What If Your Faith Makes You “Unpatriotic?”


I am in Boston this week filming a series of lectures for an on-line course on colonial America produced by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History.  We have been shooting short introductions at places like the Long Wharf, Old South Meeting House, King’s Chapel Burial Ground, Harvard University, and the Boston Public Library.  (We shot some footage at Mount Vernon, Virginia earlier in the week).

Yesterday we filmed an introduction at the statue of Mary Dyer located at the corner of Beacon Street and Bowdoin Street adjacent to the Massachusetts State House.  I talked about Dyer’s relationship with Anne Hutchinson, her so-called “monstrous birth,” her conversion to Quakerism, and her eventual execution in Boston Commons in 1660.

I thought about Hutchinson and Dyer today as I read this tweet from Family Research Council President and court evangelical Tony Perkins.

I agree with Perkins and Pompeo.  We must defend religious liberty.  But I wonder if our current president thinks the same way.  Trump will preach religious liberty to evangelicals until he is blue in the face.  Evangelicals will eat it all up and pull the lever for Trump in 2020.  They will continue to call him the most faith-friendly president of all time.

But what would Trump say about religious liberty if a person’s religious convictions led her or him to criticize the United States for its past and present sins?  What would Trump say about religious liberty if someone’s faith-informed view of the world resulted in the criticism of him?

I don’t know if religious faith informs the moral vision of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Talib, or Ayanna Pressley (we did a post on Ocasio-Cortez back in June 2017).  But if it does, how might Trump reconcile religious liberty with his recent tweet telling these women to leave the country?  If someone’s faith leads one to oppose racism, nativism, xenophobia, misogyny, dishonesty and general cruelty, should we deem that person to be unpatriotic and encourage them to go back to their own country?

The analogy is not perfect (no historical analogy is), but it seems like the faith of Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer led them to criticize the beliefs of the Puritan government in seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay.  They exercised liberty of conscience in a way that Trump might describe “unpatriotic.”  Hutchinson was not “sent home.” She was sent to Rhode Island.  I don’t think the Puritans were chanting “send her back, send her back” when they banned her, but I am sure they were thinking something similar.

Dyer, on the other hand, was “sent home.”

4 thoughts on “What If Your Faith Makes You “Unpatriotic?”

  1. Jim in STL,

    You are in danger of mixing apples and oranges here. Mrs. Dyer and Mrs. Hutchinson did not live in the United States of America; they lived in a Puritan Colony long before The Bill of Rights was penned. Extrapolation from Dyer to Omar, Talib, or any other nonconformist is impossible. The attempt to draw a parallel is broadly possible but practically a nonstarter.

    The attempts of the old Bay Colony Puritans to limit free speech is actually a characteristic of the modern political “woke” left in America.


  2. Mormons, Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists and assorted heretics, apostates and dissenters await an answer. As do the millions outside of Christianity.

    When religious adherence is a requirement of patriotism and that becomes a measure of rightful citizenship and who should stay and who should go then we have abandoned the political theory that the founders baked into the cake.

    Who is going to be in charge of shipping who back to where? Trump? Pompeo? The dominantly Evangelical Christian nationalists? Maybe the new Commission on Unalienable Rights will hammer this out with is declared purpose being to sort out human rights that are “good” versus those that are “evil” (see Pompeo’s public announcement).


  3. I think of a line from Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel’s character Mammy in “Gone With The Wind”.
    -“What gentlemens thinks and what they says is two different things.” Both egocentricity and selflessness come out when freedoms are at stake.


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