To the list of certainties in this life – death and taxes – we could probably add a third: Yankees will make a sanctimonious display of their righteousness.
This was repeated for the umpteenth time in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on 6 Oct. 2020 at an event called ‘It’s Time to Pray’, organized by the pastor of Times Square Church (NYC) Mr. Carter Conlon, who is quite excited and agitated over the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Pastor Carter expressed the purpose of his meeting thusly:
‘God was faithful in bringing them [the Pilgrims] here and giving them this land, but in 400 years, what have we done with the freedom He gave us?
‘We took our freedom and enslaved an entire race of people. He prospered us as a nation, and we became greedy as a people. Our families are broken. Our children are being indoctrinated in schools starting from daycare. We have changed the definition of marriage. We are aborting babies at the point of birth. Our nation is unraveling. Our only hope for the future is God.
‘That’s why we’re going back, 400 years later, to Lot # 1 where our nation began, and we’re going to pray. We are going to re-discover our roots and reclaim the promise of God that made America. When we open the prayer meeting in Plymouth, we’re going to repent and ask God to forgive us for what we’ve done with the freedom He gave us. God told me we need to confess the sins of the nation one by one and ask for forgiveness.’
Now, true repentance is a wonderful thing, but the history of New England makes us doubt this is what was experienced by most of the attendees at ‘It’s Time to Pray’. We will look at that history momentarily, but first there is one other point that makes us doubtful about the outcome of this prayer meeting: It is based on a lie.
In the quote above and on the home page for this gathering it is stated that Plymouth, Massachusetts, is ‘the place where America began.’ But it does not take much of an effort at researching to realize that the Pilgrims were not the first Englishmen to settle permanently on North America; that title belongs to the settlers of Jamestown, Virginia. The South was born first (1607), then New England (1620).
So already there is a problem with truthfulness from these folks. But more important than this is the following question: ‘Should anyone want to follow in the spiritual footsteps of the Pilgrims?’, a subject Pastor Carter and his fellows seem very concerned with. To answer this, we will begin the brief historical overview promised above.
First it is well to note that the Pilgrims were a disorderly bunch even before they arrived at Plymouth to set up their ‘City on a Hill’. This is made abundantly clear in Richard Hooker’s (1554-1600) On the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. To give but one example from his book, he said,
‘When they and their Bibles were alone together, what strange fantastical opinion soever at any time entered into their heads, their use was to think the Spirit taught it them. Their phrensies concerning our Saviour’s incarnation, the state of souls departed, and such-like, are things needless to be rehearsed. And forasmuch as they were of the same suit with those of whom the apostle speaketh, saying, “They are still learning, but never attain to the knowledge of truth,” it was no marvel to see them every day broach some new thing, not heard of before. Which restless levity they did interpret to be their growing to spiritual perfection, and a proceeding from faith to faith. The differences amongst them grew by this mean in a manner infinite, so that scarcely was there found any one of them, the forge of whose brain was not possessed with some special mystery. . . . Their own ministers they highly magnified as men whose vocation was from God; the rest their manner was to term disdainfully Scribes and Pharisees, to account their calling an human creature, and to detain the people as much as might be from hearing them’ (Preface, ch. viii, 7).
Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for the ‘chosen people’ of New England to fall head-long into apostasy. Already by 1662 they had to institute the Halfway Covenant so their unregenerate children could be assured of receiving the blessings that they believed God had promised to their forefathers - to build the New Jerusalem in North America, and all the rest of it (Sacvan Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad, Madison, Wisc., U of Wisc. Press, 1978, pgs. 62-3).
In the 18th century we find further dissensions and fragmentations of the ‘true faith’ of the Pilgrims. Rev Angus Stewart writes:
‘By now many “Strict Congregational” or “Separatist” churches had been formed by pro-revival enthusiasts. Attaching high regard to religious experiences and visions, and lacking an educated ministry, they were soon torn apart by internal divisions. While many churches gradually died out, others joined the growing Baptist movement.
‘New England Congregationalism was now divided into two camps: the New Lights—pro-revivalist and anti-Half-Way Covenant—and the Old Lights. This latter group itself was divided; containing implicit Universalists and Unitarians, as well as more orthodox Calvinists, who held to the Half-Way Covenant.’
And as Rev Angus suggests just above, the next ‘advancement’ in the progress of New England’s religion was Unitarianism in the 19th century:
‘By 1805, they were so advanced in their heresy and were sufficiently strong to have an Unitarian, Henry Ware, appointed as Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard College. It was never to be regained for orthodoxy. In 1819, George Bancroft brought Hegelianism to Harvard from Berlin, and the Unitarians were at the forefront of the elitist Transcendentalist movement. Through this period, the popular preaching and writing of the extremely capable, William Ellery Channing (1780-1842), brought additional prestige and acceptability to the Unitarians. The Unitarians and Universalists effectively joined hands. “The Universalists,” it was said, “believed that God was too good to damn them, while the Unitarians held that men were too good to be damned.” Their differences, being more social than theological were easily overcome’. (Ibid.)
Eventually this would morph into the atheistic Social Gospel formulated and preached by Washington Gladden. In the present day, New England has given the States ‘gay marriage’ and other such innovative rights. Their latest gift? Polyamorous marriage (i.e., a marriage of more than two people).
Keep in mind that these are only the highlights of New England’s religious development. Not included are the many other frightful schisms and sects that arose there like the Shakers, Mormons, and Christian Scientists.
Therefore, in answer to the question we posed above - ‘Should anyone want to follow in the spiritual footsteps of the Pilgrims?’ - the answer is an emphatic ‘No!’ We are grieved at the apostasy of New England and pray that she will repent and find salvation, but for anyone to place his feet on any part of her religious path and expect a good result - that person has clearly fallen into delusion. Sadly, that also applies to Pastor Carter and the attendees of his prayer gathering at Plymouth.
What is the best way forward for the South, then? A complete separation from New England’s beliefs and practices and the firm, warm embrace of the ways of our own forefathers, embodied in the deep tradition of the Holy Scriptures and the Church Fathers.
Walt Garlington is a chemical engineer turned writer (and, when able, a planter). He makes his home in Louisiana and is editor of the 'Confiteri: A Southern Perspective' web site.