02 October 2014

Idelette de Bure and Legitimate Marriage

Idelette de Bure was an Anabaptist who married John Calvin. On more than one occasion I've heard Calvin praised for his graciousness and charity because Anabaptist women were looked on as being of dubious character.
There were rumours of wife-sharing as an outworking of Anabaptist tendencies which tended toward communalism and communism. Shared possessions meant shared wives. So in other words Idelette was probably a bit of whore, but since she became Reformed, Calvin was willing to marry her anyway.
The rumours of licentiousness have been around since the early church and many groups have been unjustly accused of this practice. There have been a few occasions when it proved true. Interestingly the groups that embraced it usually had some kind of over-realized notion of eschatology... we're completely free from sin, so don't worry about your earthly conduct. It doesn't matter, so feel free to indulge. There are variants of this antinomian error in our own day but thankfully they don't usually lead to that kind of excess... but it can lead to some pretty atrocious behaviour that isn't called into question.
But these extreme groups have always been few and far between and in no way was it some kind of mainstream Anabaptist tendency. The Reformed feared the Anabaptist rejection of Sacralism and demand for Social Pluralism. It was viewed as anarchic and subversive. They spread many lies about the Anabaptists and their descendants have largely carried on the tradition. I can't believe the slanderous and untruthful things I hear sometimes coming out of Calvinist and Lutheran mouths.
The Waldensians were likewise slandered by the Papists and accused of living in a state of fornication. And why was that?
We all would have been accused of the same if we had lived in the Middle Ages or even as recently as in Franco's Spain. Like the medieval era only 'Church' weddings were sanctioned and legal. There were no other valid weddings and unless you submitted to the Catholic authority, you weren't considered to be married.
Many in Opus Dei praised this arrangement. I wish someone would have asked Rick Santorum what he thought about it since he seems to esteem the group and made it clear he believes the state should be involved in the most intimate aspects of family life and marriage. The parallels between Santorum and Franco were a little eerie but his Evangelical supporters never seemed to catch on to them.
The issue of weddings and clergy functioning as officers of the state raises many questions that are pertinent to our own day, but what struck me about Idelette is that being an Anabaptist she would have been accused of the same thing. The Anabaptists of course refused to be wed in the state churches... whether Protestant or Catholic, it made no difference.
This hardly means their weddings weren't weddings. They were Biblical or even secular frameworks, but they definitely weren't Constantinian.
But of course to a Sacralist of the era, a non state/church wedding was unthinkable. It was illegitimate and subversive.
Thus all Anabaptists were fornicators.
Of course they were nothing of the kind. In fact the only fornication occurring was the spiritual fornication of the Magisterial Protestant churches in their idolatry of the state... which later destroyed them.

Idelette was no whore. She was just a Calvinist.