22 Apr Would there be Room for the Pilgrims in Today’s America?
The date November 11, 2020 will mark the four hundredth year from the landing of the Mayflower in America. The Mayflower. A boat manned by English religious separatists whose adherence to strict Biblical teachings made them a target of government surveillance, persecution and arrest. These Separatists were conservatives who strictly interpreted the Bible. Their unique beliefs on predestination, infant baptism, and – interestingly – marriage, placed them in this persecuted minority. King James I wanted all religions to conform to the beliefs and practices of the state church, the Church of England. Those who refused to bow to state demands were prosecuted and imprisoned. Forced to flee or to face possible extermination, the Pilgrims fled England and began a journey that would eventually land them on the Eastern shores of the American continent.
Thus began America. A place of freedom not for dissidents from religion. Not for opponents of religion. But for the most conservative elements of religion. This is who the Pilgrims were.
Would there be room for the Pilgrims in today’s America? A land where residents are being arrested for peaceful expression of religious inclinations? A land where inhabitants are lampooned and derided for adhering to Biblical precepts? A land where state and federal courts have taken upon themselves the determination of a “state morality” to which all citizens must adhere? Courts in which are found the same Bibles whose precepts citizens are now being forced to oppose? Has the land that the Pilgrims helped found become a place where peaceful religious followers may be threatened, intimidated and even jailed for adhering to their nonconforming beliefs? This is not the America intended by the Pilgrims. It is not the America intended by the Founding Fathers. It is a new, strange, secular America baptized in a gospel of materialism, sensuality and wealth.
What has happened to the America that the Pilgrims helped found? A land in which some colonies were called “Bible Commonwealths” because they sought the guidance of the scriptures in regulating all aspects of the lives of their citizens? A land whose Declaration of Independence from England pledged “reliance on the protection of Divine providence” and which recognized rights endowed not by the government but by a Creator? A land in which the first rights granted under the U.S. Constitution were for the free establishment and exercise of religion?
There is danger when we forget the lessons learned in history. And one of the lessons we learned from the Pilgrims is that there should always be room for peaceful followers of religion. There should always be room for religious viewpoints. And there should always be freedom for expression of these viewpoints in the lives of a nation’s citizens. Whenever the government of the United States of America begins to outlaw peaceful practice of religious belief it betrays the very fiber of its roots. For those who gave us this land certainly did not intend that America become divorced from religion. Rather, America from the beginning was intended as a safe haven for religion of a most conservative nature. This is the America the Pilgrims intended. This is the America intended by the Founding Fathers. And this is the America we must fight for and uphold today.