One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: " 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'" So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Romans 14:5-12

Words like "crusades" and "inquisition" make Christians blush with shame. They point out to us what some religious zealots have done to people throughout history. We who are Baptists, however, have tried to be consistent - from our very beginning - in standing firmly for the rights of all individuals to seek and pursue their own faith, or for each to decide to be without faith if that is the choice. We have been the recipients of religious oppression ourselves - as when our Church doors were nailed shut by the Puritan Authorities here in Boston in 1680. But we have never sought to use the power of the State to suppress others.

We, Baptists, take the scriptures and their symbols seriously. Both tell us that God has "...broken down the dividing wall of hostility... making peace by the blood of his cross" (Eph. 3.14; Col. 1:20). The cross for us has never been a weapon of coercion, (as it was in the crusades against the Muslims), nor an instrument of torture, (as in the heresy trials and inquisition.) The cross has always been the symbol that we are not only loved by God, but also sent out to love and respect others in God's name.

This was the impetus that drove Roger Williams to Rhode Island with the express purpose of founding a community in which every individual had the right to follow his or her own conscience wherever that might lead. This is why The American Baptist Churches of the USA, (our national denomination), has been involved as "friend of the court" in cases where the government has opposed the freedom of religious groups like the Unification Church and others. This is the reason that whenever and wherever a person's right of individual conscience or choice is being violated, American Baptists ought to be there to uphold the freedom of the individual. Whenever there is an effort to use the power of the state to interfere with a person's right to worship (or to refuse to worship) Baptists will be there to defend the individual's right against the power of the State.

There are some ideas with which we strongly disagree; there are some forms of worship which we think are disgraceful; there are some religious beliefs that we hold to be an abomination. But history has shown that however incompatible our viewpoint is with another, we have always stood firm in our support of the other person's right to disagree, without interference of law, power, or majority opinion. And we will continue to do so.

So, our emphasis on "soul liberty" implies the need for every individual to make his or her own decision on religious matters, symbolized in our expression of believer's baptism, which a believer chooses as a public symbol of personal commitment. Baptists have at the same time stood firm, suffered loss, and been punished for this emphasis on the rights of others to be what they choose to be, which includes the right to be different. Such a notion is especially true at The First Baptist Church of Boston, as our History explains.

We are proud of our past and the symbols that represent this heritage to us, to our children, and to our community. This gives even more purpose to our commitment as followers of Jesus Christ.

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