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.”

Who Suffered the Most From Today’s Clinton-Benghazi Hearings?

A woman has not been grilled by members of a government committee in this fashion since the 1630s when Anne Hutchinson sat before John Winthrop and the Massachusetts clergy to defend her supposedly unorthodox religious beliefs.
Hillary Clinton suffered today at the hands of this brutal interrogation, so did the American people who had to watch this mess, but Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s opponent in the 2016 Democratic presidential race, suffered more.

Sanders, of course, had nothing to do with these hearings.  But I am guessing the Sanders camp became more and more stressed as each hour passed by.

Many Democrats saw their presidential nominee today. There is a long way to go to until the first primaries, and this whole e-mail situation is not over, but Clinton went a long way toward solidifying her position as the eventual nominee. She came across as smart, strong, and, frankly, presidential. The GOP questions were so bad and hostile that Clinton could not help but come across this way.
Is Hillary covering something up?  Is she telling the whole truth?  Was she fudging?  I don’t know. But as long as the e-mails are off the table for the Sanders campaign, the Vermont senator doesn’t have much a shot.  Clinton had a big political win today (and tonight). This television hearing was an eleven-hour political advertisement and did not cost Hillary’s campaign a cent.

Why We Need Anne Hutchinson

Anne Hutchinson is fun to teach to evangelical students. Many of them are conflicted about her legacy in American culture. Some of them see her as a prototype for evangelical feminism, religious freedom, and the good old American spirit of resisting governmental authority. Others see her as a problem– someone who got in the way of the Puritan “city upon a hill.” Either way, she was a troublemaker.

Over at Killing the Buddha Arthur Goldwag has a reflection on the role of heretics in American culture. He concludes that we need heretics like Hutchinson, strong individuals who “simply don’t know how to say ‘yes’ to anything that is dogmatic, authoritarian, or unspiritual.” How American! Here are a few snippets, including a few references to the Texas Social Studies controversy:

Consider Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643), whose arguments with mainstream Puritanism made her, at one time, the most hated woman in America. “Your opinions fret like a gangrene and spread like a leprosy, and infect far and near, and will eat out the very bowels of religion,” her erstwhile teacher Minister John Cotton admonished her, as she was excommunicated from the Church of Boston and consigned to the mercies of the wilderness. The Puritans celebrated when they received word of her death seven years later; its grisly circumstances—she and more than a dozen members of her household, including six of her fifteen children, were scalped by an Indian war party—were regarded as wondrous evidence of divine providence…

But three and a half centuries after her death, she still has the power to inspire—and, just as she did in her own day, to drive some people crazy. Just as I began to write these pages, a story broke in the news about the Public School Textbook Committee that was recently appointed in Texas. One of its members, Peter Marshall (whose eponymous ministry is “dedicated to helping to restore America to its Bible-based foundations”), objected when a proposed fifth grade history textbook included Anne Hutchinson in a list of “significant colonial leaders” along with William Penn, John Smith, and Roger Williams. “Anne Hutchinson does not belong in the company of these eminent gentlemen,” Marshall wrote. “She was certainly not a significant colonial leader, and didn’t accomplish anything except getting herself exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for making trouble…”

But when all is said and done, the Texas textbook commissioner might have said it best: Anne Hutchinson was a troublemaker—her most important legacy was her very ungovernableness. Hutchinson epitomized Jesus’s all-or-nothing morality and Protestantism’s dissenting spirit. During America’s birth pangs, when our Puritan forefathers were assembling the machinery of a theocratic state, the truest, deepest believer of them all—a woman and a midwife yet, who was pregnant most of her adult life and up to her elbows in blood and bodily fluids—tried to toss a monkey wrench into the works.

For a nice introduction to Hutchinson I recommend Timothy D. Hall, Anne Hutchinson: Puritan Prophet.

Sarah Palin as Anne Hutchinson?

This week my United States Survey to 1865 course we will be reading the 1637 transcript of Anne Hutchinson’s trial before magistrates of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Coincidentally, a few bloggers have been making comparisons between Hutchinson and Sarah Palin.

Helen Rittlemeyer at LadyBlog wonders if Palin is a “Modern Anne Hutchinson.” Joseph Bottom at First Things is not so sure. Rittlemeyer’s comparison is based on Hutchinson’s leadership as a woman in a patriarchal New England culture, but perhaps a better comparison might be made based on the fact that both women claimed, with a certain degree of certainty, to know the mind of God.