“My country ‘tis of thee” : How the anti-establishment narrative of church history led Baptists to embrace America.

Abstract

This thesis traces the development, use, and influence of the “Anti-establishment Narrative of Church History,” particularly among white, southern Baptists in the United States between the Revolutionary War period and the early twentieth century. This narrative, which originated in late-sixteenth century England, portrayed church-state establishment, power, and money as having tarnished the church from the time of Constantine onward. Southern, white Baptist leaders of various sorts often appealed to this narrative of church history as a warning. The narrative consistently influenced how they interpreted intra-denominational and political disputes. Ironically, even though this narrative decried the church and the state becoming intertwined, from the time of the Revolutionary War onward, Baptists influenced by it embraced America. Due to the United States’ republican and disestablished character, Baptists felt that after centuries of true Christianity being oppressed, America was God’s deliverance.

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