Magazine article The Christian Century

Free to Believe

Magazine article The Christian Century

Free to Believe

Article excerpt

THE FOURTH OF JULY is certainly not a church holiday, but it is an opportunity for the church and the preacher to reflect on the history of the republic, the extraordinary group of leaders who gathered in Philadelphia to declare independence and their remarkable conclusion that at the heart of the American revolution would be individual liberty and freedom of conscience.

The nation has not always lived up to its principles of liberty. It never occurred to the men in Philadelphia that the right to vote should include women--although Abigail Adams surely imagined the day when it would. To secure the support of the southern colonies, the founders decided not to address the question of slavery. Yet the American experiment with freedom, especially with religious freedom, was still unprecedented, and it remains worth celebrating.

Steven Waldman, cofounder of Beliefnet.com, begins his book Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America by describing Thomas Jefferson as he stood in the doorway of the White House on New Year's Day 1802 and received delivery of a 1,235-pound cheese. Painted on the crust was the inscription: "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God." The cheese was a gift to the president from a Baptist church in western Massachusetts. Waldman points out that one year earlier the campaign of John Adams was attacking Jefferson as an infidel and atheist. The Baptists may have worried about Jefferson's faith, but they respected his defense of religious liberty--and hence the gigantic gift of cheese. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.