17 May 2020

Feudalism, Christianity, America

I present an excerpt from a scholarly article published more than fifty years ago. Who writes like this today?
Despite the fact that Christ redeemed man and revealed to him the central democratic truth that all men have equal value on earth as well as in heaven, the medieval Church developed a hierarchical, authoritarian priesthood and encouraged feudalism, a totally undemocratic and hence anti-Christian system. During the Reformation, however, men like Luther and Calvin reasserted true Christianity by proclaiming religious equality and by insisting that the Bible contained all knowledge requisite to salvation and that every man could know God directly and personally, without the mediation of an authoritarian Church. Although they had thus forever destroyed the religious foundations of feudalism, the institution itself staggered on, even to Bancroft's own day. Because of her separation from Rome in the sixteenth century and the moral superiority of her Teutonic, freedom-loving people, England had realized greater progress towards liberty and equality than priest-ridden, despotic nations like Spain and France; yet in the seventeenth century England herself was so feudalistic as to have forced large numbers of her most morally advanced citizens to flee to North America, where they planted imperishable seeds of religious and political liberty. In the eighteenth century these colonists became convinced that if they were to realize their democratic visions they would have to separate from the mother country, and in the Revolutionary War they won for themselves and all mankind the independence which it was their destiny to translate into the finest and purest democracy the world had ever known. Now they bore the lamp of freedom that would light the world, leading it toward an inevitable democratic paradise, the final Kingdom of God on earth. Before the example of America all forms of tyranny would evaporate, and the mission of Christ and the will of Providence would be fulfilled.
Richard C. Vitzthum, "Theme and Method in Bancroft's History of the United States," New England Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3 (1968), 368-369.
Is Vitzthum writing in the voice of his subjects, employing historical ventriloquism to present seventeenth century ideologies? Does he embrace these ideologies?

On his blog, Vitzthum asserts his atheism. That would favor ventriloquism. Efforts to articulate the views held by people in the past can get one in trouble these days.

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