Finally read the entire article. I had read Mayhew’s discourse before, but I had read it as a straightforward “Defy Tyrants” kind of piece.
The historical journal article, as I understand it, is suggesting that Mayhew’s discourse was primarily aimed at Anglicans who were teaching that, to fulfill Romans 13 and other like passages, a Christian was obligated to become a member of Fr. Bill’s church. He provides a lot of interesting data to support his inference. It makes sense to me. Mayhew’s point was that the men of New England had competing loyalties and obligations, and absolute submission to just one of those loyalties/obligations would be servile and disobedient to God, which I can agree with.
At the time, religion and state were still so identified with one another that people could make the case that proper submission included not just submission to civil decrees but to the church the sovereign supported or headed (the monarch is the head of English church, a perverse arrangement that came about by historical necessity). Faced with that kind of imposition, I can see why so many Americans were motivated to fight back. The length of time between 1750 and 1775 though makes me think there’s still a lot more to the story. Religious fears were there, but political causes shouldn’t be ignored.
American Christians like us, sitting in our pews centuries after the fact, get fed narratives about these events and how they relate to contemporary fights over abortion, the Supreme Court and the care of the sick and dying (Terri Schiavo case). Understandably I think, we want to think of our nation as a Christian nation, and it is a Christian nation in many important respects. Tangled up in that is this implication that Scripture definitively supports this or that American conception of government or America’s Revolution as establishing a biblical ideal government. Well, not so much. It’s similar to the narratives that get told about the abolitionists during the Civil War. The Bible just doesn’t say the things these advocates want it to say. The mistake here is inadvertent and sincere, but no less a mistake.