Evangelical Christian historian John Fee has joined Warren Throckmorton and a couple others in strongly criticizing the lies and distortions in Eric Metaxas’ new book, which is pretty much straight out of the David Barton propaganda playbook. He points out some of Metaxas’ rather obvious contradictions.
There is so much that is wrong about these statements that I don’t really know where to begin.
Let’s start with the Pilgrims. First, the Pilgrims did not come to America for religious freedom. They traveled to Holland for religious freedom, but they came to America because they were worried that their children were losing their ethnic identity in Holland. Second, the Pilgrims, and their “City on a Hill” neighbors to the north, the Puritans, did indeed believe in religious freedom. (Sarcasm alert!!) As I tell my students, people who came to Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were free to practice the religion of the Puritan settlers or else be removed from the colony, imprisoned, fined, or even killed.
On p. 72, Metaxas praises Roger Williams as a champion of religious liberty. This is correct. Indeed, Rhode Island, the colony Williams helped found, was a place where religious freedom flourished. Yet later in the book, Metaxas sings the praises of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” as a model of American exceptionalism (more on that in a later post). In the process, he completely ignores the fact that Williams was thrown out of Massachusetts Bay largely because of religious differences with the government. (So were a bunch of other people, including Anne Hutchinson). So much for religious freedom. Metaxas can’t have it both ways.
Oh, I think that’s naive. Of course he can have it both ways. The audience who is buying this book will be more than happy to let him have it both ways. They are as blissfully oblivious to the contradictions as he is. They are more than happy to believe two mutually exclusive things as long as they both support the narrative they already believe, as is the case here.