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TheMayflowerCompact

ReligionComestotheNewWorld
DoesthismeantheUSAwasfoundedonReligiousBeliefs?

Introduction

Pilgrims?Puritans?Religion?TheConstitution?So,justhowdidthisreligionthinggetinto
theConstitutionoftheUnitedStatesanyway?Nowwaitjustaminute,pilgrim!JohnWayne
usedthewordtosummarizethesocialknowledgeofanindividualwiththeimplicationsaid
individualwasastrangertothewaysoftheWaynesters,oratleastthatishowHollywood
wouldhavesomebelieve.

LetstakeaquicklookattheMayflowerCompactitself,translatedfromOldeEnglishto
modernspellingandgrammar,thenlookatsomeofthereasonswhythisstoryissovery
importanttoalltheChristianworld!

TheMayflowerCompact!

InAugust1620,agroupofabout40BrownistswhocalledthemselvesSaintsjoineda
muchlargergroupof(comparatively)secularcolonistswhomtheBrownistscalled
Strangers,andsetsailfromEnglandontwomerchantships:theMayflowerandthe
Speedwell.

BecauseofthedelaycausedbytheleakySpeedwell,theMayflowerhadtocrossthe
Atlanticattheheightofstormseason.Asaresult,thejourneywashorriblyunpleasantwith
thewavesweresoroughthatoneStrangerwassweptoverboardanddrowned.(Itwas
thejusthandofGoduponhim,Bradfordwrotelater,fortheyoungsailorhadbeena
proudandveryprofaneyongeman.)

Aftertwomiserablemonthsatsea,theshipfinallyreachedtheNewWorld.

There,theMayflowerspassengersfoundanabandonedIndianvillageandnotmuchelse.

Theyalsofoundthattheywereinthewrongplace:CapeCodwaslocatedat42degrees
northlatitude,wellnorthoftheVirginiaCompanysterritory.

Technically,theMayflowercolonistshadnorighttobethereatall.Inordertoestablish
themselvesasalegitimatecolonyPlymouth,namedaftertheEnglishportfromwhich
theyhaddepartedunderthesedubiouscircumstances,41oftheSaintsandStrangers
draftedandsignedadocumenttheycalledtheMayflowerCompact.

ThisCompactpromisedtocreateaCivilBodyPolitickgovernedbyelectedofficialsand
justandequallaws.ItalsosworeallegiancetotheEnglishking.

In1802,JohnQuincyAdamsdescribedtheagreementastheonlyinstanceinhuman
historyofthatpositive,original,socialcompactanditispopularlybelievedtohave
influencedtheDeclarationofIndependenceandtheU.S.Constitution.

TheMayflowerCompact:(translatedfromOldeEnglishtomoderntext)

ThetextoftheMayflowerCompact:

InthenameofGod,Amen.Wewhosenamesareunderwritten,theloyalsubjectsofour
dreadSovereignLordKingJames,bytheGraceofGodofGreatBritain,France,andIreland
King,DefenderoftheFaith,etc.

HavingundertakenfortheGloryofGodandadvancementoftheChristianFaithand
HonourofourKingandCountry,aVoyagetoplanttheFirstColonyintheNorthernPartsof
Virginia,dobythesepresentssolemnlyandmutuallyinthepresenceofGodandoneof
another,CovenantandCombineourselvestogetherinaCivilBodyPolitic,forourbetter
orderingandpreservationandfurtheranceoftheendsaforesaid;andbyvirtuehereofto
enact,constituteandframesuchjustandequalLaws,Ordinances,Acts,Constitutionsand
Officesfromtimetotime,asshallbethoughtmostmeetandconvenientforthegeneral
goodoftheColony,untowhichwepromiseallduesubmissionandobedience.Inwitness
whereofwehavehereundersubscribedournamesatCapeCod,the11thofNovember,in
theyearofthereignofourSovereignLordKingJames,ofEngland,FranceandIrelandthe
eighteenth,andofScotlandthefifty-fourth.AnnoDomini1620.

HowtheUnitedStatesConstitutionlooksatReligion:

TheAnti-EstablishmentClause,alsosometimesconfusinglylabelledtheEstablishment
ClauseortheReligionClause,isthefirstofseveralpronouncementsintheFirst
AmendmenttotheUnitedStatesConstitution,stating,

Congressshallmakenolawrespectinganestablishmentofreligion,orprohibitingthefree
exercisethereof...

TheAnti-EstablishmentClausewasderivedfromanumberofprecursors,includingthe
ConstitutionsofClarendon,the1689BillofRights,thePennsylvaniaandNewJersey
colonialconstitutions.AninitialdraftbyJohnDickinsonwaspreparedinconjunctionwith
hisdraftingtheArticlesofConfederation.In1789,then-congressmanJamesMadison
preparedanotherdraftwhich,followingdiscussionanddebateintheFirstCongress,would
becomeincorporatedintotheFirstAmendmentoftheBillofRights.Thesecondhalfofthe
Anti-EstablishmentClauseincludestheFreeExerciseClause,whichallowsindividual


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citizensfreedomfromgovernmentalinterferenceinbothprivateandpublicreligiousaffairs
thatdonotinfringetherightsofothers.

TheAnti-EstablishmentClauseisalimitationplacedupontheUnitedStatesCongress
preventingitfrompassinglegislationrespectinganestablishmentofreligion.Thesecond
halfoftheAnti-EstablishmentClauseinherentlyprohibitsthegovernmentfrompreferring
anyonereligionoveranother.WhiletheAnti-EstablishmentClausedoesprohibitCongress
frompreferringorelevatingonereligionoveranother,itdoesnotprohibitthe
government'sentryintothereligiousdomaintomakeaccommodationsforreligious
observancesandpracticesinordertoachievethepurposesoftheFreeExerciseClause.

Right.SothosesixteenwordsaswrittenandratifiedbytheContinentalCongressdelivered
thehardshipofreligiouspracticefromthehandsoftheKing,oranyoneattemptingtoact
asiftheywerethekingandplacedthisfreedomdirectlyintothehandsofWeThePeople!

Hereswhy.Shortversion:

HenrytheVII

ReligioninEngland,atleastformalreligionwilldatebacktothetimeoftheRoman
Occupation,whichoccurredaround200-300aftertheDeathofJesus.

RomanCatholicismbecamethereligionofthelandinEngland.Therewerepagan
religionsorbeliefssuchasCelticpolytheism,Nordicpaganism,Romanpolytheismand
Druidism,whichisstillpracticedtodaymoreasacultistactivityratherthanareligion.

Well,whyarewetalkingaboutHenry?

HenryVIII,amanofmanywives,wishedtodivorceCatherineofAragon,hisfirstwife
howeversincethemarriagewasblessedinaCatholicChurch,Henryneededthe
permissionofTheChurchtobegrantedadivorce.

TheChurchwouldnotsubmittoHenryandhisrequest,soHenryabolishedandbanned
theCatholicChurch.Thedissolutionofthemonasteriesinthelate1530swasoneofthe
mostrevolutionaryeventsinEnglishhistory.

Therewerenearly900religioushousesinEngland,around260formonks,300forregular
canons,142nunneriesand183friaries;some12,000peopleintotal,4,000monks,3,000
canons,3,000friarsand2,000nuns.Oneadultmaninfiftywasinreligiousorders

TheChurchofEngland

HenrykeptvirtuallyalloftheRitesandRitualsoftheCatholicChurchashedidhavea
proclivityformaintainingsomedistancefromProtestantOrthodoxy.Hisson,once
crowned,didattempttochangethisdrastically,howeverhislifeendedbeforehecould
visualizethetransformation.

Ironically,theChurchofEnglandmaintainsitisaCatholicandReformedchurchandthe
sittingMonarchisbylaw,theSupremeLeaderoftheChurchofEngland.

AfterEdward,Henryssondied,EnglandsnewMonarch,QueenMarytheFirstduringher
co-reignwithherhusband,KingPhilipofSpain,manyleadersandcommonpeoplewere
burntfortheirrefusaltorecantoftheirreformedfaith.TheseareknownastheMarian
martyrsandthepersecutionledtohernicknameof"BloodyMary".

Marylasted5yearsdyingin1558.Around60yearsbeforetheMayflowersailed.

UnderQueenElizabethI,knownastheElizabethanSettlement,developedtheviamedia
(middleway)characteroftheChurchofEngland,achurchmoderatelyReformedin
doctrine,asexpressedintheThirty-NineArticles,butalsoemphasisingcontinuitywiththe
CatholicandApostolictraditionsoftheChurchFathers.

Essentially,aProtestantChurchwithaCatholicLiturgy,itwasalsoanestablishedchurch
(constitutionallyestablishedbythestatewiththeheadofstateasitssupremegovernor).

Theexactnatureoftherelationshipbetweenchurchandstatewouldbeasourceof
continuedfrictionintothenextcentury.

Brownists,PuritansandPilgrims

Upnext,inthesagaofEnglandsgotreligion,KingJamesIandVIofScotlandputtogethera
versionoftheBiblemostallofaProtestantaffiliationusetothisday,thisbeingtheKing
JamesVersionoftheGreatBible.

ThereweremanyvariationsusedinEnglandasEnglandwassplitbetweensupportersof
thepopulistGenevaBible,theChurchofEnglandsBishopsBible:aweighty,expensiveand
thereforelesspopularreworkingoftheGreatBible:andtheDouay-RheimsNewTestament
of1582,whichwasproducedbyexiledRomanCatholicsaspartofaCounterReformation.

ThefoundingofChristianityinEngland(Britain)issaidtodatebacktoJosephof
Arimathea,whoaccordingtoAnglicanlegendandiscelebratedinGlastonburyAbbey.

AnglicanChristianityisaliveandwellinmanypartsoftheworld.

Brownists

NamedforRobertBrown,whodislikedtheideatheState,inthiscase,England,shouldbe
inorhavecontroloverReligiouspracticesofhercitizenry.

ThisdenominationdidnotdifferinpointofdoctrinefromthechurchofEngland,orfrom
theotherpuritans;buttheyapprehendedthat,accordingtoscripture,everychurchought
tobeconfinedwithinthelimitsofasinglecongregation,andhavethecompletepowerof
jurisdictionoveritsmembers,tobeexercisedbytheelderswithinitself,withoutbeing
subjecttotheauthorityofbishops,synods,presbyteries,oranyecclesiasticalassembly,
composedofthedeputiesfromdifferentchurches.

He,alongwithmanyotherswereexiledfromEnglandtoHollandwherefreepracticeof
Religionwastolerated.WhilesomescholarlyarticleswilllumpBrownists,Puritansand
Pilgrimstogether,itiswisetokeepacleardistinctionbetweenthemastheirplightand
suffrageappliestotheConstitutionoftheUnitedStatesandtheexceptionclause.

MonarchsandReligiondonotmix.

BrownistswerepartofanEnglishmovementknownasseparatistsanddissenters,those
seekingrelieffromvariousformsofpersecutionfornotaligningandpayinghomagewith
theChurchofEngland.

RobertBrownewasastudentwhobecameanAnglicanpriestlateinlife.AtCambridge
University,hewasinfluencedbyPuritantheologians,includingThomasCartwright
(1535-1603).

BrownebecameaLectureratStMary'sChurch,Islingtonwherehisdissidentpreaching
againstthedoctrinesanddisciplinesoftheChurchofEnglandbegantoattractattention.

During1578,BrownereturnedtoCambridgeUniversityandcameundertheinfluenceof
RichardGreenham,puritanrectorofDryDrayton.HeencouragedBrownetocompletehis
ordinationandserveataparishchurch.BrownewasofferedalecturerpositionatSt
Bene't'sChurch,CambridgepossiblythroughGreenham,buthistenuretherewasshort.

BrownecametorejectthepuritanviewofreformfromwithintheChurch,andstartedto
lookoutsidetheestablishedChurch.

HismostimportantworkswerepublishedatMiddelburgin1582:ATreatiseofReformation
withoutTaryingforAnie,inwhichheassertedtherightofthechurchtoeffectnecessary
reformswithouttheauthorisationofthecivilmagistrate;andABookewhichsheweththelife
andmannersofallTrueChristians,whichsetoutthetheoryofCongregational
independence.TwomenwerehangedatBuryStEdmundsin1583forcirculatingthem.

BrownewasonlyanactiveSeparatistfrom1579-1585.HereturnedtoEnglandandtothe
ChurchofEngland,beingemployedasaschoolmasterand,after1591,aChurchofEngland
parishpriest.Hewasmuchengagedincontroversywithsomeofthosewhoheldhisearlier
separatistpositionandwhonowlookeduponhimasarenegade.

TheBrownists,mostofwhomresidedinHollandintheearly1600scomprisedthemajority
ofpassengersaboardtheMayflower.

Puritans

ThismovementsoughttopurifytheChurchofEnglandofitscorrupthumandoctrineand
practices;thepeopleinthemovementwereknownasPuritans.

SomeSeparatistswerethosePuritanswhonolongeracceptedtheChurchofEnglandasa
truechurch,refusedtoworkwithinthestructuretoaffectchanges,andseparated
themselvestoformatruechurchbasedsolelyonBiblicalprecedent.

PuritansrejectedChristmas,EasterandthevariousSaint'sDaysbecausetheyhadno
scripturaljustification,andintheirworshipservices,theyrejectedhymns,therecitationsof
theLord'sPrayerandcreedsforthesamereason.

SeparatistsbelievedthattheworshipofGodmustprogressfromtheindividualdirectlyto
God,andthatsetforms,liketheChurchofEngland'sBookofCommonPrayer,interfered
withthatprogressionbydirectingone'sthoughtsdowntothebookandinwardtoone's
self.

TheonlyexceptionswerethePsalmsandtheLord'sSupper,bothofwhichhadscriptural
basis,andpossiblythecovenantbywhichindividualsjoinedthecongregation.

AsPastorRobinsonexpressedit,eventwoorthreegatheredinthenameofChristbya
covenant[and]madetowalkinallthewaysofGodknownuntothemisachurch.

Pilgrims

Englishpeoplewhosoughttoescapethereligiouscontroversiesandeconomicproblemsof
theirtimebyemigratingtoAmerica.

ManyofthePilgrimsweremembersofaPuritansectknownastheSeparatists.They
believedthatmembershipintheChurchofEnglandviolatedthebiblicalpreceptsfortrue
Christians,andtheyhadtobreakawayandformindependentcongregationsthatadhered
morestrictlytodivinerequirements.

ApassagefromtheSecondEpistleofPaultotheCorinthiansgaveurgencytotheiractions.
TheGenevatranslationforSecondCorinthians6:16-18reads:

(16)AndwhatagrementhathetheTempleofGodwithidoles?foryearetheTempleoftheliving
God:asGodhathesaid,Iwildwellamongthem,andwalkethere;andIwilbetheirGod,and
shalbemypeople.(17)Whereforecomeoutfromamongthem,andseparateyourselves,faith
theLord:andtouchenoneuncleanething,&Iwilreceiveyou.(18)AndIwilbeaFatheruntoyou,
andyeshalbemysonnesanddaughters,saiththeLordalmightie.

AtatimewhenChurchandStatewereone,suchanactwastreasonousandsome
membersoftheSeparatistMovementfledtheirmothercountry.

OtherPilgrimsremainedloyaltothenationalChurchbutcamebecauseofeconomic
opportunityandasympathywithPuritanism.Theyallsharedaferventandpervasive
Protestantfaiththattouchedallareasoftheirlives.

AsEnglishpeople,thePilgrimsalsosharedavitalsecularculturebothlearnedand
traditional.Theylivedinatimethatacceptedfairiesandwitches,astrologicalinfluences,
seasonalfestivalsandfolkloreasrealpartsoftheirlives.

Theylookedattheworldtheylivedinnotaswedotoday-throughtheeyesofquantum
physicsandpsychology-butthroughthefolkloreofthecountrysideandacademic
traditionsthatstretchedbacktoantiquity.

TheywereboththoroughProtestantsoftherecentReformationandtheinheritorsofthe
MedievalworldviewthatinfusedtheimaginationsofWilliamShakespeareandBenJonson.

TheMayflowerPassengers

In1608,acongregationofdisgruntledEnglishProtestantsfromthevillageofScrooby,
Nottinghamshire,leftEnglandandmovedtoLeyden,atowninHolland.TheseSeparatists,
knownasBrownists,didnotwanttopledgeallegiancetotheChurchofEngland,which
theybelievedwasnearlyascorruptandidolatrousastheCatholicChurchithadreplaced,
anylonger.

(TheywerenotthesameasthePuritans,whohadmanyofthesameobjectionstothe
Englishchurchbutwantedtoreformitfromwithin.)TheBrownistshopedthatinHolland,
theywouldbefreetoworshipastheyliked.

InLondon,theCompanyofMerchantAdventurersofLondonputtogetherasaguildof
merchantseamen,assembledpeoplewillingtotravelandinhabitcoloniesintheNew
World.ThisprovidedanopportunityformanyBrownistsexiledtoZeeland,Hollandbythe
KingsrulesonreligiontomakeafreshstartintheNewWorld.Somethingwedonothave
theopportunitytodointoday'scrowdedworld.

TheBrownistswhofoundedthePlymouthColonyreferredtothemselvesasSaints,not
Pilgrims.TheuseofthewordPilgrimtodescribethisgroupdidnotbecomecommon
untilthecolonysbicentennial.Thatwouldbearound1820.

First,theBrownistsreturnedtoLondontogetorganized.Aprominentmerchantagreedto
advancethemoneyfortheirjourney.TheVirginiaCompanygavethempermissionto
establishasettlement,orplantation,ontheEastCoastbetween38and41degreesnorth
latitude(roughlybetweentheChesapeakeBayandthemouthoftheHudsonRiver).

AndtheKingofEnglandgavethempermissiontoleavetheChurchofEngland,provided
theycarriedthemselvespeaceably.

SincetheMayflowerdidntmakeittothecorrectlatitude,thecompactwasdraftedasa
measureofgoodfaithtoGodandCountry.Asaresultofnotmakingtheagreedupon
destination,thePilgrimsalsoestablishedwhatisnowknownasthePlymouthcolonies.


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