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Bruce's Latest Christian/American History Chroncile Piece

Requested by Ryan, here is the text of my latest letter to the editor in the Bozeman Chronicle.


Blake Dunlop (Jan. 17) argues that America “was substantively a Christian society” in the 1770s, and that colonial theocracies did not exist.

Let’s examine these claims.

In 1740, H.F. Uhden published “New England Theocracy,” one of many volumes documenting colonial theocracies. He speaks of the “Expulsion of Roger Williams,” the Baptist who “first contested” the “established theocracy” (of Massachusetts Bay Colony). From Williams forward, Baptists who lived in theocratic colonies were beaten, whipped, jailed, exiled, and had their children and lands confiscated — all by order of the theocratic state for practicing their faith convictions. Some Quakers were executed for their faith. Only members of the established church had citizenship rights.

What of religion in the revolutionary era? Baptists were yet jailed and beaten in Virginia and Massachusetts. Approximately 15 percent of Americans attended church. And while most of the nation’s founding fathers had religious beliefs of some kind, most were deists. Only one, Samuel Adams, professed orthodox Christian beliefs.

In the colonial era a “Christian society” was one in which proper beliefs were enforced by edict. American politicians of the late-18th century refined this concept, rejecting theocracy yet speaking of a nation providentially blessed and mystically guided by a Creator or Supreme Being. Many years later, in the 1950s, specific references to God were added to the Pledge of Allegiance, currency, and oaths of office recited by federal justices and judges.

In short, the evidence is indisputable that theocracies existed in the colonial era. But the question of a Christian society is more complicated. In terms of church attendance and public God language, today’s America is much more “Christian” than that of the 1770s and 1780s. And in regard to human rights, American society today is much more Christian than during the slavery and Jim Crow eras.


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