February 27, 2012

Religious liberty--what a radical idea

Always nice when history shows up in a thoughtful way. No, not Santorum--or hell, any of the GOP talking about religion and history. But this nice piece on a new Roger Williams and his radical idea of religious liberty. Reminds me of the good old days, when people talked about ideas and history.

This was actually nice for me, and I am not being sarcastic. I remember well learning from other Baptists about the connection to people like Roger Williams. That came from another time, of course, when separation of church and state was not considered some "liberal" lie, but was something of which to be proud.

I also like the debunking of the Puritans seeking "religious freedom," and that is a point I try to make to students when the issue arises. Puritans believed that freedom meant having the right to follow God--as they defined it, and that certainly sounds like Rick Santorum, as well as much of the GOP base.

Where my pleasant memory fades, however, is when I recall the brutal conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. While I didn't know much about it when I lived in Colorado, my time in Houston included time in both a fundy church and one of the last remaining moderate congregations in the area. We watched as conservatives led by Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler gutted the SBC of thinkers and moderates. Anyone who questioned inerrancy had to go.

Sullivan reminded me of that with this brief post on the same process in the GOP. When I was young, like the SBC, a moderate Republican was not rare. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. I have to say that both the SBC and the GOP are worse for all of that. The emphasis on purity and dogma has robbed the country of one of the rich denominations that traced back to people like Roger Williams, and has turned the "party of Lincoln" into a freak show.

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