CLARK E. WADE's picture

I have kept several journals over the years. One of my journals is just filled with scripture. Some of my other journals are filled with significant quotes from other authors I was reading. So, I'm sitting on these journals and thinking it might be a good thing to enter some of these prayers, scriptures, and quotes for your edification and considerations. I think you'll enjoy these. And if you would also like to contribute such quotes yourself, by all means, join in.

"LORD, take my lips and speak through them; take my mind and think through it; take my heart and set it on fire!" W.H.H. Aitken

Your brother in Christ,


CLARK E. WADE's picture


With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought some of you history buffs would appreciate this column by Michael Medved. I'm a big fan of his radio show and he is a regular contributor to USA Today as well. At the bottom of the article you can link the actual source and read comments from some of the readers, or contribute your own. Clark

What the Pilgrims really sought by Michal Medved

Their trip to the New World wasn’t about tolerance or diversity. It was about purity. Yet the Revolutionary struggle united these diverse believers and set us on a path to the unprecedented religious harmony that this nation now celebrates.
By Michael Medved

As American families sit down to their traditional Thanksgiving feasts, they will naturally recall the familiar story of the Pilgrims and, in the process, distort the true character of the nation's religious heritage.

Most children learn that the Mayflower settlers came to the New World to escape persecution and to establish religious freedom. But the early colonists actually pursued purity, not tolerance, and sought to build fervent, faith-based utopias, not secular regimes that consigned religion to a secondary role. The distinctive circumstances that allowed these fiery believers of varied denominations to cooperate in the founding of a new nation help to explain America's contradictory religious traditions — as simultaneously the most devoutly Christian society in the Western world, and the country most accommodating to every shade of exotic belief and practice.

Concerning the Pilgrims who celebrated the First Thanksgiving in 1621, they didn't travel directly from their English homes to the "hideous and desolate wilderness" of Massachusetts. They sailed the Atlantic Ocean only after living for 12 years in flourishing communities in Holland, the most tolerant and religiously diverse nation of Europe. They left the Netherlands not because that nation imposed too many religious restrictions but because the Dutch honored too few.

The like-minded Puritans who followed them (and whose much larger settlement of Massachusetts Bay annexed the Pilgrims' Plymouth in 1691) showed similar determination to build a model of single-minded religious rigor. The leaders of this idealistic venture were in no sense the victims of oppression back home, but rather counted as wealthy and influential gentleman who wielded considerable political influence. Even after their fellow Puritans won total power (and executed a king in 1649) the Massachusetts colonists chose to remain in their "city upon a hill" in the New World than to return to the compromises and complications associated with England's fractious politics.

Colonies set out on their own

Beyond the New England colonies (each of which displayed strong theocratic tendencies), other major settlements took shape according to the dreams and dictates of different denominations. William Penn and his fellow Quakers followed their "inner light" to establish Pennsylvania as a "holy experiment," while the aristocratic Calvert family set up Maryland as a refuge for devout British Catholics. Even the less explicitly religious colonies, where early settlers seemed to care more about finding gold than finding God, received royal charters that declared their underlying mission of spreading the faith. Virginia's charter described a mandate for "propagating of Christian Religion to such People as yet live in Darkness." At the first landing of the original Jamestown expedition (April 26, 1607), Captain Christopher Newport took it upon himself to erect the colony's first structure: a large cross at Cape Henry to mark their arrival.

How, then, did these enthusiastic true believers with their often-uncompromising standards ever manage to join together in a new nation in 1776 — a nation that has been characterized ever since by a religious diversity and interdenominational cooperation unprecedented in human history?

The Revolutionary struggle forced their hand, with soldiers from more than a dozen Christian traditions and sects (as well as a disproportionate representation of the colonies' tiny Jewish minority) fighting side by side in the Continental Army. When Gen. George Washington ordered "divine service" to build morale among his weary troops, he had to accommodate New England Congregationalists, Virginia Baptists, New Jersey Presbyterians and, for that matter, the random Catholic or Mennonite. Gen. Nathanael Greene, who had been raised a Quaker, effectively commanded some Massachusetts soldiers — even though their Puritan forebears ordered the occasional hanging of Quaker interlopers in the previous century.

Violent struggles had broken out from time to time in the past among various faith communities — with Puritans challenging Catholics for control of Maryland, for instance, and fighting the bloody Battle of the Severn in 1655. But, for the most part, the wide open spaces of the new continent allowed even impassioned theological enthusiasts to build their own spheres of influence without confronting or oppressing their potential rivals in neighboring settlements.

Establishment clause's intent

The First Amendment ratified this arrangement of uncontested local authority with its careful wording: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." The constitutional formulation limited only the power of the federal government to impose a single national faith, but did nothing in the eyes of the zealous founders to interfere with established churches (that received direct government funding and endorsement) on the state level. The esteemed liberal scholar Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School writes: "A growing body of evidence suggests that the Framers principally intended the Establishment of Religion Clause to perform two functions: to protect state religious establishments from national displacement, and to prevent the national government from aiding some, but not all, religions."

The Pilgrims and their spiritual descendants never had to retreat from religious fervor or biblical demands to join the new Republic, thanks to the continued existence of more or less autonomous refuges and enclaves. No one can suggest that our Founders embraced secularism or relativism, but they did come to accept the notion of separate faith communities following their own rules, while managing to cooperate where absolutely necessary.

Thanksgiving in that sense doesn't celebrate religious freedom, but rather coexistence. We remain a nation of impassioned, fiercely committed, openly competing believers who have nonetheless established a long tradition of letting other faith communities go their own way. We can be pious and uncompromising at our own Thanksgiving tables, without menacing, or even questioning, the very different proceedings in the home next door. The limitless boundaries and vast empty land of the fresh continent, plus the challenges of a long Revolutionary struggle, gave the faith-filled fanatics of the founding the chance for a freedom more profound than mere religious tolerance: the right, in their own communities, to be left alone.

Michael Medved, a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors, hosts a national radio talk show and is author of the forthcoming book The 5 Big Lies About American Business.

Link http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2009/11/column-what-the-pilgrims-really-sought-.html