the cause celebre of England for her conversion to Catholicism, her supposed plot to kill the King of England, her sham trial, acquittal, and then conversion to the cause of midwifery.
1680 saw the death of Princess Elisabeth of the Palatinate. In an era of monarchs and absolutists, we might not usually stop for the death of just any Princess. But Princess Elisabeth would be known across continents for her intellect and extensive network. Princess Elisabeth famously corresponded with philosopher Rene Descartes and challenged a few of his most basic propositions. She would go on to serve as an Abbess of a Lutheran abbey in Hereford. She transformed the place into an open salon of conversation and haven for some religious radicals.
In 1680 Catherine Monvoison also died. She was married to a jeweler, but when his business failed, she began to practice sorcery and divination to support the family. She began to study witchcraft with assistance from a local priest, and they are said to have started saying the black mass. She was involved in one of the more curious cases of the late 17th century known as the Affair of the Poisons. It's a story for another time, but it involved the king and his court, black magic, secret poisonings, and over 200 arrests and 36 executions.
And it was on this, the 30th of October in 1680, that Antoinette Bourignon died. A mystic, adventurer, and self-proclaimed prophet, after she died, her legacy involved a short-lived controversy amongst some of Europe's brightest. Bourignon was born in France in 1616 and entered a Roman Catholic convent at around 20. She found it too stifling and left to work in both a hospital and then orphanage. All the while, she wrote an account of her life, theological opinions, and social jeremiads. Opposing structure in religious thought and religious organization, Bourignon attracted many disaffected by the church. Like her spiritual heir, Aimee Semple MacPherson, she drew some because she was a woman and was attacked for it as well. The followers of Bourignon-ism spread from Scotland to the Netherlands, France, and England.
One of her followers, the Calvinist minister Pierre Poiret, collected her works into 19 volumes and continued as her apologist after she died. A rather famous debate took place when Poiret and the famous encyclopedist Pierre Bayle went back and forth on her work's merit. Poiret, obviously a fan, defended her in hundreds of pages while Bayle took only five to critique in his "Encyclopedia of History and Critique." Bayle claimed that she was a fraud looking to make money. He criticized the banality of her thought and her actions, which seemed far removed from her lofty moral goals. However, Bayle's condemnation included Bourignon's appearance, and he argued against her not only on the merit of her work but against her based on her sex. The debate over her legacy has long interested historians of gender. Her theological output was undoubtedly uneven, but she had such a zealous following it is recorded that some seminaries would insist that anyone training for the ministry must first denounce Antoinette Bourignon and her ideas. Well behaved women do seem to seldom make history. Antoinette Bourignon did and died on this, the 30th of October, in 1680.
The reading for today comes from Kate Bowler, from her wonderful book, "Everything Happens for A Reason, and Other Lies I've Loved."
"What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, "You are limitless"?
Everything is not possible. The mighty kingdom of God is not yet here.
What if 'rich' did not have to mean 'wealthy', and 'whole' did not have to mean 'healed'? What if being the people of "the gospel" meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 30th of October 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. Remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.