I know it is a few days until Thanksgiving…but today, November 21, 2020, marks 400 year anniversary of the Pilgrim landing at Plymouth Rock. In the current chaos and political climate, it might be easy to miss that remembrance. My guess is that most mentions of this important event in the media (if much is made of it) will be presented in line with the politically correct 1619 project…which is sad.
Currently I am teaching Western history from 1450-1900 with a focus on the US founding and government to my high school age kids. Our readings over the past weeks have included the Mayflower compact, excerpts from William Bradford, and Roger Williams’ Letter to Mr. Cotton. We are under no delusion about the complexity of our history; our national ancestors were flawed people…just like we are.
But we must always remember that they were brave people committed to an effort to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. And, during this time when some in government want to limit all aspects of life and assume they can tell us what is essential and what is not, we would do well to remember that the worship of God as the body of Christ assembled is not merely an essential part of life…it is at the very core of what it means to be fully human. As one of my favorite Orthodox theologians, Alexander Schmemann has said:
“Secularism…is above all a negation of worship. I stress:—not of God’s existence, not of some kind of transcendence and therefore of some kind of religion. If secularism is a heresy, it is primarily a heresy about man. It is a negation of man as a worshiping being, as homo adorans: the one for whom worship is the essential act which both “posits” his humanity and fulfills it” (98).
This is what our secular neighbor and secular leaders will never understand apart from redemption that comes with submission to Christ as King. The heart of our mission to them centers on respectfully and compassionately…but firmly…living and preaching that truth. As such, we can take inspiration from the brave souls who came over on the Mayflower, risking everything, for the sake of worshipping God.