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Quakers and Constitutional Freedom

You remember William Penn from history class. He was granted the colony of Pennsylvania by the king in payment for debts owed his father. Penn was a Quaker who converted to Christianity in his early 20s. Penn adhered to the biblical values of human equality and intrinsic value and dignity. These later influenced the governmental framework he proposed for Pennsylvania.

Blog Post | Christianity & Culture | Melinda Penner | August 21, 2014

Human Rights and an English Priest

Probably like most people, I wasn't interested in history when I was a child. My interest began as an adult. But there is one historical fact that has stuck with me since childhood, but not because of my history textbooks. The Magna Carta was signed in 1215 AD at Runnymede. That fact has stuck in my mind because of an episode of My Favorite Martian – Tim and Martin accidentally ended up witnessing the signing of the great document because they dialed the year rather than the time in their time machine.

Blog Post | Christianity & Culture | Melinda Penner | August 14, 2014

Educating the Deaf

Gallaudet University, the first university in the United States focusing on educating deaf people, was named in honor of the founder's father, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Thomas was born in Philadelphia in 1787. His father was George Washington's secretary when he was president. The family moved to Connecticut, and Gallaudet earned his masters degree at Yale University. He pursued theological studies in preparation to being a pastor.

Blog Post | Christianity & Culture | Melinda Penner | August 7, 2014

Wilberforce and Social Change

William Wilberforce is well-known for his decades-long persistence getting legislation passed to outlaw the slave trade in the British Empire. He and a group of Christians called the Clapham Sect (because that is where they were from) were motivated by their Biblical belief in human value and the value of God's creation to pursue other ways of solving other social ills.

Blog Post | Christianity & Culture | Melinda Penner | July 31, 2014

Wedgwood Abolitionist

You may be familiar with Wedgwood pottery. One of the most distinct of Josiah Wedgwood's designs is jasper ware – most commonly with blue or green glaze with classic figures applied in white. He was a well known potter in the 18th century, and was also an abolitionist and innovative business man. He was born in England in 1730 to a family of potters. They were dissenters of the Church of England, and his biblical values ran deep.

Blog Post | Christianity & Culture | Melinda Penner | July 24, 2014

Salt and Light in 19th Century England

Titus Salt was a contemporary of of John Cadbury, whom I wrote about last Thursday, and there are similarities in their stories. Salt expanded his father's wool manufacturing business and became quite successful. He innovated a method of manufacturing alpaca wool, which Charles Dickens even mentioned in one of his books.

Blog Post | Christianity & Culture | Melinda Penner | July 17, 2014

Sin and Sinners

I had a frustrating experience the other day you've probably had. A family member thanked me for being nice to her lesbian friend. My relative said she appreciated that since she knows how I feel about her lifestyle. I said, "You're welcome" and mentioned that I can be nice to people even if I think they're sinning. In fact, we're all sinners. If I was going to be rude to sinners, I'd be rude all the time – including to myself.

Blog Post | Christianity & Culture | Melinda Penner | July 11, 2014

Cadbury Chocolate and Christianity

Cadbury Chocolate was founded by a Quaker, John Cadbury, who has a strong sense of social responsibility motivated by his Christian convictions. His family were anti-slavery and campaigned for abolition. John opened a grocery store in 1824 and hoped that selling drinking chocolate would be an alternative beverage to alcohol. He was concerned that alcoholism led to poverty when people couldn't work. He devoted himself to social causes after handing over the business to his sons 35 years later.

Blog Post | Christianity & Culture | Melinda Penner | July 10, 2014

John Witherspoon – Pastor, Professor, and Patriot

John Witherspoon was born in Scotland in 1723 and emigrated to the colony of New Jersey when he was called as president of Princeton University in 1768. Those who heard his sermons said he was a gifted, though not flowery, speaker. He strengthened the curriculum taught at Princeton and emphasized the importance of a well-educated clergy, which was one of the primary purposes of the university at that time.

Blog Post | Christianity & Culture | Melinda Penner | July 3, 2014

A Shift in Rights

The Supreme Court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case upholding the First Amendment protection of religious expression (and conscience) is eliciting some odd complaints from those who are unhappy with the decision. The reason is that there has been a significant shift in how people think about the rights we have and the government's role to protect them.

Blog Post | Christianity & Culture | Melinda Penner | July 2, 2014