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.