June 30, 2012


They Preached Liberty: The passion of American ministers for political freedom in 1776 reflected their belief in religious toleration. (JOSEPH LOCONTE, 6/28/12, WSJ)

On Sunday morning, Jan. 21, 1776, at a church in Woodstock, Va., Rev. Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg brought his sermon to a dramatic and unexpected crescendo. His text was taken from the book of Ecclesiastes. "The Bible tells us 'there is a time for all things,' and there is a time to preach and a time to pray," said Muhlenberg. "But the time for me to preach has passed away; and there is a time to fight, and that time has now come."

Stepping down from the pulpit, the minister took off his clerical robes to reveal the uniform of a colonel in the 8th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army. He had been personally recruited by George Washington. Outside the church door, drums sounded as men kissed their wives goodbye and strode down the aisle to enlist. In less than an hour, 162 men from Muhlenberg's congregation joined the patriot cause.

The "fighting parson" was a common sight in the American Revolution. Why? Because American Christianity--anchored in a Protestant understanding of religious freedom--gave its blessing to democratic self-government.

So ended History.

Posted by at June 30, 2012 8:22 AM

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