Pilgrim Fathers… and Kids

  Why did the Pilgrims really come to America? Most of us think we know the answer: They came seeking religious freedom. Well, yes they did, in part. But they also came because their teenagers were giving them fits. This forgotten aspect of Pilgrim lore is a wonderful lesson for us this Thanksgiving—especially for Christian parents. The story begins in 1608, a time when the Church of England was the established state church. Christians who objected to aspects of the official church were called Separatists, and they were often thrown into prison for worshipping in their own way. Determined to worship as they saw fit, a group of these Separatists escaped to Holland in the spring of 1608, including 17-year-old William Bradford, who was to pen a famous journal of their adventures. But after a dozen years of living among the Dutch, these Separatists were becoming desperate: It was proving difficult to make a living in Holland. As Bradford recounts in his journal, many of them found it difficult to endure the "great and continual labors" and were getting old before their time. Fellow Separatists still in England, observing their backbreaking trials, actually preferred prison in England to liberty in Holland. Most lamentable of all, Bradford writes, many of their children were losing their faith. They were influenced by the "great licentiousness of youth in that countrie," and were being drawn away by evil examples. Some of these kids were even leaving their families and living dissolute lives, Bradford records, "to the great greefe of their parents and dishonor of God." It seemed clear to the Separatists that they needed to seek religious freedom in a land that not only offered an easier living, but also would not corrupt their children. After much prayer, they began to plan their historic journey to America. The story of the Pilgrims illustrates the fact that parents have always had to contend with cultural influences tempting their children away from faithful obedience to God. In the seventeenth century, those temptations likely took the form of saloons and prostitutes. Today's kids are surrounded by a culture that celebrates recreational sex, drug use, and total rebellion against God's laws. Now, we don't have the luxury of packing up our kids and moving to another country—assuming we could find one free of temptations. Still, we have to do everything we can to keep the corrosive forces of American culture from eating away at the character of our youth. We can do that by limiting their exposure to immoral films, music, videos games, and television programs when they're young. And then, when they're older, we need to help them understand the worldview implicit in these products. We must teach them that the culture war is a cosmic struggle between the Christian worldview and the various secular and spiritual worldviews arrayed against it. This Thanksgiving, when your kids are devouring their pumpkin pie, point out that the Pilgrims did not come to America just to find religious freedom: They already had that in Holland. The Pilgrims embarked on that dangerous journey to an unexplored continent for another important reason, as well. They came for the sake of their kids.


Chuck Colson



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