Meandering Em's

Passion is books, photography, running and traveling. Also passionate about environmental issues.

Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty

Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty - This book is a thought-provoking study of how Roger Williams produced two of the greatest concepts in history, ideas that reached down through time and became part of the American Constitution. Those concepts were in the belief of the separation of church and state and the tenet of individual freedom. John Barry has produced a work that, although boring and technical in parts, is fascinating and readable. Barry begins in England by examining two men who greatly influenced Roger Williams. First was the great Edward Coke, Queen Elizabeth's attorney general, and the other was Francis Bacon. Barry painstakingly examines the history of these two men during the reigns of James I and Charles I. I found this section complicated and confusing. I did get this book as part of the Goodreads Giveaway program, so my advanced copy had many errors. This was especially a problem in Chapter 3. It is possible that the published, edited copy clarified the disjointed language.When the author turned his attention to Roger Williams and the conditions of England during the reign of Charles I, the book takes a fascinating turn. I had never realized the horrendous conditions that the religious lived under. The church of England formed when Henry VIII decided to break away from Rome and the Pope. Many of the traditions and ceremonies from the Catholic church remained in the church of England. The Puritans wanted to purify the church of many Catholic practices. However, Charles I appointed secular men to control what each church practiced and believed. This created difficult times for the Puritans. Using an extensive spy system, Charles' government arrested, punished and put to death many who disagreed with the official decrees. It was under this oppression that many Puritans decided to settle Massachusetts to create a "City upon a Hill" that would serve God and show the world how God's people should live and behave. However, the Puritans, tolerated no dissent in their colony. Anyone who disagreed with them was punished, banished or sent back to England. Roger Williams arrived in the colony a few years after it was settled and soon was in trouble. He wrote that he believed that the English had no right to take the land from the Indians without paying for it. The Puritans didn't want to hear this. But they were further disturbed by Williams' belief that the secular government in Massachusetts should not interfere with the church. Williams believed that each congregation should have its own autonomy and should not be dictated to by other congregations. He was offered a position at a church in Salem (yes, that Salem!), but the officials of the Colony applied pressure on Salem to renege on the offer. The town of Salem was not give authority to purchase additional lands as long as a church hired Roger Williams. Williams was aghast that a secular issue could be used to control church policy.Eventually, Roger Williams was banished. He ended up in Rhode Island and tried to set up a colony that provided religious freedom. He fought for many years to get a charter for the colony since the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Plimouth colony and the Connecticut tried to take his land away. They were always trying to interfere with Rhode Island. Williams went to England to get the Charter and got caught up in the turmoil there. He became friends with Oliver Cromwell and John Milton. His thoughts and views for the separation of church and state as well as personal freedom for the individual became known and his thoughts were written down in The Bloody Tenent of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience. His ideas and thoughts were used by John Locke, who in turn heavily influenced the Founding Fathers in their quest for religious and personal freedom.I certainly found Roger Williams fascinating. He turned to the New Testament for his beliefs. He studied the Scriptures and determined that many beliefs of those around him did not conform to Christ's teachings. Because the Puritans believed they had the truth and no one else did, they were offended by Williams showing them their beliefs did not conform to Christ's. Roger Williams believed in self-autonomy for each church, adult baptism, and spreading the Gospel to the Indians. I greatly admire his courage and his beliefs. He stood alone much of his life, but his example and teachings have greatly influenced American thoughts.

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