I will neither pretend to be an expert on the English Reformation nor pretend that what I say here is not a gross over-simplification, but merely that it is how I see what happened then and what happens so often now and to that I will comment.
The political nature of the English Reformation, much like the period before Henry and Parliament declared him head of the English Church, was a time of violence and harsh punishment for crimes less of religion and more of loyalty to the crown.
It also meant a hodge-podge of laws and rationals for what constituted heresy and treason (the two being closely linked). Henry never "converted" to his national religion and without a consistent and Faith-led reform movement, over too long years many suffered arbitrarily at the hands of state representatives and the newly emboldened laity.
Nor was it applied evenly. To be a commoner and accused meant horrible tortures and horrific deaths; to be nobility meant long imprisonments but quick ends.
Yet, and probably because of the uneven enforcement, many were able to continue to hold fast to the Faith and practice it, until such time as lax enforcement became unbending enforcement.
The English Reformation movement is hard to pin down; through the centuries it has taken on many forms, until it deteriorated into simple prejudice. Until then, many suffered for no good reason, except that they refused to fall into lax Faith and confusing creeds. For that reason we recognize all of the martyrs who suffered over the years.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.
-- 2 Timothy 4:1-8
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