Successful revolutionaries are few and far between. Any idiot can start a revolution, and many do. A few even succeed in gaining power. Very few have a long lasting impact which reshapes a country for generations, leading into centuries.
Lenin didn’t, his revolution lasted a mere 70 years. Mao’s revolution, which gained power in 1949, is vanishing before our eyes. The revolution in Scotland led by John Knox shaped a nation for centuries, right up until the recent past.
Today Knox, probably the most important Scot who ever lived, is either ignored or scorned in his native country. Seen as a caricature Knox is known, if at all, only as the author of A First Trumpet Blast Against The Monstrous Regiment of Women and the beardy guy who was nasty to that nice Mary Queen of Scots. In 1978 Edinburgh Council was forced by public opinion to change the proposed name of a set of steps leading from the Mound to Princes Street in the heart of the city from John Knox Steps to Playfair Steps. Knox, who was instrumental in planting the seeds of democratic freedom in Scotland, was too controversial a figure for modern tastes.
When Knox was born Scotland was the equivalent of a Third World country, only without the aid from conscious stricken developed countries. One Spanish nobleman who antagonised the king was given the utterly humiliating punishment of being sent as ambassador to Scotland. Yet less than two centuries after the death of Knox Scotland was the intellectual capital of Europe. Seventeenth century Scotland had five universities, compared to the much larger and wealthier England’s two.
An ardent Protestant totally committed to the spread of the gospel of grace Knox was a Reformer and revolutionary rather than a theologian. His sole contribution to theological advance was his argument for the right to overthrow tyrants. This argument is so potent that in 1953, as a young lawyer on trial for armed attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago in Cuba, Fidel Castro cited Knox in his defence.
Trinity Digital, an independent film company based in Scotland, have made Knox a feature length documentary fronted by Scottish actor Phillip Todd which explores the journey of this revolutionary Reformer from Catholic priest to passionate Protestant. As well as the deep commitment to the gospel which shaped Knox’s life we gain an insight into the humanity of the man who shaped a nation. From galley slave to face-to-face confrontation with an absolutist monarch, Knox experienced life.
An important independent film Knox can be found at http://www.trinitydigitalfilm.com