To be sure, constrained presentism exists on both the right and the left—everyone on the political spectrum bears the temptation to mine the past for present concerns. This temptation must be resisted. Our innate proclivity to tell stories and forge historical memory must coalesce with an uncompromising set of virtues necessary for the storyteller. Without these qualities, a true historical consciousness of who and what we are as a nation will fade, and we ourselves will perish.
Charles Hughes was right: religious liberty is indeed the “glory of the Baptist heritage.” But how that heritage was applied and how it has changed over time is the topic of important debate. And, given the state of our American public square, it’s a discussion that will only continue to intensify in its significance.
Freedom of conscience is an indispensable right that we cannot jettison. Yet, does a commitment to soul liberty require what Williams said he abhorred, namely, “an infinite liberty of conscience”? Can any society, including our own, withstand unlimited religious and moral pluralism?