For over four centuries Baptists have advocated for religious freedom. Not simply for themselves but for all religious faiths. Having been the object of much persecution for their beliefs in their formative years early Baptists in Great Britain and in America knew first-hand what hypocrisy it was to fight for one's freedom to worship as one desires while seeking to restrict the religious freedom of those holding to a different faith. In 1612 Thomas Helwys wrote:
“For men’s religion to God is between God and themselves. The king shall not answer for it. Neither may the king be judge between God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure. This is made evident to our lord the king by the scriptures.” Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity (1612)
John Leland wrote in 1790:
“The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.” John Leland, “The Virginia Chronicle” (1790)
In this charged political climate where fear of those who worship unlike ourselves consumes the public square, Christ-followers would do well to steer clear of the reactionary anger that foments so much racial and religious prejudice. First, because the Bible teaches us to love one another and even out enemies. Secondly, if we rail against a particular religious community in America, we will very likely soon find the voices we joined turning and railing against us. For more quotations from early Baptists (even in America) go to the link below....