Archive for Baptists

Colonial Activist for Church-State Separation

Posted in Atheist, belief, faith, Government, random, religion with tags , , , , , , on February 1, 2013 by chouck017894

For decades in the United States groups of ego-centered religionists have been demanding that their brand of religion be jammed into the mechanism of national government. None of those holy howlers seem to be aware that the call for church/state separation was originally championed by a truth-seeking religionist. That man was Roger Williams who fled England in 1631 to put down roots in the “new world” where he hoped to worship God in his chosen way (Calvinist-Puritan). Earlier, in 1630, one thousand persons under the leadership of John Winthrop had established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in an effort to distance themselves from the tyranny of the crown, which they regarded as practicing corruption through supervision of the Church of England. Williams, with his family in tow, arrived in Boston in February of 1631.

The form of faith which Williams hoped to find available in the Massachusetts Bay Colony did not measure up to his idea of proper spiritual conduct. He was appalled that the people of the Boston congregation had never publicly declared their repentance for their former communion with the Church of England. He therefore took his spiritual opinions to Salem where he had obtained a pastorate position. But there, too, Williams soon alienated the civil authorities by daring to accuse them of exceeding their proper jurisdiction in their inflicting of punishment on those who broke the rules for observing the Sabbath. Such conduct, Williams declared, was a violation of ecclesiastical authority. The civil authorities were not amused, and promptly expelled Williams, and he sought refuge in Plymouth. Christian charity and forgiveness struggled to assert itself in Salem, however, and Williams was grudgingly permitted to return to Salem in 1633.

Ah, but Williams’ spiritual conviction (or maybe it was ego) had not softened. To his credit Williams acknowledged the equality of spirit before God which is within everyone, and that democratic perspective of fairness toward others led to serious conflict with the Massachusetts Bay government. William dared to question the validity of the Massachusetts Bay charter under which the colonial authorities had taken possession of the land of the Indians without giving any form of compensation. Williams also noted that the colonists had an authoritarian practice of faith imposed upon them that was much like the tyrannical imposition from which the colonists had fled England. This assessment caused the government piety to hit the fan in 1635 and Williams was banished from Massachusetts by the order of the General Court and warned that he would be deported to England if he continued his disruptive behavior.

Williams apparently said to himself the Puritan equivalent of WTF, and with a few devoted friends took off in midwinter for Narragansett Bay where, in 1636, he purchased land from the local Indian chiefs, and founded Providence, Rhode Island. The government that he then established was founded on complete religious toleration. Along this spiritual journey, Williams had embraced the belief in submersion baptism, and in 1639 was himself baptized and then baptized others. Thus was founded the first Baptist church in the colonies. But Williams continued to be spiritually frustrated, and doubt crept upon him over the validity of his own baptism, which agitated him to the point that he withdrew from the church that he had founded! He did not, however, waver in his basic Christian principles.

Through the following years Williams would journey twice to England; first in 1643 to obtain from the crown a charter for the Providence Plantations in Narragansett Bay. By this time the theocratic governing body in Massachusetts looked upon Rhode Island as infected with spiritual pestilence and proceeded to march through Providence and by force of arms seize what is now Warwick. Only the English Parliament, which supported Massachusetts, could stop the power play, and England itself was in a civil war because of the state-controlled Church of England. Religious freedom was not understood intellectually, and Christians in England slaughtered other Christians simply because they chose to worship differently. But somehow Williams managed to procure legal charter from Parliament, and it confirmed to him the wisdom of keeping church and state separate.

The second journey to England was in October 1652, again to seek renewal of colony charter. By that time King Charles II ruled over England, and the king confirmed Rhode Island’s charter. Notable in the king’s approval of the colony charter was the affirmation that no person was to be “molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinion in matters of religion.” Wisdom was beginning to evolve. During both sojourns in England, Williams wrote a number of dissertations, notable among them was a treatise on the nature and jurisdiction of civil government entitled The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause Of Conscience Discussed (Old English spelling).

After Williams returned to Rhode Island in 1654, he was elected president of the colony, and served in that capacity until 1657. During his presidency, in 1656, heavy persecution of the Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, in Boston had resulted in Quakers seeking refuge in Rhode Island. Williams had always remained steadfast in his guiding principle of religious tolerance, and he refused to persecute the refugees. In Williams’ view, the state could not prevent error in religious interpretations of God’s laws, and by the same measure, religious dogmatists (with their tendency to err) could not be expected to reliably direct tolerant workings of government policies over the wide diversity of people which God had fashioned.

It is interesting to note that in the later part of his life Williams accepted that institutions which were formulated by faith systems did not really function as expressions of God’s will. It seemed to him that it was only within each individual’s personal essence that life’s higher potential could be achieved. During the remainder of his life Roger Williams, a former pastor, continued to advocate separation of church and state; but he was never again a member of any self-serving church.

God So Loved the World

Posted in Atheism, Atheist, belief, Bible, Christianity, faith, history, random, religion, thoughts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2010 by chouck017894

To the author of the book of John, written c. 105-106 CE, from which the title of this blog-post was borrowed, the “world” spoken of consisted of the Roman Empire.  There was limited awareness of Asiatic peoples, but no awareness whatsoever of other peoples on the other side of the planet.  This fact should be a pertinent point to consider when assessing any messages allegedly relayed to the world through Roman-citizen mediums of that era. 

Excuse this glare of logic cast upon the recesses of faith; it is mentioned here due to the fanaticism of a Baptist group in the state of Texas who “want to bring Christ’s message of hope into every home in Texas” i.e. proselytize.  And they want to do this good deed before Easter (April 4, 2010).  The name Easter, we should remember, is borrowed from a Pagan goddess that was honored each year at the time of the vernal equinox.  The do-gooders, in their commitment to seek believers, are striving to flood every household with CDs, in both English and Spanish, of how “God so loved the world” that he would sacrifice his “only begotten son” for one little material planet that he had created out of nothing.

To quote from Time Frames and Taboo Data, pages 196-197:  The book of “Saint” John, inserted between Luke and The Acts of the Apostles (both written c. 84-90 CE), was written considerably later than the two mentioned books—almost certainly it was composed c 105-106 CE.  This “fourth” gospel has been questioned on critical grounds, and an earlier date for authorship—85-90—is generally insisted upon to make it seem as contemporary to Luke and Acts.  The John book allegedly covers the last seven years of Jesus’ life, but there is a committed dogmatic feel to it that is more in keeping with the recently established church guidelines that came into being in the early 100s.  The Jesus movement had, by the early 100s, moved away completely in an attempt to convert Jews; thus in John the character of Jesus has developed into the ethereal “Christ.”  The author was obviously intent upon eliminating the irrelevant and ambiguous incidents given in earlier gospels to focus upon and emphasize the tenets of the newly established Christology.  It is as though the gospel of John had been fashioned in the hope that it might replace the “gospels” of Mark, Matthew and Luke.  That intent seems evident in the opening line of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word (implying Christ) was with God…”  By doing this the author virtually disqualifies the other gospels, which, as in Mark began with the baptism of Jesus and in Luke which began with the birth of John the Baptist, to set Jesus as Christ at the beginning of Creation.

According to John, Jesus called his disciples in a town called Bethany; a town that John says was along the Jordan River.  Mark and Matthew, however, say that Jesus chose fishermen from the lakeshore town of Capernaum where Jesus found them fishing.  John also relates that John the Baptist told two of his followers to follow Jesus because Jesus was the Messiah.  These two were Andrew and Simon, and for some unexplained reason Jesus is made to rename Simon Kephas, which is said to be from Greek and translate as “Peter.”  There is something contrived here: something that is meant to juggle into place a claim that Simon, alias Peter, ventured to Rome to establish his church there.  Another curiosity is that a disciple that is never mentioned in Mark, Matthew or Luke is said to have joined, along with Philip, those who were with Jesus, and this newly introduced disciple is given the name Nathanael.  There are numerous other points in John’s account that are contrary to those found in the other three “gospels,” but the point here is that the author then expended some effort to harmonize events leading up to Jesus’ last conflicts.  For example, to get Jesus into position to enter Jerusalem where he is to stir up the hostility of Jewish priests, John asserts that Jesus spent the night in an unnamed town on the Mount of Olives.  The next day in the temple, Jesus more-or-less absolves a woman caught in adultery, and later immodestly speaks of himself as “the Light of the World” that had come down to Earth to save humankind.  The Jews were then depicted as descendents of Satan (even though Jesus was himself a Jew) who wanted to stone Jesus.  There are considerably more variants from the three synoptic writings, but these brief examples are more consistent with the later date of authorship and the intent for it to supplant the first three gospels. 

It was also noted on page 198 of TFTD that the message of salvation and transfiguration did not fully solidify as Christianity’s offer until c. 105-106 with all the refinements being incorporated in to gospel of Saint John.

So the fervor of the Texas proselytizers seems to have no concern about all the inconsistencies and contradictions in the convictions that they advocate.  A message of hope gets a little fuzzy when accompanied with so much ambiguity.  For those of us who dig for answers, it will take a little more than just rephrasing it all in English and Spanish.