UK correspondent Charles Gardner says rich, godly heritage of Pilgrim Fathers being thrown away for bowl of ‘tasteless green stew’
As the media scrum moves to Glasgow for the latest global summit on climate change, few will be aware of a much more significant event. For it coincides with the 400th anniversary of Thanksgiving.
The inaugural (now annual) feast held in America in November 1621 was in gratitude to God for guiding the Pilgrim Fathers safely to the New World.
The green issue, on the other hand, may well seem all-encompassing in our brave new world where man has all the answers and God hardly gets a look-in.
But the prophet Zechariah, some 2 500 years ago, said we should not despise the day of small beginnings (Zech 4:10), with reference to Zerubbabel laying the foundation of the temple.
And so it proved for the small community who had sailed on the Mayflower a year before that first Thanksgiving. A bunch of nobodies, who nevertheless believed God was with them, were to lay the foundations for what became the mightiest and wealthiest nation the world has ever seen.
They refused to go with the flow in their native England, defying the King’s efforts to enforce religious conformity on his subjects. As a result, they were hounded out of the country, finding refuge first in Holland before risking a storm-tossed Atlantic crossing to a land they knew nothing about.
They were armed only with the Geneva Bible (predating the King James Version of 1611) and King John’s 1215 Magna Carta, a standard-bearer for good government.
Unfortunately, King James and his successor, Charles I, believed they were above the law and not answerable to their subjects. This was to prove the latter’s undoing a generation later when the Civil War – fought over the issues of tyranny or freedom – tore the nation apart.
But the Pilgrims had been first to engage in this ideological clash of whether to obey God or man on matters of conscience and faith. Their gatherings were declared illegal and they were victims of imprisonment, constant surveillance and the deprivation of homes, possessions and livelihoods.
They sailed to America for the express purpose of spreading the Gospel, establishing a community on biblical principles that would eventually build a nation based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, which in turn became the bedrock of Western civilisation.
Could all this have been achieved without the Bible? Despite the noble-sounding Declaration of the Rights of Man accompanying revolutionary France, bloodshed soon followed. As historian Philip Quenby explained in a new book to mark the anniversary: “With biblical foundations uprooted, there was little or nothing to stand in the way of the [reign of] terror and Napoleon’s military adventurism.”1
For whenever God is excluded from the picture, tyranny results. Stalin, China and North Korea are obvious cases in point, but we are in danger of forging that path in the UK.
We are faced with gravely serious issues which completely undermine the biblical basis on which our society has been built – the promotion of same-sex, abortion on demand and assisted suicide immediately spring to mind. Yet these are pushed aside in favour of a new green “gospel” through which man is going to save a planet threatened with extinction. It’s being incessantly promoted on TV as our “chance to do something good”.
In Glasgow, world leaders will compete for virtue-signalling soundbites on efforts to cut greenhouse gases. But God doesn’t come into it, even though it was He who gave us the responsibility for taking care of the earth (Gen 2:15).
Of course, we should be doing our best to avoid unnecessary pollution, deforestation and the like, but we have a God we can trust who has the whole world in His hands. Excluding him from the equation leaves a vacuum which humanists, secularists and others are filling with “evangelical” zeal.
As with the Tower of Babel, they reckon there are no limits to what mere mortals can achieve. But it’s all hot air. We are actually, at this moment, experiencing a period of global cooling. In his latest prophetic update, much-acclaimed commentator Tony Pearce writes: “Despite the claims of the IPCC2, average earth temperatures have actually cooled by 0.7 degrees Celsius since 2016.”3
The whole issue is a huge distraction from what is really needed: a change in the spiritual climate akin to that advanced by the Pilgrim Fathers. Incidentally, the world of that time was also experiencing extreme weather – a big freeze, in fact, which, like its heated counterpart, led to famine and starvation.
Among other dangers of the time were the ubiquitous pirates from North Africa known to enslave their captives and forcibly convert them to Islam. No change there, then.
Though most of the Mayflower passengers survived the perilous crossing, many were so weakened that half of them died within the first year of arrival.
One of them, John Howland, had fallen overboard before being miraculously rescued, later marrying Separatist Elizabeth Tilley. From their 10 children and more than 80 grandchildren are descended two million Americans including three presidents – both George and H W Bush and Franklin Roosevelt – along with a host of other luminaries including Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart.
Altogether, 35 million Americans can trace their ancestry to these courageous pioneers. Pilgrim leaders like William Bradford, William Brewster and John Carver all came from the Doncaster area of South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire, mostly from villages that even today are still little more than dots on the map. Such small beginnings for so mighty an enterprise – with God behind it!
We owe them a great debt. They were the founders of true democracy and freedom, creating a society where Jews fleeing the pogroms of Europe found refuge along with other persecuted people.
But now, both here and across the pond, we are throwing away our godly heritage for a bowl of tasteless green stew. Shame on us!
As German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “American democracy is not founded on the emancipated man but, quite the contrary, on the Kingdom of God and the limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God.”4
Bonhoeffer spent some time in America before returning to Nazi Germany where he was martyred for his faith. You could also say that the Mayflower pilgrims who didn’t make it beyond the first winter were martyrs for Christ. For they blazed a trail for faith and freedom, by comparison to which all other pursuits are futile and foolish.
1 One Small Candle, published by Onwards and Upwards, on which much of this article is based
2 The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
3 Light for the Last Days, October 2021, also quoted by Heart newspaper October/November 2021
4 One Small Candle
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