The ability of leaders to break the trend, and question long-held beliefs, shaped this country into being what it is today. A true leader is someone willing to, in the face of failure and defeat, struggle on and stick to moral convictions. In the Massachusetts bay colony, Roger Williams questioned commonly held religious and political beliefs, and changed the American political landscape.
Roger Williams, arriving in the Americas in 1631, was a firm separatist. He believed that humans could not properly implement the law of god, and that the government had no role in regulating religious activity. Immediately upon his arrival, as a scholarly minister, he received a job offer from the Boston Church. However, staying true to his convictions, he shocked the Church by declining their offer, claiming it was not committed to proper worship of God. This had repercussions, and it caused mistrust between him and colonial leaders, even as he moved to the Bay Colony.
Authorities’ patience grew thin, and when word of a plot to throw him in a jail cell in England reached him through a friend, he fled, leaving his wife and child in Salem until he was safe. Roger Williams befriended Indians, and it was through them he was able to survive. His survival was dependent on Roger Williams’ biggest strength – his sense of community. He longed for fellowship and community, no matter the circumstances, whether in Salem with his fellow colonists, or with Indians that he had just met.
In Providence Williams eventually founded a Baptist church with total religious liberty. He did not require a tax-supported church, and did not demand attendance at worship. His firm belief in religious freedom, and his understanding, leadership, and charisma enabled him to found Rhode Island, and ultimately shape the moral landscape of an entire country. He and other dissenters built a strong, progressive community that became a model for individualism.
Information Sources –
American Pageant Chapter 3
Roger Williams and the Creation of American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty by John Barry – http://www.amazon.com/Roger-Williams-Creation-American-Soul/dp/B007SRVV7O
Image – http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/John-M-Barry-on-Roger-Williams-and-the-Indians.html From the Granger Collection, NYC