Secularism, the movement to rid God and anything religious from society, has been on the move for decades. But in recent years those who propagate it have set their targets on the most sacred of holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter– trying to eliminate or neuter them from any Christian message or influence.
Case in point: Thanksgiving.
History.com jumped on the secular bandwagon a few years ago by starting to emphasize the commercial and economic needs of the Pilgrims as the primary reason they came to the New World.
The website quotes one author to support its claim: “The Pilgrims actually had no reason to leave the Dutch Republic in order to go to America to seek religious toleration – because they already had it,” says Simon Targett, co-author of “New World, Inc.: The Making of America by England’s Merchant Adventurers.” “Therefore, you have to look for other reasons as to why they might have risked the dangers of going across to the New World – and one of the big reasons was commercial.”
History.com concluded, “Like tens of millions of newcomers who would follow in their wake to America, the Pilgrims were economic migrants.” (In other words, the Pilgrims were no different than modern-day migrants from Mexico or Central America: just seeking a better financial living. But was that really the case?)
Reinterpreting and retelling history has been done across the nation in public education for decades, but now progressives are seeking to overturn once religiously revered figures like Christopher Columbus and the Pilgrims.
A 2017 PBS article quoted Eric H Shed, director of the Harvard Teachers Fellows Program and a lecturer on education, as saying, “I think it’s a part of a general shift in the way in which we teach history, to question the past and not accept it as fact.”
Instead of focusing upon Europeans seeking to escape religious persecution or establish a Gospel outreach, Shed advises teachers to focus instead on how a horrific disease had claimed countless indigenous lives in and around Plymouth, and how they consider the landing of the pilgrims as a day of mourning.
Really? Skip God and the Pilgrims’ passionate Christian faith and cause as the primary purpose for their journey and settlement?
Let’s examine the facts.
On Sept. 6, 1620, the Mayflower set sail with its passengers from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts. Though there is some debate about the exact number of people onboard, scholars believe there were 102 passengers and about 26 crewmen headed to the New World. The passengers were made up of 50 men, 19 women (three pregnant), 14 young adults (between ages 13-18) and 19 children. The oldest person onboard was 64, and the youngest was a baby born on the trip who was named Oceanus Hopkins.
Puritans and Pilgrims (Separatists) both thought the Anglican Church (of England) had become as corrupt as the Catholic Church (of Europe), and both were considered religious dissenters. However, the Puritans believed that the Anglican Church could be reformed, while the Separatists did not. The latter were booted from England for their religious rebellion. They landed in Leyden, Holland, where they believed they could be religiously tolerated, but it was never intended to be their final destination.
Contrary to what many believe and teach, life and liberty in Holland was no cake walk. One of their primary founders, William Bradford, wrote in his “Sundry Reasons for Removal from Leyden“: “yea, some preferred and chose the prisons in England, rather than this liberty in Holland, with these afflictions.”
Bradford specifically explained that the Pilgrims left the Netherlands in 1620 for three reasons – all three pertained in some respect to religious persecution or the hindrance of their faith, freedom and religious practice:
- They believed secular (liberal) Dutch society was corrupting their children’s faith, causing them to turn away from their church and English roots.
- They were facing imminent dangers and more economic hardships because of the impending end of the peace treaty between the Netherlands and Spain (a religious war in which they could have been hunted down and killed by Catholic Inquisitioners as the Church of England did in their homeland);
- They yearned to transplant and grow their own Separatist church in the New World through evangelization of the natives.
The Mayflower Society summarized it this way: “Fearing their children were losing their English heritage and religious beliefs, [and] the resumption of war and their inability as non-citizens to find decent jobs, a small group from the Leiden church made plans to settle in Northern Virginia – as New England was known at the time. In August 1620 the group sailed for Southampton, England, where other English colonists who hoped to make a new life in America met them.”
Even author Simon Targett, who history.com cited to support commercialism as the Pilgrims’ primary reason for crossing the Atlantic, conceded: “The Pilgrims wanted their children to be English citizens, not Dutch citizens. But if they were going to leave, they wouldn’t be able to go back to England because of religious reasons. Pilgrim eyes, therefore, gazed across the Atlantic Ocean to America, where English merchants had been financing colonial settlements for decades. There they could freely worship, but also have greater economic stability and preserve their English identity. The Pilgrims also believed that the New World gave them the opportunity to evangelize Native Americans and undertake, as Bradford wrote, ‘the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world.'”
The very text of the 1620 Mayflower Compact begins by recalling the providence of God and their colony’s divine purpose:
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.
Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; …
Over a decade ago, secularists also tried to whitewash the Christian purpose for the very first English settlement in America, at Jamestown, Virginia, which was established 12 years before the Pilgrims arrived, in 1608. It’s no coincidence that at the modern replica of the Jamestown Settlement, where tens of thousands of students take field trips every year, trained tour guides were teaching that those who founded the colony came only “to make money.”
Gratefully, a visiting pastor and his congregation from rural Northern California fought to rectify the historical falsehood. They did so by appealing to Jamestown historians to reconsider its original charter, which also clearly stated its first founding purpose was the advancement of the Christian Gospel. The historians met and agreed, and now visiting students are taught greed and commercialism were not its first founding principle. But let’s be honest: It’s going to take visiting educated patriots to fact check new tour guides there to assure proper history is still being taught year after year.
When it comes to history, and particularly American history, more teachers need to teach just as Detective Sergeant Joe Friday used to put it in “Dragnet”: “Just the facts, ma’am.” For more facts about America’s real history of the first English settlers, I recommend the many resources at the Plimoth Plantation’s website as well as the abundance of excellent online and scholarly articles by Dr. Paul Jehle at www.Plymrock.org.
With all the preceding historical facts in mind, I’d encourage and challenge all Americans everywhere to once again heed the thanksgiving call of William Bradford in 1623, then governor of the Plymouth Colony, who declared: “Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”
My wife, Gena, and I wish you and yours a very Happy Pilgrim-spirited Thanksgiving!
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