In the Middle Ages, governments had power and control over people and their rights, and the church also had much power and used it to control people. There was a constant battle between governments and the church over who was most in control. One of the doctrines that had evolved in the church was that a person had to be a member in good standing in their church to go to heaven. So the church began to use the threat of ex-communication, which was basically kicking people out of heaven to control them, especially government officials. The government used courts, laws, prisons, and the threat of death to control people, especially church leaders. If you read much history of this period you will read of people getting burned at the stake, drowned, hung, pulled in two by horses, thrown to animals, thrown off of high places, and starved to death. Executions were made public and cruel for the sake of intimidation and fear which was essential to controlling people.
Through the Reformation years, the struggle for power and control continued, and hundreds of so-called heretics were burned at the stake. In a number of recorded executions the children of those being burned were forced to light the fire that killed their parent. John Fox wrote his book, “Fox’s Book of Martyrs, ” in 1563 with many detailed descriptions of executions that were fully intended to put fear into those who watched and heard of the awful deaths of those who refused to be controlled by tyrants.
The earliest of immigrants to America from Europe came seeking religious freedom and freedom from the fear mongering that was still the normal way of controlling people in Europe. Those who wrote our Constitution and the Bill of Rights which followed were very much aware of European history and wrote a document designed to maintain people’s freedom from oppression. It is said that no document that was ever written has the power to protect against despotic autocracy as our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights do.
The Bible is the ultimate document of freedom. It teaches the importance of not trying to control others, how to live in peace with others, how to live in freedom from fear, living free from the power and control of our own sinful nature, and how to be set free from the devil and the kingdom of darkness. It is worth reading every day, and following as a standard for living life in freedom.