Dr. Hall has put the founding in philosophical context but not the wider historical context, which is all-important. “Enlightenment ideas indisputably had some positive influence,” he allows, “but a more important reason Americans embraced religious liberty was because of their Christian convictions.” No, no, and no! For there were Christians and Christians—though Dr. Hall writes as though the various sects formed a monolithic bloc. In fact, for more than two-and-a-half centuries—ever since Martin Luther posted his 95 theses—Christians had been torturing and slaughtering each other all over Europe. Bitter warfare in France, culminating in the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Protestants by Catholics in 1572, endured until the very end of the century, and recommenced, just as brutally, in 1685. It was still going on during deliberations over the American constitution. The Netherlands suffered 80 years of warfare before the Protestant provinces finally succeeded in detaching themselves from Catholic Spain. Germany and other parts of Central Europe were torn apart by the inconceivably savage Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), in which entire regions were devastated and the population of the area was reduced by 30 percent. Britain, closer to home for most American colonists, had seen Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, Mary I’s persecution of Protestants, and finally the bloody Civil War (1642-51), in which Puritan parliamentarians took on Anglican royalists, divided the nation, and executed the monarch.
Friday, June 19, 2020
Allen Responds to Hall
Over at Cato Unbound, Brook Allen has written her response to Mark David Hall. You can read it here. A taste: