Mayflower Compact, signed November 11, 1620, at Cape Cod, Massachusetts:
“Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia…” (paragraph 2)
The passengers on the ship Mayflower in the year 1620 were aiming for northern Virginia. But foul weather drove them off course, and they ended up in the more sheltered waters of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. There, on November 11, 1620, 41 colonists signed the Mayflower Compact. It stands in historical importance as the first written document to establish self-government in the New World, and they went ashore and implemented the Compact in what became known as the Plymouth Colony.
More importantly, it certifies beyond any doubt that a compelling motive in the hearts of the Mayflower voyagers—a motive captured clearly in the Compact—was that their voyage had been undertaken “for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith.”
Today in our 21st century, four centuries later, there is a relentless drive by secularists and non-theistic liberals to drive every trace of religion out of the public arena. This would seem entirely strange to the Mayflower passengers. Their self-governmental document, 167 years before the United States Constitution was signed in 1787, was openly pro-God and pro-Christian.
Sadly, liberal courts over the years have twisted the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment to say many things it does not actually say. The exact wording of the First Amendment’s treatment of religion is simply this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Upon whom does it place restrictions? Congress in its lawmaking capacity, not the American people, not schools, not public squares, not even government in general. The amendment only places restrictions on Congress, forbidding them to pass laws that either (1) establish religion or (2) prohibit religion’s free exercise.
I believe that the Constitution's writers understood the English language well, and they chose words that clearly described their specific and clear intention that Congress shall not pass laws either establishing religion or preventing its free exercise. Unfortunately, liberal judges over time have found (read: invented) nuances in the amendment that have spread an ever-widening net of suppression over Christian and other religious expression in America. This is a relatively recent development. Some of you, like me, are old enough to remember opening the school day in public school with vocal recitation of the pledge of allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer. For me, that was in public junior high in Stamford, Connecticut, in the 1950s. The U.S. Constitution was more than a century and a half old by then, and reciting the Lord’s Prayer aloud in the public school was a long-standing and accepted practice.
Speaking especially to American Christians (and by association, to all believers everywhere), let me encourage you not to back down in the face of the relentless attack today against public faith expressions. You are not “Congress making laws.” You are the American people whose constitution guarantees the “free exercise” of your religion. And God Almighty supports you in your steadfast efforts to live your lives openly as men and women of faith, obeying Jesus' desire that we be "the light of the world" and the "salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13-14).
On a related subject — dealing specifically with misconceptions on “separation of church and state” in America — please see my article here.
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©2019, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons &
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Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.