Historian John M. Barry: "Rick Santorum is John Winthrop"





Joe Nocera is a columnist for the NYT.

“Rick Santorum is John Winthrop,” the historian and author John M. Barry was saying the other day.

Barry is in a unique position to make such a judgment. His most recent book, published last month, is entitled “Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul.” To call it a biography sells it short. What it is, really, is the history of an idea — an idea that Williams articulated before anyone else — about the critical importance of separating church from state. So revolutionary was this idea that it caused Williams to be banished from Massachusetts and to seek refuge in nearby Rhode Island, which he founded. In doing so, Williams created the first place in the Western world where people could believe in any God they wished — or no God at all — without fear of retribution.

In opposition to that idea, always, were Winthrop and the other Puritans who first came to Massachusetts. Puritans fled to America in the 1600s because they were being persecuted in England for their hard-edged, Calvinist beliefs, and their rejection of the Anglican Church. Having one’s ears cut off for having deviationist religious beliefs was one of the lesser punishments Puritans suffered; being locked up in the Tower of London, where death was a near certainty, was not uncommon....



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