This isn't an exciting or fast-paced book, but it's still interesting.
The first part of the book looked at the various forms of Christianity the original English colonists brought to America and the degrees of intolerance with which they treated anyone who didn't follow along with their particular brand. Acceptance of other "faiths," including Baptist, Mennonite, Quaker, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Jewish, was less a result of lower-case enlightenment and far more a response to practical necessity: "those people" had arrived and become part of the colonial economy.
But by the time the U.S. Constitution was being written -- and amended -- a century and a half later, a myth was already being used to provide a foundation for religious freedom. In other words, the Framers kind of sort of ignored the vicious and often violent intolerance of the Puritans and the Pilgrims and some of the other colonial groups and instead credited them with espousing and encouraging "freedom of conscience." Really, nothing could have been further from the truth.
It's going to be interesting to see how this morphs back into the whole Christian nation concept.
Life has been chaos for three, four, five months. A couple of days ago I stopped and took a fresh look at everything.
1. I'm not doing any art shows or yard sales for the foreseeable future. Not this week-end, not over Thanksgiving, not in January.
2. I'm going to focus on online sales and reducing the inventory of "stuff" around here.
3. I'm going to spend more time reading and writing.
4. I'm going to work on effecting a super-major lifestyle change that will take some very hard work and discipline.
I remember when the Jonestown story broke back, and as horrible as it was, I understood how it could happen. I had had two very brief brushes with cults myself and saw how easily people can be sucked in, especially if there's no countering message.
I had forgotten, however, about Rep. Jackie Speier's book. The local library has it, so I'm going to pick it up and read it.
Disclosure: I obtained this book through my local public library. I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with him about this book or any other matter. I am an author of historical romance, contemporary gothic romance, and assorted non-fiction.
As I wrote in an earlier quick post, this author lost credibility when he stated, on page 27, in reference to the "Pilgrims" -- Puritans by another name -- of the Plymouth Colony, "Baptists were expelled, Quakers were whipped and hung, and witches were burned."
There were trials for witchcraft in the Connecticut colony in the 1630s or 40s, and some were convicted and hanged. Nineteen persons were executed in connection with the Salem witch trials, of which 18 were hanged and one pressed to death. I've never been able to find any reference to witches being burned, at the stake or anywhere else, in the English colonies.
So far, at just 39 pages in, I'm finding this otherwise interesting but not really providing anything new and unexpected. Kevin Phillips' The Cousins' Wars contains a lot of similar and/or related information, though from a slightly different perspective.
One thing that bothers me about this book, however, is the author's use of the word "myth." The subtitle is "The MYTH of the Religious Founding," with the emphasis on the cover. But Green insists his use of the word in that context is not to imply a fantasy or falsehood, but rather a construction almost true but not quite. Akin, perhaps, to George Washington and the cherry tree. In spite of his explicit explanation, Green often refers to "myth" in its more common meaning, as a fantastical or clearly imaginary explanation or justification. I wish he'd pick one and stick with it.
I'll do an official listing for this later, but because I'm reading a library copy and am not at a place where I can take notes, I wanted to record this.
Whatever else the Puritans did, and they did a lot of rotten things, they DID NOT burn any witches. They hanged a few in Connecticut and a few more in Salem, Massachusetts, but they didn't burn any.
When a historian makes this kind of mistake, he tends to lose a LOT of credibility.