Monday, May 4, 2020

Book excerpt from Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This


If you’re a descendant or admirer of the people mentioned in this chapter, you’re already primed to appreciate the historical research and writing expertise that went into this biographical novel:
Mary Barrett Dyer
Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick
Nathaniel Sylvester
John Endecott

And in the preceding chapter, you’d find:
Katherine Marbury Scott
Isaac Robinson
William Dyer
Sir Henry Vane
Giles Slocum
William Brenton

There’s a lot of real, historical names and characterizations in my Mary Dyer books, because they were the people in William’s and Mary’s lives that helped define who they were, how they were interacting with one another, and what they were doing at the time.

Book extract from Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This Vol. 2 (2014),
© 2014 Christy K Robinson

May 12, 1660
Shelter Island, Long Island

            Mary was exhausted. She was not in the mood to hear or make another condolence. She didn’t want to hear, much less feel, more angry words about the wickedness of the colonial governments against the Friends, not in New England, and not in Virginia. She wanted something, but what?
            This morning, she and the Shelter Island Friends had gathered for a blessedly silent Meeting and then a burial service for Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick. Both of those dear people had died this week: first Cassandra and then a day later, Lawrence. Though Mary had done all she could to loosen the terrible knots under their skin caused by the triple lash, and soothe their pains by gently working scented and pain-relieving balm into their scars, all it took in the end was a respiratory fever. Once Cassandra was gone, Lawrence gave up and followed her.
Again, Mary thought of the life force in a human being: sometimes it was strong, like a mighty river current, and other times, it was merely a trembling leaf on an aspen. The sixty-two-year-olds could endure savage beatings, they could tolerate the loss of every material thing they’d worked so hard for, they could hear of their adult children sitting in dark, cold prison, and grieve that their adolescent children had barely escaped being sold as slaves. But finally, they had left behind their torn old bodies for freedom and eternal joy in God’s presence.
            She wasn’t sure whether to rejoice or to weep, or to nurse a very natural fury at the evil that could inhabit the governor, assistants, and ministers of Boston, Salem, and Plymouth, who claimed to speak for God but were voracious lions seeking to devour harmless lambs.
            Nathaniel Sylvester hadn’t been convinced of the Friends’ teachings when Copeland, Holder, Robinson, and others visited here in previous years. Perhaps his sympathetic support of the Friends had something to do with his Barbados partners and past experience with Friends there—and something to do with his antagonistic attitude to the New Haven Colony which administered the English settlements on Long Island and had so gravely injured the Quaker missionaries.
But something had changed. Perhaps it was Lawrence and Cassandra, perhaps it was Mary herself, for now Sylvester was in a hot lather to send a letter to the General Court at New Haven and declare himself a Friend. An outraged Friend, furious about the unwarranted, malevolent persecution by New England’s governments. How dare they, to hold Mary Fisher and Ann Austin in prison for five weeks, and inspect their naked bodies for marks of witchcraft or imp teats, to threaten death, and then ship them off to Barbados. Ann had said that though she’d borne five children in England, she’d never suffered as much as she had under those barbarous and cruel hands.
Mary already knew what the false minister Davenport would say: that Nathaniel was slandering New England’s godly magistrates and himself in particular, and blaspheming God with his pernicious doctrines, and that he was entertaining members of a cursed sect. There would be fury, accusations, and perhaps arrests. These were the people who had begun their bloody work with Humphrey Norton.
New Haven. Davenport. The earthquake. Was it really only two years ago? How the faces had changed in that time. Some had gone back to England. Sarah Gibbons drowned. William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson hanged. Richard Doudney, Mary Clark, and Mary Wetherhead all drowned in a shipwreck off Barbados. Anne Robinson dead of a fever in Jamaica. Now the Southwicks. And soon, Mary Dyer. She felt it. She knew the time was near, for the madness and hate of New England were still not ripe.
But did she mourn her Friends? Deep down, no, for she knew that their salvation was secure and they were now part of that great cloud of witnesses. Instead, she mourned the suffering of the converts who were only obeying the quiet voice of God, and acting as scripture prescribed: to visit the sick and imprisoned, to be just, merciful, and humble, to love one another. She mourned for the families and children who didn’t understand where the hate came from, and why their naked, bleeding mothers had been dragged out to the wilderness and left to die, or suffered the winter in Boston prison, with no heat and little food. And because these women were not well-known, were not as educated or experienced as men, and to be honest, not as privileged and connected as Mary Dyer, they needed an obelisk or flag to rally around. They needed an advocate, and someone important enough to draw the attention of Endecott and Bellingham away from the outrages they visited upon the faithful. They needed the hearts of the people of New England turned from bloodthirst to pity and charity.
And that Mary could do by God’s grace. She would have done it last October, but the Lord in his wisdom had used his two willing servants, Robinson and Stephenson, and reserved Mary’s sacrifice for such a time as this, when it would have a greater effect.
Ah! That’s what Mary had been longing for. Not the prison and hardship, but knowing that every moment, she was fulfilling God’s will. She longed for the kingdom that was closer and more real than this world, and being in that place of perfect love.
The annual Court of Elections would be held in Boston in ten days’ time, and she would be there. Even in taking the Southwicks home and releasing Mary from their care, the Lord was preparing her way. She had nothing to fear. 

Read more from the five-star Mary Dyer: For Such a Time as This.


*****
http://bit.ly/DyerHandwriting
On May 27, 1660 (360 years ago), Mary’s husband, William Dyer, wrote an impassioned letter to the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony, pleading with them to save his wife from the gallows. You can own a high-resolution 16x20” print of that letter written in William’s beautiful hand, by ordering it at this page: http://bit.ly/DyerHandwriting

*****

Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title): 

Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)

Friday, January 17, 2020

Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother chapter excerpt


© 2018 Christy K Robinson

In September 2018, I published a new, contemporary biography (nonfiction) on the life and legacy of Anne Marbury Hutchinson, 1591-1643. Its research, presentation, style, images, sources, and conclusions are unlike any other book written on Hutchinson. 

The following article is part of a chapter introducing Anne Hutchinson to readers in the 21st century.



One of the interesting things about Anne is that she was a deeply spiritual woman all her life. But her legacy is that of promoting and practicing separation of church and state, and secular democracy, which was almost unheard of in the 17th century and earlier.

Here is the chapter section that shows the differences in the two compacts (a covenant) on which Rhode Island’s government began to form in 1638.

Anne Marbury Hutchinson: Founding mother of secular democracy
Massachusetts Bay Colony was not founded as a democracy where the People govern themselves with elected representatives. Rev. John Cotton wrote: 

"Democracy, I do not conceive that ever God did ordain as a fit government either for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors, who shall be governed? As for monarchy, and aristocracy, they are both of them clearly approved, and directed in scripture, yet so as referreth the sovereign to himself, and setteth up Theocracy in both, as the best form of government in the commonwealth, as well as in the church. 
… Purity, preserved in the church, will preserve well ordered liberty in the people, and both of them establish well-balanced authority in the magistrates. God is the author of all these three and neither is himself the God of confusion, nor are his ways of confusion, but of peace."
Excerpted from The Correspondence of John Cotton. Sargent Bush, Jr., editor. The University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
 
Portsmouth Compact, March 1638
When the signers of the Wheelwright Remonstrance were disfranchised and disarmed by the Winthrop government in 1637, they determined to form a new “plantation,” or settlement, outside the Massachusetts charter boundaries. During Anne Hutchinson’s second trial, they organized themselves, purchased land, and prepared to move their households. The leading men signed the Portsmouth Compact, which appears to be written in William Dyer’s hand. In March 1638, they pledged: 

The 7th Day of the First Month, 1638 [7 March 1638].
We whose names are underwritten do hereby solemnly in the presence of Jehovah incorporate ourselves into a Bodie Politick and as He shall help, will submit our persons, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and to all those perfect and most absolute laws of His given in His Holy Word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby.

In the margin are noted three Bible texts, given here for your convenience:
Exodus 24:3-4. Afterward Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the Laws: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the things which the Lord hath said, will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord and rose up early, and set up an altar under the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel;
1 Chronicles 11:3. So came all the Elders of Israel to the King to Hebron, and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the Lord. And they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the Lord, by the hand of Samuel; and
2 Kings 11:17. And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord, and the King and the people, that they should be the Lord’s people: likewise between the King and the people.

           We don’t know who suggested or insisted upon the scripture references, which have in common making a covenant with one another before God to obey his word and laws. It may have been William Coddington, who was a magistrate of the Bay Colony and one of the 1630 Winthrop Fleet pioneers who dreamed of building the New Jerusalem that would hasten the return of Jesus.
It appears that the new plantation would have that familiar combination of church and state, and an adherence to the religious laws and government model of the Old Testament.
After some disagreements about what Anne Hutchinson called “the magistracy,” a group led by William Coddington moved ten to 15 miles south on Aquidneck Island and founded Newport.
The settlement at Portsmouth, Rhode Island, incorporated itself as a secular democracy in 1639, contrasted with the theocratic governments of the other English colonies – and of England, their native land.
Portsmouth formed a new government, with William Hutchinson elected their “judge,” like the Old Testament judges of Israel before the monarchy of King Saul. Their new compact, signed by William and thirty others, read:

April 30, 1639
We, whose names are under written do acknowledge ourselves the legal subjects of his Majestie King Charles, and in his name do hereby bind ourselves into a civil body politick, unto his laws according to matters of justice.

The difference between the 1638 and 1639 agreements is stark. Religious language in the first, civil language in the second. Then, in March 1641, the island’s general court resolved, 

It is ordered and unanimously agreed upon that the Government which this Bodie Politick doth attend unto in this Island, and the Jurisdiction thereof, in favour of our Prince is a Democracie, or popular Government; that is to say, It is in the Power of the Body of Freemen orderly assembled, or the major part of them, to make or constitute Just Laws, by which they will be regulated, and to depute from among themselves such Ministers [public servants] as shall see them faithfully executed between Man and Man.

Between man and man. They weren’t cutting out the relationship between God and man, or their devotion to serving God. But secular democracy for this group, who had fled religious persecution in England only five to ten years before, and theocratic oppression just one year before, was the very freedom they longed for and now had in their grasp. They were the point of a movement. And the movement, beginning with those conventicles in her parlor, was led by Anne Hutchinson. 

To read more (299 pages more!) about Anne Hutchinson's life and legacy, see the 5-star book at Amazon: 
Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother

*****


Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title):
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Mary Dyer and Social Justice


A script commissioned by Julie Esker Dishman

© 2019 Christy K Robinson


If you’ve heard of Mary Barrett Dyer, who lived in the mid-1600s, it’s probably as a Quaker woman who was hanged because of her religious beliefs. But historical research shows that Mary Dyer—married in an Anglican service, emigrated to Boston in 1635 as a Puritan, banished as an Antinomian heretic, co-founded Rhode Island as a non-conformist, possibly worshiped with Baptists, became a Quaker in England—actually was hanged for her civil disobedience! 

From 1657, she was arrested and jailed in New Haven and Plymouth colonies, and was in and out of prison in Massachusetts Bay Colony, some say because she preached. But there’s no record of her spoken words, nor a record of her being whipped, the fate of women who taught religion to men.


Learn more about Mary Dyer: http://bit.ly/TopTenMaryDyer 


We know from her only surviving letter, written from prison to the General Court in Boston, that her mission there was, in “love and compassion,” to “offer up her life for truth and people’s sakes” to force the theocratic government to repeal its laws that whipped, imprisoned, seized property, and executed Quakers and other religious dissenters. She demanded that the government “let the truth and the servants of God have free passage” in the colony. She said on Shelter Island that she went to Boston “to try the bloody law.” 



Mary Dyer was reported as lovely, well-spoken and educated, and had social advantages with her well-connected husband, a prosperous mariner, farmer, and the first attorney general in America. The Boston government did not want to make a martyr of her and begged her to leave and be safe in Rhode Island. But Mary used those advantages to force their response.

After they hanged her in 1660, English Quakers rewrote and edited her letter to elicit tolerance for their cause. As a result, King Charles II put an end to colonial executions for conscience’s sake. He also ratified the Rhode Island charter of 1663, which brought religious liberty and free passage in New England, as Mary had demanded. That charter was used as a template for the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

What Mary Dyer and the Rhode Island founders sent down through the ages with their testimonies and documents, was justice, mercy, compassion, and equality for all people of all faiths, all nationalities. Their philosophy of separation of church and state allowed for a wide spectrum of belief and behavior without oversight by government or regulators. Most were godly people who knew firsthand the persecution and oppression of theocracy.

They encouraged kindness and tolerance without demanding conformity to one dogma or creed. Instead of stealing land, they purchased it for a fair price, and they were reluctant to make war on Native Americans.

Extending those qualities to social issues today would mean that we don’t dehumanize refugees in crowded pens with inhumane conditions. We don’t withhold health care, shelter, or sustenance from the elderly, the disabled or infirm, or children or strangers among us. It would mean that government officials don’t take bribes or benefit financially from their elected or appointed positions, and that political campaigns are financed by the people of that jurisdiction instead of billionaires and corporations.           

The legacy of Mary Dyer’s exemplary life and sacrificial death is that under our Constitution, we have the freedom—apart from government—to speak, to freely assemble, to protest, and to worship according to our conscience—what they called “soul liberty” in her day. Today we call them basic human rights. 



As people of firm faith in one religion or another, or people of no faith, we all have a responsibility to nurture one another and to care for our planet, recognizing the liberty and human rights of future generations.
The Golden Rule transcends time, religions, and cultures.





*****

Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title):


Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  



Effigy Hunter (2015)  




And of these sites:  

Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)

Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)

William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)

Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Forcing is not freedom


"Judeo-Christian" roots of America—NOT supported by fact

© 2020 Christy K Robinson

In the more than 20 years I've been researching and writing about Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer and their relation to religious liberty, my published articles have often received comments saying, essentially, "Pish-posh! Judeo-Christian beliefs form the basis of American life." 


With various politicians, attorneys, and religious leaders preaching the glories of a "Christian nation," our Constitutional right to worship or not, free of government interference, is under attack.

The colonies in what became the United States in 1776 were established as Church of England colonies under the English Crown. But beginning in the 1620s, the New England colonies (Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, New Haven, New Hampshire) were intended to be Separatist or Puritan (Puritans being a purifying movement within the Church of England) theocracies.

The first thing the CofE/Puritan colonies did was establish a theocratic government which determined every facet of the colonials' lives. People were flogged, hanged, tortured, banished, enslaved, etc., because of these religious governments.

Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded as a theocracy. Men who were church members were a rigorously tested, tithe-paying member of the Puritan church. If they were church members, they might be eligible to be freemen, which gave them privileges in business, and required them to serve on juries and assemblies, and vote.

Baptist minister Obadiah Holmes, Sr., was flogged
nearly to death in Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Magistrates and officials were often ordained ministers. They formed the core of the theocracy. And they hanged adulterers, thieves, Quakers, and witches. They treated Baptists and fornicators in the same way: they beat them to a pulp. Catholics were not allowed. They enslaved Native Americans because they were pagan.

Rhode Island, founded by Roger Williams and the Anne Hutchinson party (including William and Mary Dyer), was established between 1636 and 1638 as a SECULAR DEMOCRACY, that is, a non-religious “body politick” governed by the People. The 1663 Rhode Island charter, similar to a constitution, was written by John Clarke, Roger Williams--and probably also William Dyer, who was the first attorney general in North America, including Canada and the Spanish and French colonies. William Dyer was far more than just a "courier" who brought the ratified charters back from England in the 1640s, 1650s, and 1663. William had lost his friend Anne Hutchinson and his beloved wife Mary to theocratic persecution and execution, so he had a huge stake in the outcome of religious liberty in New England. 

All civil states, with their officers of justice, in their respective constitutions and administrations, are proved essentially civil, and therefore not judges, governors, or defenders of the spiritual, or Christian, state and worship. — Roger Williams

The Puritan theocracies of New England in the 1600s demanded that all freemen (voters, jurors, etc.) take an oath of allegiance to their colony. But the Quakers, starting in the late 1650s, refused to take any oath because the Bible (same Bible the Puritans used) said to let their yes be yes, and no be no, and not swear by anything on the earth or in heaven. (In other words, be so upright, trustworthy, and honorable a person that your word stands for something.) So the Puritans fined them heavily, and confiscated their stock, crops, and lands. They also severely whipped the Quakers for not swearing the oath. The Puritans held this oath ceremony repeatedly through the year, so as to maximize their penalty fines. Then they awarded each other large land grants in compensation for their government service. Here's a specific case I wrote about: http://marybarrettdyer.blogspot.com/2012/06/grandparents-in-law-quaker-connection.html

Fast-forward to New Jersey in 1720, where a Welsh Baptist minister, Nathaniel Jenkins, was a colleague of Obadiah Holmes Jr. of Newport, whose father had been flogged by the Boston theocracy in the early 1650s. Rev. Jenkins stood up in the New Jersey assembly (the legislature) and spoke eloquently on religious liberty when he persuaded them to quash a bill that would punish Unitarians (who believed in one God) for not believing in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jenkins was a Trinitarian, by the way. He would not countenance persecution of anyone based on their religious beliefs.

Fast-forward again to the writing and ratifying of the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights (including the First Amendment). The "founders" of the United States, who wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights, were the great-grandchildren of that very persecution. Only three or four generations away, and they knew their history intimately. They knew what religion does when married to government, and they took steps to keep them separate. They were men of high moral character who governed in a secular framework.


The Constitution is a completely secular document. It's not a religious document. The Founders knew intimately what religion mixed with government was currently doing in Europe, and what it had done to their great-grandparents of the 17th-century American colonies, and their great-great grandparents in England. That First Amendment was modeled on some Virginia legislation, and upon the 1663 Rhode Island charter.

The United States were not founded as a Judeo-Christian society. (Jews were safe in Newport, Rhode Island because of their charter allowing religious liberty, but not in other colonies.) The United States government was founded by Christians, agnostics, and Deists, who believed in a god or supernatural creator, but didn't necessarily believe that Jesus was God himself. 


Six years after the Constitution was written, the young nation made a treaty with Tripoli.   
"Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims); and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Mohammedan) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries." Source: Treaty of Tripoli, 1797
The use of this term [Judeo-Christian], which conveniently dismissed American anti-Semitism as foreign, exploded in the 1940s, appearing in thousands of essays, books, and speeches. As Americans mobilized against “totalitarian” Germany and Japan, and later the “godless” Soviet Union, appeals to Judeo-Christianity allowed Americans to define the United States as uniquely committed to human dignity and the virtuous defender of religious pluralism. Dwight Eisenhower famously proclaimed in 1953 that “our form of government” was rooted “in the Judeo-Christian concept.” ...
Conservatives, in response, doubled down on their insistence that the United States was an inherently religious nation and appealed to Judeo-Christianity to challenge taxation and abortion. American values, wrote Secretary of Defense Elliot Richardson in 1973, called for Judeo-Christian charity, not “big government.” By the 1980s, the term encapsulated the right’s powerful cocktail of white resentment, sexism, and anti-welfare rage. Judeo-Christianity, writers implied, was more than a specific variation of American evangelism; rather, it was a timeless tradition whose defense necessitated opposition to affirmative action, equality for women and sexual minorities, and redistributionist policies. ...
Hardly a practicing Christian, [white nationalist Steve] Bannon has often claimed that societies’ strengths lay in their ethnic homogeneity. This is why, he argues, nationalists must smash the power of “globalism,” epitomized by international organizations, finance, and migration. For Bannon, however, this nationalist revolution also has a geopolitical aspect, best captured through a religious terminology. The white nations, he explained in a recent interview, constitute the “Judeo-Christian West,” which should to come together with Russia to defeat their Muslim and Chinese opponents. Indeed, Judeo-Christianity has been a long-standing obsession for Bannon.
Source: The New Republic, November 2019
Though I'm an advocate of religious liberty and separation of church and state like my ancestors on both sides of my family, I am a practicing Christian, and have been all my life. It's not just a label. It's what I do. I volunteer with groups that serve the homeless, the immigrants, the hungry, and those who need medical assistance. I'm also a church musician for numerous churches and fellowships over five decades. I attended Christian schools. I've worked for religious nonprofits as an employee or a contractor. I will tell you from long experience that separation of church and state strengthens faith-based organizations. 
America was founded by moral, high-minded people who had their own religious traditions, but didn't insert the spiritual realm into the documents upon which our rule of law and our culture depend.

As I've written elsewhere, the problem was not that our founding mothers and fathers had strong religious beliefs—they had such strong religious beliefs that they died for them—it’s that some of them tried to enforce their beliefs, lifestyle, values, etc., on others.

Forcing is the opposite of freedom.




*****

Christy K Robinson is author of these books (click the colored title):
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)