Our Pilgrim Fiends?

  They traveled to this land from a great distance, and in retrospect, their goal was clear: To murder those who did not share their faith. No, I don't mean members of the al Qaeda terrorist network: I'm talking about an even more fanatical group: the Pilgrim Fathers -- or maybe I should say, the Pilgrim fiends. Political activists have captured the most all- American of our holidays and want to turn it into a national day of mourning. In the pages of Citizen magazine, Douglas Phillips describes how he took his family to Plymouth, Massachusetts two Thanksgivings ago and was shocked at what he found. Atop Cole's Hill -- the burial ground for Pilgrims who died that first hard winter - - Phillips was startled to see a city truck pull up. Men piled out, carrying shovels. "We're placing a new monument for the city," the men told him. "What does it say?" Thomas asked. "We aren't sure," they answered. "We were just told to dig the hole. Someone else will put the marker in tonight." "Most revolutions are staged at night," Thomas wrote, so he wasn't surprised the next day to find stone markers all over Plymouth designating Thanksgiving a day of mourning -- a day to recall how the Pilgrims murdered and stole from their Indian neighbors. That afternoon, demonstrators -- mostly white college kids -- celebrated their victory by defacing the traditional monuments. Plymouth had transformed a tale of religious freedom into a story of genocide. The historical reality is totally different. While it's true that later settlers abused the Native Americans, the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians lived together in peace for fifty years. They signed covenants, bought and sold property, and fought against mutual enemies. In fact, Paul Jehle of the Plymouth Rock Foundation says the Pilgrims -- as Christians -- modeled the right way to interact with a native population -- unlike later settlers, who did not share their commitment to Christian principles. Why don't activist groups distinguish between the Pilgrims and later Europeans? It's because the postmodern obsession with group identity has led to the cult of victim politics -- which in turn has led to deliberate distortions of history. This is a field where Christians have a unique contribution to make. Christians view history as a cornucopia of complexity because we understand the doctrine of original sin. We know that because the human race is fallen, people are capable of great evil. But because we are made in God's image, we are also capable of great good. That's why a single person or group may be remembered for both good and bad behavior. And when we hear a version of history that portrays an entire group as all bad or all good, that tells us that we don't have the whole story. So this Thanksgiving, go ahead and enjoy the turkey and pumpkin pie -- and celebrate. The story of the Pilgrims is one chapter in our history that we can and should celebrate. But before you begin, make sure nobody is stuffing you or your family with a pack of lies. Make sure your family knows that the Pilgrims were not a gang of Elizabethan terrorists, but courageous followers of Christ. For more information: Douglas W. Phillips, "Plymouth Crock," CITIZEN Magazine, November 2001.


Chuck Colson



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