Thursday, November 26, 2009

Beware of claims of religious heritage

Source:, Wikipedia.

William Bradford was born on March 19, 1590 near Doncaster, in Austerfield, Yorkshire. At an early age, he was attracted to the "primitive" congregational church, in nearby Scrooby, and became a committed member of what was termed a "Separatist" church, since the church-members had wanted to separate from the Church of England. By contrast, the Puritans wanted to purify the Church of England. The Separatists felt the Church was beyond redemption due to unbiblical doctrines and teachings.
By comparison, Luther wanted to reform the existing church, other protestants wanted to break off from the Catholic church. Some cynical historians have said that the "Pilgrim" Separatists were to the Church of England (Anglicans) as the Branch Dividians were to the Seventh Day Adventists, or maybe like what the polygamous Fundamentalist LDS groups are to the Mormons. Not just a sect, but a radical, almost -like sect.
When James I began to persecute Separatists in 1609, Bradford fled to the Netherlands, along with many members of the congregation. These Separatists went first to Amsterdam before settling at Leiden. Bradford married his first wife, Dorothy May (d. December 7, 1620), on December 10, 1613 in Amsterdam. While at Leiden, he supported himself as a fustian weaver.
Signing of the Mayflower Compact, a painting by Edward Percy Moran, which hangs at the Pilgrim Hall Museum
King James I is the same guy who commissioned the King James Bible, that so many people seem to like more than Revised Standard, New International, or just about any other translation. Britain has had a great deal of political and religious strife between Anglicans and Catholics- "Bloody Mary," etc. Unfortunate that they couldn't embrace some sort of pluralism or evangelicalism between Christian denominations, huh? Take some time to study the English Civil Wars from Charles I and Charles II through the time of Oliver Cromwell and you'll find that Christians, not Muslims, Jews, or Atheists were the biggest threat to Christians in British history.

Shifting alignments of the European powers (due to religious differences, struggles over the monarchies and intrigues within the ruling Habsburg clan) caused the Dutch government to fear war with Catholic Spain, and to become allied with James I of England. Social pressure (and even attacks) on the separatists increased in the Netherlands. Their congregation's leader, John Robinson, supported the emerging idea of starting a colony. Bradford was in the midst of this venture from the beginning. The separatists wanted to remain Englishmen (although living in the Netherlands), yet wanted to get far enough away from the Church of England and the government to have some chance of living in peace. Arrangements were made, and William with his wife sailed for America in 1620 from Leiden aboard the Mayflower.
Puritanism was founded on the theology of John Calvin, and one of their major doctrines was predestination. Calvin believed that the grace of God was the only way into Heaven and that his grace could not be earned. But, whereas Luther taught that. we are saved only by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9) Calvin believed that God's grace was bestowed upon a select few, they and only they were permitted to be saved. We know that this is wrong because God does not want ANYONE to perish (2 Peter 3:8-9). Do I need to remind you about the Salem Witch trials, or the stockades or banishing Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson for conducting Bible studies?

TREASURE our First Amendment right from officially government sanctioned religion and our right to the unrestricted free exercise of religion. Sure, pluralism permits false teachings to coexist with the truth. Jesus evan talks about this dilema in His parable of the weeds and the grain Matthew 13:24–30, 36-43

The next time someone starts talking about how America was founded as a "Christian Nation," remind them that that just means it was founded by sinners and hippocrites and by no means makes us perfect- nor should it mean that we should persecute or alienate peoples of other faiths or people of no faith.

Most importantly ask them which denomination Christian Nation America was founded on. Jamestown was Anglican, Plymouth was Separatist Puritan, Texas, Florida, California, and Louisiana were all Catholics, Pennsylvania had Quakers, Lutherans, and Jews. Utah, of course by Mormons.

Religion did indeed play an immeasurably important role in the founding of the United States, but so did geopolitics, imperialism, tobbacco, cotton, and slavery. And mammon- don't forget, money. After all, the London Company and the Massatchusetts Bay Company were corporations intended to make profits for their stock-holders after all. Money makes the world go round.

We should appreciate and recognize our religious herritage, but we should also be careful not to make too much of it of fall into the sins of pride and arrogance because of it.

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