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How Christianity Has Advanced Freedom and Equality for All Americans

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April 7, 2023
Christianity Advanced Freedom Book | First Liberty Institute

by John Wilsey • 4 min read

Everywhere we look, we see confidence in the American experience on the wane. A recent Wall Street Journal/NORC poll found that patriotism has declined among Americans from 70% to 38% since 1997. Part of the explanation for that alarming trend is how the left creates a narrative that America is inherently a racist and oppressive nation.

Furthermore, that narrative has asserted that Christianity is a harmful religion, creating division, violence, misogyny and justifying slavery. The only explanation for any freedom or equality in American history is found in those who went against Christianity to advance liberal ideas.

But Christians have been at the center of the greatest reform efforts in human history, and many of those reform efforts originated, or took place in, the United States of America.

Reforming Christians were behind all of the major moral improvement movements since the 17th century: anti-slavery, women’s rights, literacy, temperance and civil rights, to name a few. American Christians have always based their reforming efforts on their Christian faith. Contrary to what some recent scholarship has argued, Christians and Christianity have been indispensable to the advancement of the cause of freedom and equality, not just in America, but throughout the world.

While Christians have at times sought to use the Bible to justify slavery, the oppression of Native Americans, the persecution of Catholics, and other unjust causes, these negative examples do not serve as evidence that Christianity as a faith system is inherently oppressive. The historical evidence demonstrates conclusively that Christians in America have led the way—for 400 years—in the cause of liberty for all.

It is refreshing to see a scholar with the credibility, the eloquence, and the assiduous research skills, such as Mark David Hall, making that very argument. His recent book, Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land: How Christianity Has Advanced Freedom and Equality For All Americans, is of great value in our contemporary culture. Conservatives often find themselves perplexed by the flood of books and articles on the left that seek to undermine the American project of self-government under just law. Hall has given us, in a book of seven chapters, an introduction, and a conclusion, a definitive answer to the leftist anti-American and anti-Christian narrative.

Starting with the Puritans, moving through American history to the Revolution, the Constitutional Convention, Hall argues that Christians and Christian ideas, dating back to the Reformation, stressed the dignity of the individual person and the ability of the individual to access the Gospel for themselves in the Bible. That revolutionary idea from the Reformation was one of the central influences for idea of self-government under just law. The Puritans inherited Reformation anthropology and planted it in New England where they grew and flourished through the period of the Revolution. Hall argues that Protestant Christianity was at the heart of the first successful republican government in the modern age.

Hall continues his argument in the context of the slavery, the reform movements of the 19th century, and how religious liberty forms the basis for all other liberties we enjoy as Americans. Strict separation of Church and State was never the intention of the Founders, because they realized that religious practice and expression were central to the coherence and flourishing of a just society.

Anyone interested in the subject of American history, church history, and the beneficial practical results Christianity has brought to America and to the world should read Hall’s book. In our culture that is more and more infected with woke leftism, Hall’s book is needed now, perhaps more than ever.


Wilsey

John D. Wilsey is a Research Fellow of First Liberty’s Center for Religion, Culture and Democracy. As both an author and editor, Wilsey has extensive experience in publishing his work. His most recent book was released by Eerdmans in 2021, titled God’s Cold Warrior: The Life and Faith of John Foster Dulles. Wilsey is currently Associate Professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He earned a B.A. in history from Furman University (1992), and an M.Div. (1998) and Ph.D. (2010) from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Mark David Hall

Mark David Hall is Herbert Hoover Distinguished Professor of Politics and Faculty Fellow in the Honors Program at George Fox University.  He is also Associated Faculty at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University and a Senior Fellow at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion. He has written, edited, or co-edited a dozen books. Mark earned a BA in political science from Wheaton College (IL) and a PhD in Government from the University of Virginia.

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