UU Minute #18

Ferenc David and the Unitarian Mind

Ferenc David was born in Transylvania, in 1520. He was raised Catholic – went away to the University of Wittenberg to study Catholic theology. Wittenberg, you’ll remember, is where the Protestant Reformation began in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door there. David returned home in 1551, at age 31, having been exposed to Lutheran ideas, but still a Catholic: rector of a Catholic school, then a Catholic parish priest.

Lutheranism grew in Transylvania, and, along with it, hostility toward Catholics. A number of Catholic clergy switched over, and Ferenc David joined them. He became a Lutheran minister and then Lutheran bishop. David gained a great reputation as a brilliant debater upholding Lutheranism against the Calvinists.

And then something happened that’s rather revealing about what we might call the Unitarian Mind. Psychologists will tell you that for most people, the exercise of arguing for a position increases their unbending commitment to that position. But for Ferenc David, fiercely debating against the Calvinists actually increased his sympathy for their position. At age 39, Ferenc David switched over to Calvinism.

David and Giorgio Biandrata met in 1564, and later that year, David was appointed King John Sigismund’s court preacher, and also bishop of the Calvinist church in Transylvania. David and Biandrata were thus able to have many conversations about further reform of doctrines, including abandoning Trinitarianism. David and Biandrata became the founding figures of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania.

David’s capacity to listen to those he disagreed with, to empathize with his opponents, and to be open to being persuaded by them – to continue to grow and change throughout life -- has been a key aspect of the Unitarian Mind from its beginnings.

NEXT: King John Comes Around


UU Minute #17

Biandrata and David Meet

People meeting each other for the first time is a common event. Some first meetings turn out to be historically notable.

The day Eleanor Gordon and Mary Safford first met – it was around 1860, and the two were children. They would both grow up to become Unitarian ministers and the nucleus of the Iowa Sisterhood movement in Unitarian history.

The day Curtis Reese and John Dietrich first met – it was 1917 at the Western Unitarian Conference. The two would work together spearheading the Unitarian Humanist movement.

Another pivotal first meeting was that of Giorgio Biandrata and Ferenc David in 1564. If you had to pinpoint the day Transylvanian Unitarianism began, your best answer would be: that day.

We’ve mentioned the conflict between Lutherans and Calvinists over whether the body and blood of Christ were present in the bread and wine of the Lord’s supper – or whether these were simply symbols. And that the Transylvanian Diet of 1563 renewed and confirmed Isabella’s earlier edict of religious toleration, and that this didn’t much ease the conflict. The next year, 1564, a General Synod was called in Nagyenyed (now called Aiud), and the king sent “his most excellent Giorgio Biandrata” from the capital, Gyulafehervar (now called Alba Iulia) 30 km up the road to the synod to try to settle the controversy.

After days of debate, with Biandrata arguing for the Calvinist side, it was evident neither side would bend. The Calvinists then sought separate official recognition, which King John granted.

At that 1564 synod, Biandrata met Ferenc David, at that time also arguing for the Calvinist side. The two men were impressed with each other, and in private conversations each disclosed an interest in departing from Lutheranism rather farther than Calvinism did. That meeting was the beginning of what would become Unitarianism in Transylvania.

NEXT: Ferenc David and the Unitarian Mind


Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 3

See: "Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Intro"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 1"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 2"

As Joseph lies in the pit, in his rejection and suffering, the way of forgiveness comes over him. It begins not by forgiving those who wronged him. This does not occur to him. It begins with a prayer that he be forgiven.
“Forgive me, he prayed [silently], not to God but to his brothers, though he knew this was absurd. There was no way out. There were no solutions. There was nothing to do, nothing to pray but May your will be done. . . .” (Stephen Mitchell, Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness)
It’s a prayer to let go of the ego’s thoughts about what should be, to open fully and unreservedly to reality just as it is.

Joseph finds it a helpful device to personify this reality as God. “Not what I want,” he prays:
“but what You want. I am not doing any of this, nor are my brothers. Whatever we think we are doing, we are all doing what is best in Your sight. We are all doing Your will, dear Lord, because we are all the work of Your hands.” (Mitchell)
Whether reality is personified in this way or not, the way of forgiveness is the ongoing recognition and re-recognition that control is an illusion. Yes, we have responsibilities, and we must tend to them, but this is the narrower context of our lives. In the wider context, there is no control. This is the transformational awareness that, it seems, must have come over Joseph in the pit.

Thus, when he is pulled out and sold to Ishmaelites, he doesn’t speak up.
“He could have cried out against his brothers and, with his considerable eloquence, tried to move the Ishamelites’ hearts to take him home, where his wealthy father would pay them a large ransom. But he didn’t utter a word.” (Mitchell)
The lesson here for us isn’t that we shouldn’t speak up in our own defense, protest injustices. Rather, it’s an invitation to feel our way into a more intuitive and receptive way of being. Joseph somehow intuited that what was happening was more – let us say, interesting – than being released back to his father. He could not have said why he felt that way.

Thus Joseph comes to serve Potiphar for some years. He rises to a position of being in charge of Potiphar’s affairs. He is falsely accused, and thrown in prison. Yet here again he does not speak up in his own defense.

He counsels some people in prison, and does so so shrewdly that at last Pharaoh seeks his counsel – his ability to see the sense in what doesn’t seem to make sense. And this, too, is a feature of the Way of Forgiveness. It is the way of hope – not hope in the sense of a thing wished for – but hope as the understanding that things make sense, however they turn out.

Joseph is made the Pharaoh’s viceroy, and his job is to plan for the future. Even as he spends his days in the complex calculations and strategies of food storage for a time of famine, he does so without a sense of rejection or resistance to what will come, but simply a sense of compassion for people that they be provided for, and not come to starve. Even as he plans for a future, he is living in wonder of each present moment.

The famine comes, and his brothers show up begging for food. After testing them with some devices, eventually he reveals himself to them. First, he has to prove he really is their brother Joseph. So he recounts to them their crime of throwing him in the pit, then selling him into slavery. It’s not what he wants to dwell on, but it’s something he would only know if he really were their brother Joseph.
“The next thing was to let these terrified men know that he had forgiven them, that he felt no anger or resentment, no residue from the event, and that he was standing before them with an open heart. Actually, forgiveness was an inaccurate word for what he was experiencing, since it implies that a magnanimous ‘I’ grants something to a not-necessarily-deserving ‘you.’ It wasn’t like that at all. He wasn’t granting anything or even doing anything. He realized that his brothers were guilty, but he also saw the innocence in that guilt.” (Mitchell)
The Way of Forgiveness is distinct from a discrete act of forgiving, for it is grounded in:
“the realization that there is nothing to forgive. His brothers simply hadn’t known what they were doing. And given the violence of their emotions, there was nothing else they could have done.”
He tells them, “don’t be troubled. Don’t blame yourselves.” He knows this reassurance won’t do much.
“His brothers would have to blame themselves; they wouldn’t be able to see their own innocence until their minds slowed down enough to understand their crime in the greater scheme of things. In the meantime, they would necessarily be grieved and angry at themselves, and they would suffer needlessly from a remembered – that is, from an imagined – past that they could neither retract nor change.”
So he speaks to them in terms they might understand. He says, “God sent me ahead of you to save lives.”

This is the language available for that time and culture for pointing to the illusion of control. The brothers never decided to hate the young Joseph’s arrogance – they simply found that they did. There was never a point of conscious decision to resent the particular selectivity of their father’s love – but resentment had arisen and consumed them nonetheless. Ultimately, it wasn’t they who had thrown Joseph into the pit, or sold him to Ishmaelites, but all the forces that made them into the sorts of human beings they were.

The Way of Forgiveness is the way that never needs to perform specific acts of forgiving, for it is based in the awareness that everything is always already forgiven.
“Everything, even the most painful experience, turns out to be pure grace.”
The Way of Forgiveness is thus also the Way of Hope – the only Way of Hope: the way of being present to the ineluctable wonder, beauty, mystery, and glory we cannot make and cannot mar.

May it be so. Amen.

See: "Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Intro"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 1"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 2"

Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 2

See: "Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Intro"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 1"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 3"

Some people say, everything happens for a reason. It feels to them like there’s a divine plan. They say, there are no coincidences. They like such sayings as: "Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end."

I don’t talk that way much. It seems to me to make just as much sense to say: "Nothing works out in the end. If it seems to have worked out, it’s not the end." Which sounds like one of those corollaries of Murphy’s Law, but what I mean is: it’s never the end. Whether things seem all neat and tidy or a total mess, it's never the end.

And there are coincidences. I don’t think events are part of a divine plan, and, while everything happens for causes, only some things happen for reasons – let alone a reason. But those who are drawn to speak that way are, I think, in their own way, pointing to something underlying, something important.

In this world of grief, loss, and pain, there is a glory somehow shining through. In the midst of all the oppression and injustice, there is a fundamental rightness about life and this world. Yes, wrong really is wrong. It’s also always in a wider context – a context within which everything is all right.

Take, for example, predation. The Fox hunts the rabbit – kills it and eats it. There is an inherent tragedy here: painful death for the rabbit, or else painful starvation death for the fox. Every day I vow to save all beings. How do I save both the Fox and the Rabbit? To save one is to doom the other, isn’t it? At least one well-known ethicist – Martha Nussbaum – argues that we should provide textured vegetable protein – fake meat – to all the predators, and perform enough vasectomies on prey animals that they don’t overpopulate. Then prey and predator alike could peacably live out their days. The lion could lie down with the lamb, without either of them fearing. I have yet to meet anybody who agrees with Martha Nussbaum about this.

Some years ago, trying to come to terms with this issue, I wrote this poem. It’s titled: Prayer to the Rabbit God.
the rabbit god made bunnies
as morning brightened into day.
she gave them a green planet to eat,
made them love to hump
like rabbits
and love their babies.

bunnies make bunnies faster than plants grow, she noticed.
so, as evening darkened into night,
the rabbit god made foxes.

predation, she said,
will give my lovelies
sharp ears,
beautiful speed,
a touch of cleverness.
let them be grateful for the red fur death
and the fear that makes them so alert.

thus the rabbit god became the fox god too.

bodies are made of nutrients,
there being no other way to make them.
there can't not be carnivores.

dear god of hunter and of hunted,
i, too a body made of food, pray
to be eaten
rather than outconsume providence
and to love
the beauty of my fears.
So that’s me expressing the glory shining through the tragedy, pain, and death – and without complacently exempting myself from that tragedy. There is, we might say, a kind of intelligence in the cruelty with which natural selection shapes species and ecosystems. I say “intelligence” without meaning to suggest intention. Natural selection has no intention, has no aim, no aforethought of where it’s going, yet through the passing of eons, the arms race of predator and prey – that cooperative competition of pushing each other to ever more sophisticated abilities – it brings forth ever more wondrous and unpredictable beauty: the sharp eye of the hawk, the graceful speed of the gazelle, the rabbit’s ear, the fox’s nose, the turtle’s shell, the porcupine’s quills, the skunk’s spray. It brings forth human bipedalism that makes us not as fast as our quadruped prey, but able to run longer distances, and our loss of body hair so we can dissipate heat while our prey succumbs to heat exhaustion over a long chase. Who could’ve seen that coming?

And it brings forth our big and ultrasocial brains – that allow us not only amazing cleverness, but the capacity to share it, preserve it, and build on each other’s discoveries and strategies. All of this took massive heartless cruelty to bring forth.

Joseph’s way is to think in terms of a divine plan – but I offer to you that that is but a rhetorical flourish for orienting toward the beauty of life inseparable from its harsh pain.

Stephen Mitchell writes of the transformation that came over Joseph as he lay in that pit where his brothers had tossed him.
“The stone cistern where Joseph lay was the womb of his transformation. He had to descend to the depths of himself and stay there, in that inner darkness, without refuge, without hope. This was the only path that could lead him upward. Then he had to find his way through a world of paradox, where exile is homecoming, slavery is freedom, and not knowing is the ultimate wisdom. No one, of course, wants to suffer. And yet the fortunate among us manage to learn from our suffering what can be learned nowhere else. We become – clearly, joyously – aware of the cause of all suffering. The remembered pain drips into the heart, and an understanding dawns on us, even against our will, that there is a violent grace that shapes our ends. Humility follows as a natural result. We learn how to lose control. We discover that we never had it in the first place. . . . There is no humiliation or shame in any of this. It’s total surrender to what is. You discover that you have let go into an intelligence that is incomparably vaster than yours. . . . You stand in what’s left of you, and you die to self, and you keep on dying. It’s like a tree that lets go of its leaves. That beautiful clothing has fallen away, and the tree just stands there in the cold of winter, totally exposed, totally surrendered.” (Stephen Mitchell, Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness)

See: "Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Intro"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 1"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 3"


Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness, part 1

See: "Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Intro"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 2"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 3"

I come today to re-tell an old story – to look again at what it tells us about being human and being animal. Before I get into Joseph and his brothers, let me say that I think a lot about stories – how we need them, and what happens when we don’t have them. Stories tell us who we are and make us who we are: individually and collectively.

Shared stories make a people a people. “I” and “me” are made of narrative – as are “we” and “us.” In these polarized times, where division rives the land, we don’t have shared story about who we are.

This contrasts sharply with the decade I was born in: the 1950s. The 1950s were, in many ways, an awful time. Jim Crow segregation and the racist attitudes that went with it were virulent. Gender oppression was stifling. LGBTQ folk largely stayed in the closet for their own safety. Anti-Semitism was worse.

It was also a time of cohesion. Very low income inequality, very low political polarization, tremendous levels of emotionally stable civic participation – churches, PTAs, civic clubs and bowling leagues had sky-high memberships.

In the mid-1950s, 89 percent of the US population was white. Moreover, the white numerical and cultural dominance was the settled norm: from the 1910 through the 1960 census, the percent of the population that was white never got below 88.6% or above 89.8%. Today the Census bureau says 60% of the population is nonhispanic white – which is a big change. It’s projected to fall below 50% before 2050.

We had a story. It was, frankly, a racist story. The history of humanity as I learned it in grade school was a mostly-Western history of Europeans accumulating great ideas and innovations, from the Egyptians, through Athens, Magna Carta, the Age of Faith, the Renaissance, the printing press, Western science, and democracy with a free press, independent judiciary, and a bill of rights. In the rap battle of cultures, Europeans, it seemed, need only say, “Plato, Shakespeare, Newton” – and drop the mic.

The story – in the version it came down to me – did not ever say "white people are genetically superior," or "white people are God's favorite." But the story also provided no other explanation for why these "great ideas and innovations" did not appear in the pre-Colombian Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, or East Asia. We now have some available stories that do address how the dominance of Europeans came about: stories that elucidate how European ability -- and willingness -- to cruelly subjugate the globe were products of particular conditions. Jared Diamond points to geography: the uniquely temperate climate, availability of multiple domesticable grains and multiple domesticable animals which allowed for accumulation of wealth and the rise of cities, which became hubs of innovation as well as centers of communicable disease (and, eventually, immunities). Other conditions include unintended effects of the sort of power dynamic that happened to develop between a centralized Christian church and decentralized secular rulers, which led to the Crusades, which provided the template for conquest and colonization all over the world.

Stories that identify the conditions that made one group of people interested in and capable of world domination are rather complicated, and they aren’t t broadly or well known. A lot of the general populace clings to the old story, tacitly accepting that there must be something special about white people. Among scholars who have looked most closely into the question, there’s disagreement about how much weight is carried by each of the various conditions, and the folks that approve school textbooks are even farther from consensus on a new story to tell.

We definitely needed to drop the racist, patriarchal story. The thing is: now we don’t have a shared story, which means we don’t know who we are as a people. Without knowing who we are as a people, the sense of belonging grows thing. We have more loneliness, more distrust, more isolation, alienation, depression, suicide. We need stories.

I don’t know if the people of the US will ever again have a unifying story that tells us who we are as a people. Yet we can tap into the vein of shared stories and keep them alive, even if they aren’t the sort that tell us who we are. So we come to the story of Joseph – which ironically is a chapter in the origin myth of the Jewish people. It has been, for millennia, precisely a story telling a people who they were. And it has come to be a part of the cultural storehouse for Christians as well as Jews, and for black, Hispanic, and white Americans – and some indigenous folk as well. Less so for Asian Americans, but many of them have been willing to learn the stories central to the mainstream culture of the nation they have moved to -- just as this mainstream culture has been willing to learn (some would say, appropriate) some Asian stories. (Perhaps you saw the latest Mulan movie?)

In other words: telling and re-telling stories from the Torah helps in the maintenance of a common narrative vocabulary. This won't do much to keep us from fighting each other. After all, the European powers warring which each other for a millennium and a half after the fall of Rome, and the two sides in America's Civil War, shared a common narrative vocabulary. But things are even worse when there isn't a shared narrative vocabulary.

In this case, it’s a story about what we might call the Way of Forgiveness. That’s what Stephen Mitchell calls it in his imaginative retelling and expansion of the Joseph story titled: Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness.

There are many kinds and levels of forgiveness. You can say it – “I forgive you.” You can say it and not mean it. You can say it and mean it, but still have not fully done it because a part of your heart continues to harbor a resentment.

Also, you can mean it, but never say it. Or neither say it, nor mean it, but nevertheless let go of your grievance – release all the resentment. Felicia Sanders, the mother of one of the nine victims killed by Dylann Roof in a Charleston church in 2015, told Roof, "I forgive you." I have no reason to doubt that she meant it. I just know that there are some times when forgiveness hasn’t actually happened just by being said – even when it’s meant.

The Way of Forgiveness though isn’t about the necessary and sufficient conditions for a single act or utterance to qualify as truly forgiving someone. The Way of Forgiveness is about a whole approach to life that isn’t about blaming – that isn’t about identifying specific wrongs and healing from them. Such identifying and healing might sometimes be necessary, but that's not what we see happen in the Joseph story.

Joseph never says, “I forgive you.” When his brothers come to beg his forgiveness -- which they don't do until after Jacob's death leaves them feeling vulnerable -- Joseph says to them:
"Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” (Gen 50: 19-21)
He reassures them he won't be seeking punishment or revenge, but doesn't say he forgives them. His own brothers were close to killing him. They sold him into slavery instead because, by a fluke, the opportunity to do so happened to arise. Joseph would seem to have a lot to forgive. But Joseph sees life as working out for the best – as under a divine plan. All things happen as they should, so there’s never a grudge, and never a need for a specific process of releasing the grudge. How does that work? And how does Joseph's story tell us something that will help us make sense of our world? I’ll look into that in part 2.

See: "Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Intro"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 2"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 3"

Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Intro

See: "Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 1"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 2 "
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 3"

STORY (adapted from Genesis, illustrations by R. Crumb)

Jacob had 12 sons -- Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin – and one daughter, Dinah. The eleventh son, Joseph, was Jacob’s favorite.

When Joseph was seventeen, one day, after shepherding the flock with his brothers he brought a bad report of his brothers to their father. So his brothers didn’t like Joseph.

Jacob made for Joseph a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than all his brothers, they felt bad and further disliked Joseph.

Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us?”

One day when many of the brothers were tending flocks far from home, Jacob sent Joseph to see how things were going. From a distance, the brothers saw Joseph coming, and they made a plan to get Joseph out of their lives.

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit.

Then they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming by. This gave them the idea to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites to be their slave. And that’s what they did.

The Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt, where they re-sold him to Potiphar, Pharaoh’s captain of the guard.

Joseph was a good thinker and planner, and helped Potiphar prosper. Potiphar trusted Joseph to manage almost all his affairs.

Then one day, Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph to do something that Joseph knew Potiphar wouldn’t want him to do. Joseph refused. Potiphar’s wife told Potiphar a lie about Joseph, which cause Potiphar to have Joseph thrown in prison.

Joseph was so inherently helpful and talented, that soon he had earned the complete trust of the chief jailor, who put Joseph in charge of managing the prison.

Joseph could interpret dreams. He gave such insightful interpretations of the dreams of some of the other prisoners that word even got back to Pharaoh about it.

So when Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams one night, he sent for the prisoner Joseph to interpret them. This was Paraoh’s dream: seven fat cows were swallowed up by seven thin cows. In the second dream, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were swallowed up by seven ears thin and blighted.

Joseph told Pharaoh that the seven fat cows and the seven plump ears of grain represented seven years of plenty, which would be followed -- swallowed up -- by seven years of famine. What Pharaoh needs to do, said Joseph, is appoint supervisors to make sure food is stored up during the good years to see Egypt through the lean years.

Pharaoh released Joseph from prison and appointed him the overseer of the preparations for the famine years. Suddenly, Joseph was very powerful, and heaped with the riches corresponding to his station.

When the famine came, it affected all the surrounding areas, including Canaan, where Joseph’s father, brothers, and sister were. When Jacob heard that Egypt had storehouses of grain, he sent his sons to Egypt to buy some.

When the brothers came before Joseph seeking food, they didn’t recognize Joseph – though Joseph recognized them. When Joseph threatened to have Benjamin thrown into enslavement, Judah begged, “let him go – take me instead.”

Then Joseph, weeping, revealed himself to his brothers. He had them and their father, Jacob, moved to Egypt, where he ensured their survival through the famine.

The brothers finally came to Joseph to beg forgiveness for their crime. They offered themselves as his slaves. Joseph and all the brothers were crying.

Joseph said, “Do not be afraid! Even though you intended to do harm to me, it has put me in position to preserve a numerous people. I will provide for you and your little ones.”

See: "Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 1"
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 2 "
"Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness: Part 3"


UU Minute #16

Biandrata Impresses the King

Giorgio Biandrata: doctor and theologian. His 1563 arrival in Transylvania was a return to the country. He had first come there in 1544 and lived eight years at the Transylvanian Court, the first seven of which he was attending Queen Isabella and her then-four-through-11-year-old son John -- up until Ferdinand deposed them for five years.

Biandrata moved on in 1552, and by 1558, was Court Physician to the royal family in Poland, attending Isabella’s mother, Queen Bona. Poland, you may remember, some years before, had put 80-year-old Katarzyna Weiglowa to death for anti-trinitarian views. Queen Bona had been instrumental in that execution, but writings of Bernardino Ochino had liberalized her. Biandrata’s influence liberalized her further.

So in 1563, when the now-23-year-old King John fell ill in Transylvania, he sent to Poland for the able physician of his boyhood. Biandrata came. John got better. Biandrata stayed.
“By his adventurous history, his handsome appearance, his courtly manners, and his eloquence, Biandrata made a marked impression upon the king and at court, where he soon became the leading figure. Within a year, he was the king’s private counsellor.” (Earl Morse Wilbur)
King John was hard beset by foes in war and by conspiracies which his enemies had stirred up against him at home. He sought consolation in religion, and, following in his mother’s footsteps, interested himself seriously in the further reform of it. From his new physician and counsellor, John started learning Unitarian ideas – particularly, the two ideas central to Unitarianism:
  • critique of the doctrine of the trinity, and
  • support of religious toleration.

NEXT: Biandrata and David Meet


UU Minute #15

Enter Giorgio Biandrata

Six years after Transylvania’s first edict of toleration, with conflict between Lutherans and Calvinists growing, the Transylvanian Diet, in 1563, renewed and confirmed its earlier decree, ordering:
“that each may embrace the religion that he prefers without any compulsion, and may be free to support preachers of his own faith, and in the use of the sacrament, and that neither party must do injury or violence to the other.”
This didn’t help ease the conflict much until the next year, when King John, now 24-years-old, ordered the parties to separate into two distinct churches, each with its own bishop. Transylvania now had three officially recognized religions: the Catholic, the Lutheran, and the Calvinist.

Recognition of a fourth – the Unitarian – would soon follow, for the seeds of Unitarianism had begun to grow. The writings of Miguel Serveto were being read, and his ideas had gained scattered followers. Probably not much would have come of it without the backing and leadership of some person of considerable influence. In fact, it would take two.

The first one arrived in Transylvania that year – 1563 -- in the person of Giorgio Biandrata – erstwhile court physician to the royal family of Poland – and a sharp defender of anti-trinitarian views.

NEXT: Biandrata Impresses the King