Many of you are aware of the pending Scottish vote for independence from Great Britain which will occur this week. Those roots of independence go back a long way. With that in mind I celebrate the launching of the Mayflower which sailed from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers on September 16, 1620. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists made up of religious dissenters and entrepreneurs, had been authorized to settle this new world by the British crown. Stormy weather and navigational errors forced the Mayflower off course, and it wasn’t until November 21 the “Pilgrims” reached Massachusetts, where they founded the first permanent European settlement in New England in late December.
Thirty-five of the Pilgrims were members of the radical English Separatist Church, who traveled to America to escape the jurisdiction of the Church of England, which they found corrupt. Ten years earlier, English persecution had led a group of Separatists to flee to Holland in search of religious freedom. Many were dissatisfied with economic opportunities in the Netherlands, and they decided to immigrate to Virginia, where an English colony had been founded at Jamestown in 1607.
Freedom to worship, expand, and develop has always pushed humankind. It has not always been in the right direction. Coexistence with the Native Americans seemed possible in those early years but sadly devolved. Another development we have seen is that religion based on conversion or death is no religion at all – it is barbarism. What we see today in Syria and Iraq is horrific and the world should stand united against this.
The United States has a special and unique role to allow for religious diversity. I look to the Golden Rule found in almost all religious dogmas in the world – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If conversion is at the end of a knife it is not religious and it is not human. The spiritual principals of Jesus continue to inspire and motivate me. Jesus sought to offer love and acceptance even to the unlovely and marginalized. Pray for those who oppressed for their faith. The U.S. was founded for liberty and we can not withdraw from the world stage when it comes to resisting those who would propose religious or ethnic cleansing.
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Jesus) Matthew 7:12