Friday, November 20, 2015
The Real History of the Pilgrims
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Since next week is Thanksgiving, I thought you might be interested in the history of the pilgrims that isn’t taught in school. Most of us were taught that pilgrims came to America to flee religious persecution. That’s not exactly true. Puritans were persecuted for believing that Christians could have a personal relationship with Jesus separate from the Church of England. But they traveled to Holland to flee the persecution, not America. Pilgrims applied for immigration to Holland in 1607. Holland allow religious freedom that England did not. Although England didn't allow people to flee, Holland approved the immigration. Bands of Pilgrims moved to Holland in 1607 through 1608.
So why did they travel to America? There were many reasons, but the main reason is they felt compelled by God to come to America and establish a colony of people that honored God. Many called this colony, New Jerusalem, believing that God had established this new land to spread the gospel to the world. William Bradford wrote in his journal that the motivation came from “a great hope for advancing the kingdom of Christ.”
Pilgrims and Puritans were not the same. Pilgrims were Puritans who were also separatists. They believed they should separate themselves for the Church of England and the world systems and set up their own churches. Puritans believed in working within the system. Pilgrims are the ones who came to America on the Mayflower to set up a government that honored God. Puritans soon followed Pilgrims on the journey to America. Once they came to America, Puritans wanted to set up a theocracy according to their beliefs. Pilgrims were more democratic and created a covenant that everyone signed and agreed to live by called the Mayflower Compact. Because of this, Pilgrims were more likely to extend the freedom of religion they wanted to others. Pilgrims wanted freedom of religion to protect the church from the government, not to protect the government from the church.
Many schools teach that Thanksgiving was a secular celebration, but letters written by the Pilgrims tell a different story. God was such a part of their everyday life that they included God in everything. One such letter states that Thanksgiving was a celebration called so that “God be praised” for what He had brought them through. They invite the Patuxet tribe of Native Americans to join them because they had a good relationship with this tribe. The tribe helped them plant their crops and defend themselves from other more hostile tribes.
John Winthrop called New England a City on a Hill in one of his sermon. He, as well as many other Puritans and Pilgrims, believed they had made a covenant with God to be a new nation that was a model of Christianity to the world. William Bradford believed that America was called to spread the gospel to the world. Since the Pilgrims and Puritans came to America, the United States of America has sent missionaries to more nations and more remote places in the world than any other nation on Earth. Could it be they were right?