Bibliographic Essay Sample: Roger Williams

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Carnegie Mellon University
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As human beings go on with their lives, it is expected that they enjoy various freedoms and privileges. However, these freedoms and privileges do not come easily. Historically, various people have endeavored to fight for their rights and those of fellow human beings. In their struggle, they have had to endure a lot of challenges as they try to overcome the numerous hurdles placed in their way. This brings the aspect of a fabric that binds the society. In every society, some beliefs and actions are acceptable while others are not. This limits the freedoms and privileges that every member is expected to enjoy. In that case, religious freedom comes into perspective. Over a very long period, people have come out strongly to fight for the freedom of religion. One of these iconic people is Roger Williams. Born in 1603, Roger Williams will remain in records of history as a staunch advocate of religious freedom and liberty of conscience. He persistently advocated for the separation of the state and church in colonial America (Gaustad). In his view, the state and church were separate entities that should have been treated as so. He did not believe in church government and insincere worship. Apart from his fight for the liberty of conscience and religious freedom, Roger Williams is credited for speaking out against the confiscation of land from the American natives as well as being the founding father of Rhode Island (McSwain). This means that he believed in true worship and the equality of all human beings, and this made him not only a religious but also a political leader.

To study the contributions that Roger Williams made in his quest for equality, soul liberty, and religious freedom, five sources will be considered for synthesis. Each of these sources provides a lot of information that is very crucial to the bibliographical account of Roger Williams. The sources are introduced below.

Gaustad, Edwin S. Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America. Judson Press, 1999. This book is authored by Gaustad, a renowned author, and professor of history. This is one of the books he has authored based on the historical context of the church. His penmanship has contributed significantly to the literature that relates to the history of religion, with puritanism taking center stage. The book generally looks at the interconnections between the church and the state, and the puritanism approach that led to the process of the separation of the two. It examines the role of Roger Williams in the advocacy for religious liberty through the perspectives of puritanism and conscience. It gives a lot of information that brings to light the fact that Roger Williams was a real heavyweight in matters of church-state separation.

Hall, Timothy L. Separating church, and state: Roger Williams and religious liberty. University of Illinois Press, 1998. This is another masterpiece on the history of the church, authored by Timothy Hall, the 12th president of Mercy College and former president of Austin Peay State University (APSU) in Clarksville, Tenn. He is an experienced writer on matters of church history. In this book, Hall presents Roger Williams as a prominent advocate of religious tolerance and enemy of structured religious institutions. To examine the religious liberty theory propagated by Roger Williams, Hall combines legal and historical scholarship in a unique manner. He argues that the strong dogmatism portrayed by Williams is what made him a champion of the church-state separationist course.

McSwain, James. Roger Williams. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopaedia, 2016. This biographic text was authored by James McSwain, an education expert, and author based in Texas, USA. In this biographical text, McSwain gives a vivid account of the life and times of Roger Williams. He brilliantly explains the birth of Williams and his life as a young cleric cum politician. He clearly elaborates on the political battles that Williams had to fight in his advocacy for equality and religious freedom. The biography also explains the struggle behind the foundation of Rhode Island. The information provided about the life of Roger Williams is very important in understanding who Roger Williams really was.

Marchese, Beth-Ann. Providence, Rhode Island. Salem Press Encyclopaedia, 2015. This article, which is found in the Salem Press Encyclopaedia was authored by Beth-Ann Marchese, an editor, and writer who also has expertise in refining raw manuscripts and designing training manuals. In this article, Marchese elucidates the history and establishment of the City of Providence in Rhode Island. The most interesting information in the article revolves around the enormous role played by Roger Williams in the establishment of this densely-populated city.

Sullivan, James. Historic Providence, Rhode Island. Salem Press Encyclopaedia, 2016. This article by James Sullivan is also published in the Salem Press Encyclopaedia. The article precisely examines the events that led to the establishment and growth of the city of Providence, Rhode Island. The author explores the historical context of Providence. By doing so, he puts the city in the perspective of the role played by Roger Williams in its establishment.

One of the major ideologies that Roger Williams will forever be credited for is that of the separation of the church from the state. Williams felt that the church and state were too influential to each other that a separation was the only way to go. The state was too powerful for the church and this, according to Williams, denied the Christians a chance to exercise their religious freedom (Hall). He considered the two as separate entities that ought to have worked with decorum and independence to avoid subjugating the masses. Due to his dogmatic stance on the issue of separation, Roger Williams was branded a religious dissenter (McSwain). As a preacher in the Massachusetts colony, the authorities thought that he was a big threat to the cordial relationship between the church and the state (Gaustad). Most of the sermons delivered by Williams centered on the liberty of worship. He believed that the church should not interfere with the actions of the state and vice versa and that nobody should be persecuted for choosing a certain direction in their religious beliefs. Such doctrines did not auger well with the authorities and with time, they had to get a way of pushing Williams out of the colony. It is apparent that if authorities want to do away with anyone that poses a threat to their survival, they can do anything to eliminate that person from the picture. Williams had to be thrown into obscurity if only for the authorities to be safe. His followers were first discouraged from attending his church, but when it proved difficult to smoke them out, they were exiled from the Massachusetts colony, together with him (McSwain). Perhaps, it is the stubbornness of Williams and his unrelenting spirit that he and his followers have to suffer this fate. The authors and biographers who describe the circumstances leading to the expulsion of Williams from Massachusetts, do not seem to sympathize with him. In any case, they look at it as the ladder with which he climbed to fame and personal development. Apparently, one can conclude that this seemed to be the best thing that happened to Roger Williams as he was able to get peace and religious freedom from elsewhere. With the establishment of Providence, Rhode Island, it was possible for him to apply his ideology of separating the actions of the church from those of the state.

The aspect of liberty of conscience cannot pass without the mention of Roger Williams. He was one of the most prominent advocates of the liberty of conscience. Each person ought to exercise conscience in their worship, at least according to Williams. As people got enlightened, and the Bible became more accessible to those who had the ability to read and write, individuals were able to gain firsthand information from their bibles despite being discouraged from reading it on their own by the established church. Evidently, the church did not want to later grapple with varying opinions and interpretations of the events in the holy book. These people, then, had no choice but to route for more purity in worship hence the coining of the word Puritanism in the 1650s to refer to them(Gaustad). Although Williams had persistently preached the gospel of religious tolerance, he did not accept Puritanism. He viewed it as a kind of a moderate theology which could not qualify as a definition of true worship (Hall). Such views may have placed him at loggerheads with the Puritans. In his view, the most important thing was liberty of conscience because it was only Christ who could come and establish true worship. In the opinion of Williams, Christ had, in the New Testament, allowed error and religious truth to coexist (Hall). In this regard, true religion was not about how much one practiced Puritanism and other religious doctrines; it was all about how close one worked with God. It was thus necessary for conscience to reign supreme in religious matters since nobody knew the true form of religion that God had intended. The religious beliefs and ideas harbored by Williams, it is clear, were evoked by his desire to be close to God. His radical views kept him entangled in protracted political and religious controversies all through his life. So bitter was he with the Puritans that as he lived in Rhode Island with them as his neighbors, he never hesitated to remind them that they wronged him by banishing him. He even went ahead to engage in prodigious religious debates with the Boston minister, John Cotton, in an effort to prove to him that the banishment was an injustice and sign of intolerance (Sullivan). It is rather ironical that Williams preached religious tolerance and expected everyone to be tolerant yet he had rejected the moderate theology of puritanism. Nevertheless, he advocated for the liberty of conscience which would guide every person to behave accordingly in religious matters. The power of a conscience may have informed his advocacy, and this was a big plus, anyway. As a young, charismatic clergyman, Williams had landed in New England in 1631 and had hoped that the church would advance God's kingdom further (McSwain). However, he was disappointed when this did not happen thus joined the separatists in the Plymouth colony although his push for purity went too far. His view that the godly should only work with the godly, for instance, was considered too radical and extremist by his colleagues (Gaustad). Williams' philosophy of liberty of conscience may not have worked out well since it seemed too personal and people did not seem to agree with him. Nevertheless, his views laid a solid foundation for the establishment of religious freedoms that human beings enjoy today. Liberty of conscience is a very important aspect of decision making and religion. As one's conscience guides them, nobody is expected to behave in a wayward manner in matters religion.

Additionally, Williams goes down history literature as one who was able to overcome disaster by establishing his own colony. In connection with separation of the church and state and the aspect of liberty of conscience, Roger Williams had to pay the price for his advocacy. The price he had to pay is his banishment from the Massachusetts colony (Marchese). Although it is evident that he considered this an injustice, it is important to acknowledge that it was due to this banishment that he was able to establish his own state (McSwain). His advocacy for religious freedom did not augur well with the authorities and his colleagues. His radical views and condemnation of the unfair confiscation of the Native Americans' land earned him banishment from the Massachusetts colony since he was cons...

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