From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wall of separation: Who really built it?

Roger Williams Statue (Franklin Simmons)
Separation of church and state within the United States is often associated with Thomas Jefferson.  After all, it was he who wrote these now-famous words to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802:  Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions…  thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.

However, long before there was a Jefferson, there was a Roger Williams.  It was Roger Williams who fled the religious oppression of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in order to create a "hedge or wall of separation between the Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the world."  This "Garden" that Williams founded (aka "Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations") not only provided a refuge for Christian separatists, but also a haven
of sorts for Native Americans and African slaves.  He was also instrumental in establishing the First Baptist Church in America (aka "First Baptist Meetinghouse" and "First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island") in 1638.

Williams not only influenced Thomas Jefferson, but also philosopher John Locke.  According to Wikipedia, Locke "argued that the government lacked authority in the realm of individual conscience."   He spoke of inalienable "natural rights" - rights that are "not contingent upon the laws customs or beliefs of any particular culture or government…"   His Letters Concerning Toleration, written during the era of numerous European "wars of religion," asserted that "Earthly judges, the state in particular, and human beings generally, cannot dependably evaluate the truth-claims of competing religious standpoints…"


Copyright November 18, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment