Responding to Rachel Held Evans on Twitter, Eric Metaxas claimed his position on religious liberty during colonial times has been misrepresented.
@rachelheldevans My position on this has been misrepresented. OF COURSE we had horrible instances of such things. I’d never deny it.
— Eric Metaxas (@ericmetaxas) July 14, 2016
I’d like to know how his position has been misrepresented. Please, Mr. Metaxas enlighten us with passages from your book. John Fea from Messiah College, Tracy McKenzie from Wheaton College and Greg Frazer from The Master’s College all represented you via passages from your book. Here are the passages we relied on.
For another, because of the religious disparity among them they had a deep and abiding respect for religious freedom and were well practiced in living with those who held different beliefs from their own. (p. 10)
The founders, however, had quite another idea, based on their experience in the colonies over the decades before, where the idea of total religious freedom was paramount. They had already experienced this religious freedom as part of life in the American colonies. The very first settlers on American shores had left their lives behind precisely for this freedom. So the founders had observed something entirely different in America, something that had successfully operated for nearly a century: a complete tolerance of all denominations and religions, such that the people were not coerced to believe but could believe and worship precisely as they wished. (pp. 34-35)
Since the Pilgrims came to our shores in 1620, religious freedom and religious tolerance have been the single most important principle of American life. This was the genius at the heart of it all. But tragically this linchpin of American liberty has been more misunderstood in recent years than at any time in our existence. (p. 70)
So 124 years before the Constitution and 139 years before Jefferson’s famous letter to the Danbury Baptists, an American document was establishing this idea of religious liberty as sacrosanct, so to speak, as a central component of American freedom. (p. 72)
One of the main reasons the United States came into being was because people had left Europe, where this ‘establishment’ of religion was going on all the time and was manifestly monstrous and destructive to individual freedom. People’s lives were ruined if they didn’t choose the ‘right’ religion. The founders knew that the country they were hoping to live in must be nothing like that. Everyone must be free to decide what religion he would choose— and the government would not choose any religion. It would be impartial toward all of them. Indeed, because America was the place to which so many who were being persecuted for their religious beliefs in Europe repaired, it became a place where many Christian denominations lived cheek by jowl. The main thing was not that one belong to the right church but that all churches live in a way that upheld the common good. Simply put, the differences among the denominations were practically less important than their similarities. (pp.74-75)
Metaxas, Eric (2016-06-14). If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
When Metaxas spoke about Roger Williams, he did not include the fact that Williams was booted out of the Massachusetts colony due to Williams’ religious preaching. Yes, an American document established religious freedom, but Metaxas fails to explain that Williams had to run from the very people Metaxas claims championed religious freedom.