53 Research and Discussion Questions for Roger Williams

The first two questions listed are intended to be “in class” discussion questions, answerable without need for further reading/research. The following three address research interests and may require further reading.

  1. Roger Williams is someone who we credit with America’s – and now, really, the West’s – governing philosophy that separates the church and the state. How did his actions embody the spirit that seeks to separate the church and state? Where is it reflected in his writings?
  2. By establishing the Providence Plantation, Williams set a precedent for political resistance based on morality in the country’s early history that numerous other early American authors followed. Name one such author, their text, and discuss their conscience-centered resistance.
  3. As evidenced in his “A Key Into the Language of America,” Williams respected the American natives – certainly more so than the majority of his contemporaries did. How does the relationship that he draws between Europeans and American natives in “A Key” interact with the statement he makes in “A Letter to the Town of Providence”?
  4. In what ways did Roger Williams influence, or even give rise to, the fragmented, multi-denominational tradition of Christianity in America?
    1. Chapter ten of “A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Togethershould give anyone interested in exploring this question a good place to start. (https://books.google.com/books?id=CfN9BAAAQBAJ&pg=PT70&lpg=PT70&dq=roger+williams+and+thoreau&source=bl&ots=vIIAMTFc2s&sig=B19TinnCBb6k_XEcu315CVrNlTY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwilu7aY-ODQAhXCzFQKHQQ3A9wQ6AEIKzAC#v=onepage&q=roger%20williams%20and%20thoreau&f=false)
  5. Long (and still) a tricky thing for America and once even a dicey concept to Roger Williams, tolerance is a presiding theme in his writing. Two of his texts, published within a year of each other (A Key, 1643, and Bloudy Tenet, 1644), though focused on two different subjects, share an important intersection at that theme: tolerance. Compare his arguments for cultural and religious tolerance in those two texts.
    1. This article (title: A Key into The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution: Roger Williams, the Pequot War, and the Origins of Toleration in America, author: Stern, Jessica), which can be found in the MLA International Bibliography, is a good place to look for inspiration.

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Research and Discussion Questions for Roger Williams by Timothy Robbins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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