Monday, September 12, 2005

Soul Freedom

Intelligent comments from a Christian who is not on the 'right'. Finally.

AlterNet: Soul Freedom: "AlterNet
Soul Freedom
By Bill Moyers, AlterNet
Posted on September 10, 2005, Printed on September 12, 2005

Ed. Note: This article is adapted from Bill Moyer's address this week at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where Judith and Bill Moyers received the seminary's highest award, the Union Medal, for their contributions to faith and reason in America.

At the Central Baptist Church in Marshall, Texas, where I was baptized in the faith, we believed in a free church in a free state. I still do. My spiritual forbears did not take kindly to living under theocrats who embraced religious liberty for themselves but denied it to others.

'Forced worship stinks in God's nostrils,' thundered the dissenter Roger Williams as he was banished from Massachusetts for denying Puritan authority over his conscience.

Baptists there were a 'pitiful negligible minority' but they were agitators for freedom and therefore denounced as 'incendiaries of the commonwealth' for holding to their belief in that great democracy of faith -- the priesthood of all believers. For refusing to pay tribute to the state religion they were fined, flogged and exiled.

In 1651, the Baptist Obadiah Holmes was given 30 stripes with a three-corded whip after he violated the law and took forbidden communion with another Baptist in Lynn, Massachusetts. His friends offered to pay his fine for his release but he refused. They offered him strong drink to anesthetize the pain of the flogging. Again he refused. It is the love of liberty, he said, 'that must free the soul.'

Such revolutionary ideas made the new nation with its Constitution and Bill of Rights 'a haven for the cause of conscience.' No longer could magistrates order citizens to support churches they did not attend and recite creeds that they did not believe. No longer would 'the loathsome combination of church and state' -- as Thomas Jefferson described it -- be the settl"

No comments: