Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Christian Religion Extremely Important to Colonial America

When I was in public school, I learned a little about the religious roots of our country. Mostly I learned that the Pilgrims came here for religious freedom to worship in the way they chose. Today, even that is not taught as often. But a huge part of our early religious-influenced history was not taught when I was in school. This is logical enough, because there is only so much time for teaching history and there was a lot to cover. Still, more perspective can be gained by understanding how religion was ingrained into our early culture AND laws.

Consider one of the governing documents of early Massachusetts, the "Body of Liberties of the Massachusets Collonie in New England." It contains several items that would raise eyebrows today, even in the context of 300+ year-old history. A few excerpts follow.

"1. No mans life shall be taken away, no mans honour or good name shall be stayned, no mans person shall be arested, restrayned, banished, dismembred, nor any wayes punished, no man shall be deprived of his wife or children, no mans goods or estaite shall be taken away from him, nor any way indammaged under colour of law or Countenance of Authoritie, unlesse it be by vertue or equitie of some expresse law of the Country waranting the same, established by a generall Court and sufficiently published, or in case of the defect of a law in any parteculer case by the word of God.

"58. Civill Authoritie hath power and libertie to see the peace, ordinances and Rules of Christ observed in every church according to his word. so it be done in a Civill and not in an Ecclesiastical way.
"91. There shall never be any bond slaverie, villinage or Captivitie amongst us unles it be lawfull Captives taken in just warres, and such strangers as willingly selle themselves or are sold to us. And these shall have all the liberties and Christian usages which the law of god established in Israell concerning such persons doeth morally require. This exempts none from servitude who shall be Judged thereto by Authoritie.
"If any man after legall conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.
"If any person shall Blaspheme the name of god, the father, Sonne or Holie Ghost, with direct, expresse, presumptuous or high handed blasphemie, or shall curse god in the like manner, he shall be put to death."

Such provisions were not in our own U.S. Constitution (like being put to death for speaking against God) and are not acceptable in today's thinking. But there were a part of our history. As uncomfortable as they are to consider in today's context, they do point to the strong religious convictions of our Founders.

Read more in "The Founders' Constitution" on the University of Chicago's website:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Also, as the pilgrims (Protestants) were escaping religious persecution, they turned around and extended the same persecution to other religions. The creation of the state of Maryland was for Catholics to escape religious persecution, as was the creation of Pennsylvania for the Quakers. The human condition is so very interesting in that way.