A Thanksgiving Story

Mycah's 2006 Thanksgiving Feast - Class Photo
Mycah's 2006 Thanksgiving Feast - Class Photo
(The content of this blog is a repost, but the pictures are from our daughters' Thanksgiving Feasts at their schools, 2006 and 2008.)

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, the time is right to discuss how the group we know as the Puritans came into being. They were among the first to come to this great land, enduring months upon the rocking sea under the blistering sun and howls of the hurricane. They braved the East's harsh winter with its fringed sting of death. They withstood brutal attacks from unfriendly neighbors. They did these things because they had conviction: conviction to worship God freely, and conviction to establish a city upon a hill that would be a lighthouse to the nations. This post will revisit how they came into existence.

To begin, we must first reflect upon the world of the Reformation. Martin Luther, the one who we commonly consider the catalyst of the Protestant Reformation, was born in a world ripe with Renaissance. Luther would hear of the discovery of a "New World" by Christopher Columbus, and an expedition led by Magellan that would successfully circumnavigate the globe.

Sage's 2008 Thanksgiving Feast - Class Photo
This same Luther would openly condemn the false doctrine as taught by the Roman Catholic Church of his day. He'd provide the Word of God to his kinsmen. Finally, he'd likewise free the minds of those whom he touched to know that men and women are justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

After Luther, many other reformations occurred. However, the one that was unique, and key to our discussion, was the English Reformation. Henry VIII was a well-educated man and a stanch defender of Rome – even writing debates against Martin Luther. However, he faced his demons. He eventually grew bitter against his wife, Catherine of Aragon (his key to an alliance with Catholic Spain) for not providing a male heir. With other attractive mistresses waiting, he petitioned the Pope for an official annulment of his marriage to Catherine. The Pope, under pressure from opposing parties, denied the petition. Henry was in desperate straits, for civil war would be the only result of his death if he left his kingdom without a male heir. Thus, under the advice of Reformation sympathizers, the defender of the Catholic faith chose but to break from Rome.

Sage's class' migration, 2008.
England gradually broke from Catholicism in practice, as well. Liturgy began to disappear, with English Bibles appearing in its place. Though beginning under much different terms, the English Reformation was genuine indeed.

However, because the ecclesiastical structure of the Church of England declared the monarch of the land to be the head of the church, the church often faced serious theological shifts. King Edward VI was a key to Protestant change in the Church of England, but he would only sit on the throne for a few years. After that, Mary I, daughter of Catherine and Henry, emerged from her flight to Catholic Spain to claim the throne. What followed was intense persecution of Protestants that earned her the name of "Bloody Mary."

Dissenters to the Church of England became more prevalent during this time, and some fled to Holland for their freedom of worship. Others stayed and faced persecution in an effort to stand for their cause. These separatists were among those known as "Puritans," those who called for purity in the Anglican Church, wishing to purge it from its Catholicism. Those who fled, however, where among those who felt reform would never occur in the Anglican Church. Not even the installment of James I as new monarch would cure the inequities of the church. Thus, while most Puritans stayed in Holland, an intrepid group decided to undertake a pilgrimage to the New World, in hopes of maintaining their British lifestyle and practicing their faith as per the dictates of their consciousness.

The 2006 departure of the "Mayflower" from "England"
to "America"
Thus, in an unexpected turn of events, these "dissenters" entered into a contract with England via the London Company. England was willing to fund a journey for the separatists on the HMS Mayflower, as the New World proved to be full of profit. In the agreement, the settlers would work the land, and send profits back to England in return for their travel expenses. This particular group of settlers, 40 of the 102 crew, was the Pilgrims in search of religious freedom – dreamers of a better society.

The first act of the Pilgrims, before ever stepping foot onshore, was to enter into the famous Mayflower Compact. This compact was based on the Bible, not the fanciful humanistic ideals already present in that society. The Pilgrims likewise elected a governor – William Bradford. Thus, Plymouth becomes the Petri-dish for the Judeo-Christian American culture, under observation and the scrutiny of the "Old World."

Bradford had his work cut out for him. America did not greet the Pilgrims with friendly neighbors, inns to relax in, or cultivated fields of which to obtain food. Instead, a cold wilderness collided with their hopes. Half of the Pilgrims would die in the course of the winter, including Bradford's wife. The tragedy would repeat the next winter, had the natives not taught the Pilgrims about agriculture. However, this served as only a temporary blessing, as the Bradford's society continued down the path toward utter failure.

The first attempt of success on the part of Bradford was to recreate the miraculous society found in the fledgling Church in the Book of Acts. Bradford believed that Acts 2:44-47 taught that the early Church practiced the equivalent of communal life, sharing all wealth, and having no one in need. Nevertheless, Bradford would realize socialism's failure long before Carl Marx would dream of publishing his Manifesto; socialism assumes an inherent goodness in man, a belief shared by persons who likely have never parented children. The reason for the situation found in Acts is freshness of revelation and Spiritual outpouring – believers had a strong, undefiled sense of God's presence that led to the love for the fellow believer. These ideal circumstances would not continue even in Acts, as a pride and self-promotion appears only shortly later in Annias and Saphira. Bradford found the latter situation worse than the former, as his society quickly found itself bankrupt when the able workers were unwilling to continue supporting non-producers.

Yet, Bradford would find a solution, utilizing Biblical principles. Each member of society had an area of land to work and cultivate independent of the collective. Private property served as the salvation of those remaining souls, as each one produced - not only enough for himself, but also in abundance. Thus, the collective found success in the marketplace, as each one's abundance could be traded for another's. Abundance was the manifestation of this now lucrative society, who formed trade alliances with the natives and were able to rapidly pay back their debts to London.

The story of the Pilgrims did not end through starvation. Eventually, Puritans following the Pilgrim's example formed a society independently in Massachusetts would absorb their cousin Pilgrims, and John Winthrop would speak of the "city on a hill."

Mycah's 2006 Thanksgiving Feast
Hmm... Chicken?

Sage's 2008 Thanksgiving Feast
Thare's gud eatin'

Originally a Paper by Shaun Marksbury Presented to Professor Dan Horner, The Masters College, in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of E311

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