Introduction to American History
July 30, 2011
In God We Trust
As the official motto of the United States goes, “In God we trust.” Religion has never failed to play an important role affecting politics in the United States. Christianity, especially, has significantly affected this nation and its people. Owing to different understandings toward this very religion, from the settlement in Plymouth in the 17th century till present, different groups of people have been able to use it as a slogan or a banner to dissent against authority, in order to attain the rights they longed for and deserved. Those dissenters look up to God as their savior who is able to liberate and free them from ...view middle of the document...
From this description, the Puritan church and the government in Massachusetts Bay colony were not separated, and in fact, the Puritan church had greater power than the latter. Besides, Puritans believed “community solidarity was essential, and individual desires and thoughts had to be subjugated to those of the community” (Bruce 30-31). This religious doctrine was, eventually, helpful for the government to centralize power. Therefore, if anyone questioned the church, or religion, as you will, they would somehow challenge authority of the government as well.
Anne Hutchinson, as one of the Antinomians, held strongly different views about Christianity, compared with the Puritan church. The Antinomians believed, under the covenant of grace, “an individual was virtually freed from the man-made laws of both church and state” (Bruce 32). They dissented against the legitimacy of both the Puritan church and the government. They, actually, were asking for individual freedom of religion and politics. First, they believed that individuals were able to connect with God without the need of ministers or priests. Their requiring religious freedom and connection with God, in fact, offended those ministers, because their power was doubted, owing their high position in the church. Secondly, Antinomians proclaimed to be freed from the laws of both church and state, which expressed their desires of political freedom. Since individuals were subjected to the community, they virtually had no political rights. Hence, the Antinomians were both religious and political dissenters; and they had to be both, due to the fact that religion and the government were inseparable. Hence, when one is offended, the other one will follow suit.
Not only was Anne Hutchinson an Antinomian, but also a dissenter of women rights. She was a woman leader in her community, as the governor in Massachusetts Bay John Winthrop privately called her a person of “nimble wit and active spirit and a very voluble [fluent] tongue” (Bruce 33). She dissented as an Antinomian because the covenant of grace, one of the Antinomian doctrines proclaimed everyone is able to connect with God without ministers. In fact, this doctrine claimed that everyone is equal, who means men and women are equal as well. However, John Winthrop believed that women should be “submissive and supportive” to men as written in the Bible (Bruce 33). Therefore, she was persecuted and tried, because she was a woman.
In the age when religion and the government are separated, the relationship of religious and political dissent becomes different. Religion was no longer in control of the government after the Constitution was published. It was not a tool to reign over people any more. Directly dissenting against religions could merely affect the government. Nevertheless, religion has not faded out of the stage of American history because of the change, but played an inspiring role for people to dissent against authority.