Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"Christian" Nation?

Read this:

Tennessee Congressman John Duncan wants to commemorate the event with a resolution reaffirming the motto and calling on Americans to reflect on the blessing of God on our nation. Amanda Banks of Focus on the Family Action says while resolutions are not law, Congress uses them express its opinion.

“Resolutions are important. They do go into the Congressional Record, obviously, and they show congressional support.”

The support might be needed as the motto is under attack in a federal court by atheist Michael Newdow.

“I hope he gets it passed. He won’t, but it’s just like the best evidence I have for my case.”

He’s optimistic because the resolution lists 16 historical findings including, “This American trust in the Christian Deity dates from the earliest colonial days…” Attorney Jay Sekulow concedes that might cross the line.

“Part of the resolution’s absolutely fine that talks about the religious heritage of America but the reference to a specific religion in the resolution probably would cause some problems.”

But he thinks a legal challenge is unlikely. Constitutionality notwithstanding, historian David Barton says all the findings are historically accurate and it’s appropriate to commemorate the anniversary.

“A great way to conserve and commemorate the national motto would be simply to read this resolution.”

(Thomas doesn't list any resolution of the sort as of today.)Now read this (HT:Brayton):

Roger Williams was banished from the Colony because he challenged Winthrop's idea that America was a "new Israel." At the beginning of his Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience (1644), Williams explained one of the theses of his book: "The state of the land of Israel, the kings and people thereof, in peace and war, is proved figurative and ceremonial, and no pattern nor precedent for any kingdom or civil state in the world to follow." (p. 3)

Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island and established the first Baptist church in America.
Williams was not the only Baptist to suffer such persecution. John Clarke, pastor of the Baptist Church at Newport, Rhode Island published an account of religious persecution in New England in his Ill News from New-England(1652). In it he told how in the summer of 1651, Obadiah Holmes, John Crandall, and John Clarke -- all members of the Baptist Church at Newport, Rhode Island -- were arrested and imprisoned for holding an unauthorized worship service in the home of a blind Baptist named William Witter who lived at Lynn, Massachusetts outside Boston. They were sentenced to be fined or whipped. Fines for Clarke and Crandall were paid by friends. Holmes refused to let friends pay his fine and was publicly whipped on the streets of Boston on September 6, 1651.

A year after Clarke's book was published, Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard University, was forced to resign from his position and banished from Cambridge, Massachusetts. His crime: refusing to have his fourth child baptized as an infant and proclaiming that only believers should be baptized.

And these are just a few examples of what life was like in Massachusetts during the days of the pilgrims.

When Baptists begin holding up colonial Massachusetts as a model for modern society it demonstrates something about the transvaluation of beliefs and convictions that modern fundamentalists have brought about in Baptist life. They truly have more in common with colonial theocratic Puritans than they do with their Baptist ancestors....

As bad as it was for Baptists, it was worse for Quakers.

Sydney Ahlstrom records some of the ways that the authorities dealt with Quakers, "In July 1656 the ship Swallow anchored in Boston Harbor. It became known quickly that on board were two Quaker women, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, who had shipped from Barbados. The authorities moved swiftly. The women were kept on ship while their belongings were searched and more than one hundred books confiscated. Although there was as yet no law against Quakers in Massachusetts, the two were hurried off to jail, stripped of all their clothing, and inspected for tokens of witchcraft. After five weeks, the captain of the Swallow was placed under a 100 pound bond to carry them back to Barbados." A Religious History of the American People, p. 178.

When these efforts failed to keep Quakers out of the colony, they resorted to more drastic measures. William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, and William Leddra are listed among the Quaker martyrs in Massachusetts. The last Quaker martyr in Massachusetts, Mary Dyer, was hanged in the Boston Common on June 1, 1660. All died in defiance of a law banning Quakers from Massachusetts Bay Colony.

A statue of Mary Dyer now stands in front of the State Capitol in Massachusetts as a constant reminder of the Colony's shameful legacy of religious intolerance.

Of course this is about power for the sake restriction of liberty, not morality.

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