If everything you know about Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims comes from “The Mouse on the Mayflower” or Mrs. Pumphrey’s “Stories of the Pilgrims” some of what you are about to read may shock you! Appropriately for Thanksgiving this article will show you how the Pilgrims, Separatists and Puritans pre-date today’s Christian Patriarchy movement.
Back in England in the early days of the 1600s things were not going very well for anyone who didn’t really like the established Church of England. As a state-Church it was mandatory for folks to worship there and to financially support it. In the town of Scrooby and elsewhere there grew up little clusters of folks who just plain rejected the established Church and were so radical that they created their own Church in someone’s home. This was, of course, against the law—an early act of civil disobedience! The Scooby group and others looked to the New Testament, not the Church’s Book of Common Prayer, for direction in all things in life. These “radicals” felt the Book of Common Prayer “tampered with the original meaning of the Bible (Philbrick, 2006, p. 8). They even viewed hymns as a “corruption of God’s word” and sang only Psalms set to music and dared to read directly from the Bible! (p. 9).
Their theology set them apart from the established Church, too. They believed that after the Fall of Adam and Eve, God only made a covenant—only “saved” certain people. This became known as predestination and those few saved were known as “Saints” or the “elect.” This meant that no one knew who was saved [although they were always wondering about it—even in Church] and that there was not anything a person could do to change their status. They were constantly “comparing their own actions to those of others, since their conduct might indicate whether or not they were saved” (p. 9). They saw their Church as one of “visible Saints,” but not knowing who was and who was not, in fact, among the elect, the Church elders used discipline to deal with wayward members and even “excommunicated” those who refused to walk the “right path” as the elders saw it to be.
Eventually things became so bad in England that some Church members were jailed for their religious beliefs and practices. The Scrooby group moved to Holland. Interestingly, they found the religious tolerance and freedom there not to their liking! It gave THEIR members freedom, too! They started deciding for themselves what they believed—some even dared to reject infant baptism!!! (p. 16). A group in Holland led by John Robinson moved to Leiden and set up their own congregation with its own rules. Things eventually got intolerable again—this time because their children were becoming urban Dutch workers rather than rural English Christians. They boarded the Mayflower and the rest is told in myth and history books.
Once in the New World, things went according to the established cycle—tell everyone what to believe, then encounter trouble and want to start over. The first few years were marked by simple physical survival. After that, things began to deteriorate when new settlers began to arrive with their own beliefs. Some actually wanted to worship in the style and manner of the hated Church of England! One member of a Church of England-loving faction was even forced to run the gauntlet in which he was severely beaten! (p. 102).
With enough “new” folks around the area by then, this earned the former Pilgrims the label of “contentious, cruel and hard-hearted, among your neighbors, and towards, such as in all points both civil and religious, jump not with you” (p. 162). They also came to be considered “vindictive.” The Puritans, who arrived after 1629, added to the cruel reputation of non-conformist believers [as the Pilgrims could be classified] and persecuted the Quakers to such an extent that they hanged some of the Friends on Boston Common (p. 162).Interestingly, as time went by Church membership began to decline. The children and grandchildren (perhaps weary of such a restrictive life and such long, dull Church services??) began to fall off. These descendants of the original Pilgrims, who risked life and limb to come to the new world and worship in their own way, became lacking in religious fervor! Shockingly, they came to care more about Earthly things than about the heavenly hear-after and who was or was not Saved!! (p. 199). So lax had they become that the rules of Church membership had to be changed!! (p. 199).
The bottom-line on the Pilgrims and Puritans is this: they were non-conformists who wouldn’t allow anyone else to be a non-conformist in a “different” way! They became as rigid and self-righteous about their own religious beliefs and standards of behavior that they followed the lead of their hated Church of England and persecuted and looked down upon anyone who chose to believe differently!
Today’s Christian Patriarchy is much the same. They are “Separatists” in the same fashion—starting, often with a Covenant, a home Church or taking over an established Church and imposing their own “beliefs,” many of which have nothing to do with the Bible. Interestingly, the original Separatists, rejected the Church of England for adding too many man-made rules, but today’s Patriarchy thrives on man-made rules while claiming to be Biblical! The Pilgrims and Puritans met opposition in trying to legislate their beliefs but that didn’t keep them from trying to rule their settlements in their way without regard for “strangers” in their geographical midst!
Interestingly, too, according to Philbrick, the original Pilgrim Separatists viewed marriage as a CIVIL matter as it was in Holland as no marriage ceremony appears in the Bible—only in the Book of Common Prayer. Today’s Patriarchal Separatists have waged legislative war trying to make marriage a “Covenant” in the religious sense, trying to impose their own definition of marriage on our country. The early English Separatists viewed England as the rightful bearer of the title “God’s Country,” just as their modern counterparts view the United States as such.
Today’s Christian Patriarchy is still fairly new. Clearly, many of their children are young adults now and are holding to their parent’s beliefs. Patrick Henry college is there just for well-home-educated young Patriarchs, a generation has come to adulthood without ever attending a Youth Group or a Church Camp and at least one generation of girls has again been raised not knowing what it feels like to wear anything but a dress. But will this rigid belief system “stick?” What sort of “tell-all” books will the children of the Patriarchy eventually write? How many Patriarchal daughters will marry against their parents’ wishes and raise public-school educated children? How many will “come out” as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender. These two seem to be the mostly like parts of “Earthly life” they will embrace since the Patriarchy of today certainly does not condone the earning a nice large income and “storing up” of treasures on earth.
All quotes are from Mayflower by Nathaniel Filbrick, copyright 2006, published by Viking.
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