Saturday, July 20, 2019

#OnThisDay 20 July 1591 -- Happy birthday, Anne Hutchinson

© 2019 Christy K Robinson

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Anne Hutchinson, 20 July 1591 – August 1643, was despised for her quick mind, her ability to think on her feet and her willingness to defy university-trained theologians. She was unflinching, though she had a premonition of danger to come. She lived four-fifths of her life in her native England but is world famous for her years in early colonial America. She was a woman of valor. She persuaded scores of families to leave their homes, businesses, the church that was their ticket to eternal life, and to create a new colony in the wilderness.
            The new community she inspired and co-founded was the first of its kind in the Western world, a secular democracy made of people of strong moral principles and enlightened views on human and civil rights.
Anne Hutchinson memorial at the Massachusetts
State House in Boston.
Photo by Christy K Robinson, 20 July 2016.

Religious liberty for all is the freedom to believe and act one’s conscience, even if the majority disagrees with an individual or group. It’s not freedom or justice for all if some are excluded for their belief – or their non-belief.

In the United States, besides those who do not believe in a god or higher power, there are approximately 2,000 religious sects, and the variety of adherence and buy-in to their individual creed or dogma runs from weak to strong. Infinite variety! Who gets to choose which strain gets prominence or receives government financial support?
It’s not freedom for one branch of believers to have privileges from the government while others are denied based on their religious beliefs, or their choice to not believe in any religious system.
Because Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer, Roger Williams and John Clarke, and almost every co-founder of Rhode Island, were very religious people (zealous Puritans, Antinomians, Baptists, Quakers, etc.) who sacrificed worldly goods and even their lives for their faith in God, we might think of these “Founders before the Founders” as desirous of a religious utopia in the New World.
Not. At. All. 
They’d faced religious persecution by their governments in Europe, to such a degree that they’d fled to the wilds of North America. But the people who governed the new society were theocrats who based their laws in the Old Testament laws given to the Israelites in the wilderness of Sinai. Ministers and magistrates locked arms and wills to accuse and prosecute, imprison, torture, and execute in the name of God. This marriage of religion and government is called theocracy. 

 Williams, the Hutchinsons, the Dyers, and scores of others were banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony, reviled as heretics, and ridiculed for the rest of their lives, for insisting on liberty of conscience and separation of church and state. In the 1630s, though they believed and practiced their deep faith, they were the first people in Western civilization to form a secular (non-religious) government. They insisted on it, to the degree that religious liberty is encoded in the charter (constitution) of Rhode Island, which was central to the formation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution in the next century.
The problem is not that people have strong religious beliefs. The problem is enforcing one set of beliefs on another person or a community, or discriminating against another because of their beliefs or behaviors. 
Liberty of conscience is what Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams and John Clarke lived for, and in Mary Dyer’s case, died for. They didn’t impose their beliefs on others, but advocated for the full rights of others. They were the great-great grandparents of the revolutionaries of the United States and authors of its Constitution – which is by design a secular document.
Even today, our rights to freedom of religion and freedom from oppression are under sneak attack. As an admirer or descendant of Anne Hutchinson or Mary Dyer, I hope you will work to protect the rights of all people, as fought for by our first founders, Roger Williams, William and Anne Marbury Hutchinson, Richard and Katherine Marbury Scott, William and Mary Dyer, John Clarke, and many others.
It’s a never-ending struggle in every government agency, every state and territory, and every municipality, to allow freedom for all, and not just freedom for the powerful.
“Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?” – Sandra Day O’Connor, conservative Supreme Court Justice.
Join Anne Hutchinson in support of liberty.

Endorsements of the book, Anne Marbury Hutchinson: American Founding Mother:

“Anne Marbury Hutchinson is a woefully unsung giant in the creation of secular democracy.  Christy K Robinson's book goes a very long way toward refreshing the historical record of genuine religious freedom in America.  She does so in a style both scholarly and eminently readable.  It took 350 years for Hutchinson to be pardoned for her ‘crimes’ which amounted only to defying theological orthodoxy and the authority of male clerics.  Through this work, Robinson makes it abundantly clear that people make real social change through the lessons of the very lives they live.  Best we remember that today.”
Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Former Executive Director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

“The tone is perfect and is the way that history should be written. The author’s voice speaks directly to the reader with humor, real content with wise use of original documents, and access to the personalities through those documents. She masterfully weaves the documents together with 21st-century English.”
Rose A. Doherty, President Emerita, The Partnership of the Historic Bostons

“An impressive accomplishment. Christy Robinson’s exhaustively researched account gives Anne Hutchinson her due as a martyr for religious freedom. Too many Americans today don’t know Anne’s story; this book will go a long way to correct that.”
Rob Boston, Editor, Church & State magazine

“There are people who can research, and people who can write, and people who can break down the barriers of historical distance. Then there are those that allow us into hearts and minds from the past. Christy Robinson does all of those things. You’ll love coming to know Mother Anne and her times through this penetrating work.”
Devin D. Marks, Founding Trustee, The Anne Marbury Hutchinson Foundation; Founder and President, My TED Talks

“A carefully researched accessible account of Anne Hutchinson’s remarkable life. Christy’s beautiful conversational style helps bring Anne’s story alive and makes early ‘Puritan’ theological differences much clearer. This book will make so many more people aware of her importance here in England.”
Rev. Ros Latham, Vicar, St. Wilfrid’s Church of England, Alford, Lincolnshire