Happy St. Servetus Day!
Thanks to James Ford over at Monkey Mind for reminding us that today, October 27, is a day to celebrate freedom of conscience in spiritual matters. On this day in 1553, the theologian and research physician Michael Servetus was burned at the stake for heresy by Geneva under the guidance of John Calvin, with all the known copies of his writings chained to his leg. (Calvin had requested that he be mercifully beheaded, but the Council of Geneva insisted upon burning.) Faithful to the last, Servetus' dying words were, "O Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me."
In our time not only UUs but also Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, Oneness Pentecostals, and Swedenborgians recognize Servetus as a spiritual ancestor.
By the light of burning heretics Christ's bleeding feet I track,
Toiling up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not back,
And these mounts of anguish number how each generation learned
One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-hearts hath burned
Since the first man stood God-conquered with his face to heaven upturned.
For Humanity sweeps onward: where today the martyr stands,
On the morrow crouches Judas with the silver in his hands;
Far in front the cross stands ready and the crackling fagots burn,
While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return
To glean up the scattered ashes into History's golden urn.
--James Russell Lowell, 19th century Unitarian poet and Harvard don