Salvation lies at the heart of being a protestant. Anne Hutchinson, like everyone around her, believed that God was intimately near. Under His Gaze, every soul was naked. It was up to each believer then, to enter in to a soul and bargain with the Lord. Father’s love could only be kept by acting the part of a perfect child. Anne Hutchinson shared with everyone a belief that reading the “Book of creation” would reveal sins of inner failure and weakness.
She would be the perfect martyr if we, who not have the manuscript of the 1637 trial in which a kangaroo court ensured that their local ‘gadfly’ was banished. However, everything condemned by the old guards in Boston became revered in American history. Tolerance, however imperfect, replaced sectarian bigotry. Free speech became a ‘right’ written in to the constitution and eventually the rise of the women’s movement made Anne look even better.
Unfortunately, trial records reveal that the defendant was either delusional, a fanatic or seriously misguided in her spiritual quest. Hearing Anne curse the judges who were about to condemn her meant, in the eyes of puritans, that she wished eternal damnation upon them. This was a crucial dilemma for the whole movement known as Protestantism. If you are the sole authority of God’s word, no other authority can deny your truth. So were the tendencies that burned in Anne Hutchinson’s heart – résistance to authority, the right of women to preach and a hunger for revelation.
Power politics had never found a way to keep its fingers out of religion, as Anne Hutchinson discovered with fatal consequences. Yet Gnosticism with the belief that God can be contacted by anyone, could never be extinguished.
Anne Hutchinson took it that ‘Holy Spirit’ was equally in everyone, a message that recurs among all the world’s mystics. The difference is salvation. The death of a single individual can be a turning point in the history of the world. Non-Christians accept no such turning point, but that is in the nature of religion, to mark exclusive territory for their version of God. Life’s altering details became rife in Protestantism long before the puritans sailed.
Anne Hutchinson set herself against legalism with breathtaking certainty. She declared that “Laws, commando, rules, and edicts” existed only for those who were blind to the light. The path to salvation was clear to “He who has God’s Grace in his heart”. She did emerge on the ‘Good’ side of the fanatical struggle, but her plea for Grace did not actually win. One person however her life, would never be enough to convince the world. The sin was entirely forgiven simply by knowing it inside. If you did not work hard, you would certainly fall into ruin, and that could hardly be a sign that God loves you.
Your hard work proves that you are willing to strive towards salvation. Faith fauns a visible outlet and those who do any work prevailed. John D. Rockefeller Jr. the world’s first self made billionaire, could take triumphant advantage. When asked where he got riches’, Rockefeller smoothly bypassed his ruthless business tactics which led to the ruin of many competitors ‘by saying, ‘God gave me my money’.
Anne Hutchinson cannot be seen as victorious, but she is the representative of a division that troubles human nature. Faith remains invisible, no matter how many good works we do, including charity and selfless altruism. Where does that leave grace? Perhaps where it always was – a private communication between God and each person’s inner world. Grace truly received brings complete peace.
Many of the world’s wisdom traditions agree with her. As for those who do not, they inherit an anxious existence that turns faith in God into a risky gamble.