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Ancient societies and religion were not known for their care for the sick and dying. Christians who often risked their lives to care even for non-Christians represented a radical difference in the values taught by the Bible than anything else known at that time. It was common in ancient societies, including Rome, which saw the inception and rise of Christianity, to abandon the sick and dying. Roman religion did not teach followers to care for the helpless.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn played a major role in the collapse of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago. He exposed the reality of Soviet prison camps and was also a critic of the West. The basis for his observations was his Christianity.