[ by Charles Cameron — when religion strongly influences politics — greetings on the Fourth of July ]
At least in the words of the Library of Congress exhibit, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, the US we know today was conceived as a “Religious Refuge”:
The religious persecution that drove settlers from Europe to the British North American colonies sprang from the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that uniformity of religion must exist in any given society. This conviction rested on the belief that there was one true religion and that it was the duty of the civil authorities to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens. Nonconformists could expect no mercy and might be executed as heretics. The dominance of the concept, denounced by Roger Williams as “inforced uniformity of religion,” meant majority religious groups who controlled political power punished dissenters in their midst.
Haven’t we had enough wars of religion? There’s much to be said for that idea.
Happy glorious Fourth to all my American friends!
The image above of the Palace of Westminster in London looks quite lovely and tranquil, and some of what people hear when they quiet themselves and listen to the “still, small voice” is of inestimable value, beauty and insight. But it is not always so.
As Roger Williams shrewdly observed:
enforced uniformity, sooner or later, is the greatest occasion of civil war, ravishing consciences, persecution of Christ Jesus in His servants, and of the hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls
You will perhaps understand, therefore, why I am less than enthralled by the idea of a particular opinion within Christianity “declaring the plans of heaven” over my country of origin — as suggested in the graphic immediately above this — or any other country, the United States included, and why I hope that, in Williams’ words:
a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish or anti-Christian consciences and worship be granted to all men, in all nations and countries; and they are only to be fought against with that sword which is only, in Soul matters able to conquer, to wit; the sword of the Spirit–the Word of God
I wouldn’t mind seeing that idea take hold in Iran or Saudi, either. Yeah!
Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth has been made clear from error. Whoever rejects false worship and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things. — Qur’an, 2: 256
If it had been your Lord’s will, all of the people on Earth would have believed. Would you then compel the people so to have them believe? — Qur’an, 10: 99
Besides which, having prayed often enough “Thy kingdom come” myself, I have to say I’m less than enthused to find the publicists of this particular outpouring of faith modifying the phrase to read “United Kingdom Come”.
What is this, the Cup Final?