Saturday, September 29, 2012

Roger Williams

So I've been reading about Roger Williams in my online AP US History class (taught by the amazing Mrs. Richman), and have taken a bit of a liking to him. Williams was first an English Anglican, then a Puritan of Massachusetts, then a Separatist, and eventually (after almost being banished from America for his radical ideas, but instead sneaking to modern day Rhode Island, which he would later co-found) became so exclusive that he only believed himself and his wife to be holy enough to participate in his own small church as communicants. To his friend John Winthrop, founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, he said: "Abstract yourself with a holy violence from the Dung heap of this Earth". But later, he experienced an extraordinary change. Realizing he had taken his ideas too far, he completely turned his life upside-down, and was soon welcoming all into his church, saints and sinners alike. This fascinating blog series tells the story better than I can.

I chose to write a recent essay based on his "A Plea for Religious Liberty" an interesting document written in 1644. Below is an excerpt from my response. I think it features an important idea, as well as having a bit to do with some stuff my sis over at Goldenfeet is going through with some fallacious and logically impaired commenters, so I thought I'd share:
The subject of religion greatly affects (as well as fully permeates and ties together) politics, economics, and sociality in this time and place. Few could be a more inspiring and striking example of religion in action than Williams, with his radical 180 degree turn from obsessive perfectionism, to the humility needed to realize the point of his preaching. This turnaround represents, to me at least, much more than the good, but ultimately secondary (not to mention highly corruptible) message of "toleration". As a Catholic, an important part of my religion is the idea that, in addition to striving for one's own salvation, one must also try to bring as many other human beings as possible with him also. To try to reach salvation alone would make as much sense as an arm trying to crawl away from its body. Thus, simply telling someone "you are not worthy" and walking away, is ultimately pointless. Christ ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, not because He "tolerated" their lifestyles, but because He cared about them enough to spend some time with them, in the hope that, later on, He might spend eternity with them. Humans always seem to get it wrong, either stumbling into the "Don't Judge!!" ditch, or else slinking our way through life wearing the "O Thou Unworthy Wretches" mask. We need to find the middle. I believe Williams realized this, and was willing to completely change his life because of it. I could well learn from him.