Our Country

[In 1885, the Rev. Josiah Strong first published Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, which looked at a series of "perils" to the American west that threaten to destroy the whole American way of life. The book was popular enough to sell 158,000 copies by 1891, when a revised edition, "Based on the Census of 1890," was issued. The new census numbers, reflecting the increases in immigration, only made the "present crisis" seem worse to those Americans who were anxious about cultural change. In both editions, "perils" to "our" country include Mormonism, Socialism, Intemperance, Wealth and the City, but the first "peril" Strong discusses is "Romanism," which, like Hank Morgan, he sees as antithetically opposed to the core American values of liberty and tolerance.]
From Chapter V, "Perils.--Romanism."

We have made a brief comparison of some of the fundamental principles of Romanism with those of the Republic. And,

1. We have seen the supreme sovereignty of the Pope opposed to the sovereignty of the people.

2. We have seen that the commands of the Pope, instead of the constitution and laws of the land, demand the highest allegiance of Roman Catholics in the United States.

3. We have seen that the alien Romanist who seeks citizenship swears true obedience to the Pope instead of "renouncing forever all allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty," as required by our laws.

4. We have seen that Romanism teaches religious intolerance instead of religious liberty.

5. We have seen that Rome demands the censorship of ideas and of the press, instead of the freedom of the press and of speech.

6. We have seen that she approves the union of church and state instead of their entire separation.

7. We have seen that she is opposed to our public school system.

Manifestly there is an irreconcilable difference between papal principles and the fundamental principles of our free institutions. Popular government is self-government. A nation is capable of self-government only so far as the individuals who compose it are capable of self-government. To place one's conscience, therefore, in the keeping of another, and to disavow all personal responsibility in obeying the dictation of another, is as far as possible from self-government, and, therefore, wholly inconsistent with republican institutions. It is the theory of absolutism in the state, that man exists for the state. It is the theory of absolutism in the church that man exists for the church. But in republican and Protestant America it is believed that church and state exist for the people and are to be administered by them. Our fundamental ideas of society, therefore, are as radically opposed to Vaticanism as to imperialism, and it is an inconsistent with our liberties for Americans to yield allegiance to the Pope as to the Czar.

SOURCE: Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, by Rev. Josiah Strong (New York: The American Home Missionary Society, 1891)

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