Friday, February 3, 2012

Baptism in America


I was perusing the Internet bookshelves for something recent and fell upon this book on Roger Williams.  It has received favorable reviews far and wide, as it places Williams at the center of the battle over free will.  In many ways, Williams appears to have beaten Thomas Paine to the punch, in his determination to defend civil liberty,

In several publications, he argued that the individual conscience should not — could not — be governed, let alone persecuted. If God was the ultimate punisher of sin, it was impious for humans to assume his authority. And it was “directly contrary to the nature of Christ Jesus . . . that throats of men should be torne out for his sake.”

This book explores Williams and the world he was a part of in the mid 17th century.

17 comments:

  1. Defo a book I'd like to read and well worth discussing here. Unfortunately, the two library systems here don't have it.

    I requested "Fruitland ... Alcott Family'' by Richard Francis but they only have 1 book and the waiting list is a bit long. Hopefully, it will become available next week.

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  2. This book interests me as well. It is relatively new so I imagine your library will get it in due time.

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  3. If you, like me, likes to read up on old New York, here's a great place to go:

    http://eagle.brooklynpubliclibrary.org/Default/Skins/BEagle/Client.asp?Skin=BEagle&AW=1328591402093&AppName=2&GZ=T

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  4. Gintaras,

    A couple of years back we considered Eric Foner's "The Fiery Trial":

    http://www.amazon.com/Fiery-Trial-Abraham-Lincoln-American/dp/0393066185


    I think that's when we turned to Colonel Roosevelt and that was a great discussion. Perhaps Foner can be put back under consideration.

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  5. I like Foner and Lincoln but would like to explore new territory.

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  6. "Fruitlands" was defo a good book but not quite suitable for a group reading.

    When I was in grade school we read "Little Women" and "Little Men" which made me believe Louisa May Alcott's family life had been ideal to say the least. After my readings on the Transcendentalists I realized this wasn't true. Now, after reading this book, I can see that they came from a very dysfunctional family.

    Fruitlanders were influenced by the old Yankee ideal that the USA (esp New England) was or is supposed to be the New Eden. One so mandated by God or Nature's God. Therefore, the quest of these idealists was, how to re-create Mankind into a Perfectibility. One commensurate with a Human Paradise unsoiled by Original Sin. Food in its purest form, exercise, refraining from activity that is construable as "sin" were to be used for cleansing the body and soul. Sex was to be limited or refrained from entirely. Veganism and water were the ideal foods. Spirits and other intoxicants were verboten. Even manure could not be used as fertilizer as it is impure. Life was to regimented through daily chores in a manner calculated to improve health, avoid all manner of uncleanliness, and to foster wholesome self discipline. Perfectibility was, they thought, achievable in the here and now as opposed to some nebulous Heavenly reward. The colony was to be a microcosm for the rest of the world as it was thought to soon be able to create "large scale social upheaval". But all turned out to be a disaster from Day One. The colony dissolved within a very short time frame because of the many peculiarities of Alcott and his associates.

    The author Richard Francis makes all this very clear. But he brought up a point which remains unclear to me: that of Abigail Alcott's visit to the Shaker community (it is not specified as to which community it was but I assume it was at Harvard in Massachusetts - near the school though not associated with it). She observed that while the community professed to be egalitarian gender wise this particular community was not. Instead, in her view, men did little of the work but profited in many ways from the work done by women. The segment lacked specificity and it is difficult to ascertain just exactly what she meant. However, this goes against everything I have read in the past because my past readings revealed that, indeed, these were egalitarian communities.

    Whatever the case, I do recommend the book. Perhaps this could inspire us to read Hawthorne's "Blithedale Romance" or some non-fiction account of Brook Farm.

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  7. Thanks for the review, Trippler. I think I have that book somewhere, but haven't read it. I read Cheever's book on the American Bloomsbury about the same group of people -- alas, the book was so thin it only made me want to find a couple better ones to really learn about them. The image that sticks in my mind from that book, though, is Alcott sitting out on a bench by the road with a bucket of apples. In spite of not being a very well-written book, I found the family fascinating.

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  8. Ah, avrds, you reminded me of something I forgot to mention previously: that Alcott was a control freak who expunged several notes from Louisa May's diary of daily activities at the community. He also expunged other notes from his wife's diary since all too often the notes gave unpleasant details. Perhaps they should have entitled their books, "Assignment In Utopian'' as Eugene Lyons was to do years later.

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  9. My copy of Barry's book "Williams" finally arrived. Dunno if I may keep it beyond the three week lending period but will do my best to finish it before the time expires.

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  10. I'll start reading mine now, although it will be hard to pull me away from Brautigan. I'm reliving his life.

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  11. Still waiting on my copy. Hopefully, it will arrive soon.

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  12. Roger finally arrived. It's even a first printing! Look forward to digging into this book this week.

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  13. You are in for a wild ride: blood, mayhem, sex ... religious history really is something!

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  14. I'm still reading about Brautigan, but nearing the end. Will get serious about reading this one in earnest now.

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  15. Ah, glad to know your books have arrived. Since you're going to read about Williams and others living in the woods, I'd thought this would help you get into the appropriate mood:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Fg3pvlB_5U&feature=related

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  16. Got started yesterday and couldn't put the book down. Barry certainly knows how to grab your attention and hold it. Will post a new thread for the discussion on Friday.

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