Thursday, November 19, 2009


With the national celebration of “Thanksgiving” right around the corner, I’ve been researching the history of America’s first harvest festival. This has rekindled questions in my mind about America being founded as a “Christian nation”. I’m pondering what I was taught and have always believed vs. that which historical records seemingly indicate.

Festivals of thanksgiving are among the oldest celebrations throughout history. Ancient tribes, Greeks, Romans and Jews all held harvest festivals to thank and seek favor from their gods and goddesses. I’m wondering which god was truly being worshipped at this “New World” event.

• In 1609, the first colony of English-speaking Europeans settled in Jamestown. They were contracted by wealthy Englishmen to seek more wealth, not religious freedom.

• In 1620, 102 passengers arrived on the Mayflower. Although we tend to refer to all of them as "Pilgrims" (religious traveler: somebody who goes on a journey to a holy place for religious reasons), the fact is America is not “holier” than any other land. Half of these travelers were part of an English Church from Holland and the other half were likely not “pilgrims” at all, coming instead, for economic reasons. Of the fifty who remained after the rigorous first winter, I’m wondering what they did that looked like Jesus.

There were similar settlements in other areas, some of which were “Christians” fleeing persecution. However, most of these religious colonial governments persecuted those of the "wrong" faith!

• The majority of the constitution’s framers often referred to “God”, yet never professed Jesus. Wanting no part of the religious intolerance developing in the “New World”, they set out to proclaim that the American government would never promote or interfere with any religious beliefs. In 1787, they established the first government in history to separate church and state.

• In 1797 America made a treaty with Tripoli declaring that "the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." Written under Washington's presidency, this reassurance to Islam was unanimously approved by the Senate under John Adams.

John Adams also pledged that every American citizen would be required to observe and fulfill the premises of this treaty which was printed in the Philadelphia Gazette and two New York papers, with no evidence of any public dissent! Citizens proclaiming America as a “Christian nation” are actually breaking a national pledge.

Yes, Protestant churches have been allowed to flourish in America. However, having nationally vowed to uphold neutrality in matters of any religion, all religions are to have the same freedom. Why does it surprise and irritate us then that people from various nations and religions come to America seeking to enjoy such freedom? Isn’t this the type of nation America’s founding fathers sought to establish without any opposition from its citizens?

While there are only two contemporary accounts of America’s first Thanksgiving, neither of them mentions Jesus. Could this nation’s religious freedom stance have been established at its first Thanksgiving? The “Christian pilgrims’” religion forbade them from breaking bread with “heathens”, yet we find them honoring “God” with a few pagan Englishmen and a number of naturalistic native friends Have we been fooling ourselves about which god was being worshipped at this festival? Do you suppose Jesus was honored as the only way to the Father (John 14:6) or could this harvest celebration have been the first assembly of religious unionism held in America?


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