Society and Culture

Those Problematic Pilgrims

Michael Medved has a great piece in USA Today explaining the real intentions of the early Pilgrims who founded New England. While the reality differs in some ways from the Hallmark card version of the story, it’s more accurate and illuminating:

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.

Medved corrects old stereotypes while highlighting the role of Christianity in the early American colonies. Unfortunately, our public educational institutions often avoid or distort these details, especially when it comes to the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving. John West had a funny/depressing piece last Thanksgiving in National Review Online telling of his family trip to Plymouth. He describes a cabal of public servants at Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower II, and “Plimouth” Plantation, all of which were singularly committed to debunking whatever positive lessons the hoi polloi try to draw from these historical landmarks.

The Left is increasingly uncomfortable with American history. Puritan Pilgrims are especially irritating, and so subject to all manner of deconstruction. Fortunately, we’re free to give our children the details that they’re unlikely to hear in school. We’ve even got a couple of days off to do it. That’s something to be thankful for.

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