Today, hundreds of millions of Christians will be celebrating Easter, the reason for the religion of Christianity, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the “son” of the Trinity that makes up our Lord God (not all Christian faiths will celebrate Easter today; the Orthodox Church will do so in the beginning of May). In this country, where not only religious faith is failing, but also religious freedom, it is important to remember those who were among the first to come to this country to freely express their faith, a faith where the worship of God was different from the one set down in the law. Americans do have a separate day of remembrance in November for those intrepid travelers, Thanksgiving. But today is also appropriate to remember why the Pilgrims came here.
The worship of God by those who did not follow the Church of England was perilous in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. Not following the faith could lead to fines, imprisonment, and even death for serious offenses. In many but the more harsher aspects of those times, the America of today is starting to see religious persecution for violating a new, unofficial, doctrine being foisted upon the people, a new religion so to speak.
Those now known as the Pilgrims left England to go to what is now The Netherlands early in the reign of England’s King James I (also styled King James I & VI, since he was also James VI, King of Scots), which began in 1603. At the time, which was a few years before the Thirty Years War that would begin in 1618, the region was in the middle of separating itself from Spain, and many Protestant faiths were practiced. But with the coming conflict and a longing to retain some semblance of English culture, but without having English law hound them as it had before, the Pilgrims were granted a charter to go to America, eventually leasing the Mayflower to take them. Once the Plymouth colony was established, the Pilgrims were able to freely worship their faith. As a result, others who would not conform to the Church of England set sail to colonize and practice their faiths, along with adventurers seeking new opportunities, as well as the English government staking its claim to all of the new territory as a part of England. By the time of the American Revolution over 150 years later, there were people of all different Christian faiths living in the United Kingdom’s America (the crowns and governments of England and Scotland were merged following the Acts of Union in 1706 and 1707 under Queen Anne; Wales and all of Ireland had been English territory for centuries).
After gaining independence for America, seeing it nearly founder under the Articles of Confederation, and then uniting the country under the United States Constitution, the Founders sought to enshrine the freedoms of the new republic in amendments to the Constitution; these ten amendments became the Bill of Rights. Because of the Founder’s understanding of the historical experience of those having been ruled under the auspices of a state religion, the first two clauses in the Bill of Rights were set forth to deny the federal government the power to establish a state religion and to make sure all Americans could worship, or not worship, any faith they desired (provided the faith didn’t subvert the Constitution, the law). The faith in God of the Pilgrims helped them persevere, and in time, led the Founders to see the wisdom of making sure freedom to worship for all was paramount in the law.
On this Easter, let’s remember the Pilgrims and all that their faith allowed them to achieve, and by extension, we as people, we as a people, and we as a nation. Let us also remember that Jesus came not destroy the Prophets and God’s law, but to fulfill them. Government at all levels in America is seeking to establish a faith where its “morality” replaces morality: where the state replaces the mother and the father; where “access” to an abortion clinic is more important than the tens of millions more to be murdered on top of the tens of millions already murdered; where lust replaces commitment; where theft by one private party against another private party is made legal when those in government act on their greed; where the motives of fellow Americans is constantly questioned (for me, guilty); where the government actively teaches people to covet; and, where those in government seek to have themselves and their “morality” placed higher than God and morality, and to persecute, with the law, those who don’t. As long as we put our faith in Him, we can’t be beat.
Happy Easter, and God go with you.