How the Search for Religious Freedom Shaped America
Updated: Nov 24, 2021
Understanding the Significance of the Mayflower Compact
Several years ago I enjoyed the opportunity to take a Heritage Tour with Focus on the Family. We traveled to Cape Cod and visited sites that marked the historic beginnings of America. We also gained insight into how the monumental efforts of a small number of people searching for religious freedom inspired and shaped America.
The Separatist Pilgrims were a unique people forged by trials and suffering for a specific purpose in history. Their desire to turn away from the Church of England and worship God in a biblical manner more true to God's calling on the hearts of men, led them to be persecuted under the rule of King James I. After being taxed, imprisoned, and harassed, they left their homes in England. While they found refuge and religious asylum in Leyden, Holland, their status as immigrants limited opportunities to thrive, and after a time they decided once again to relocate. After much prayer, they felt called to make North America their place for a fresh start.
Again the Pilgrims suffered. They endured heavy financial burden, the difficulty of the passage across stormy seas, and the taunting of sailors who did not hold the same faith (Marshall et al., 2009).
When they finally arrived in the Americas, they were off course from their intended landing and a decision confronted them. Land in this place called Cape Cod and create a new settlement, or continue the journey against difficult seas to their original intended location.
Providence intervened. With prayer and wisdom gained by God's guidance, the Pilgrims chose to make their landing at Cape Cod. Recognizing the perils of landing without rules of governance among men and women of differing world views, they wrote an inspired and foundational document to freedom and liberty, the Mayflower Compact. While the document was not significant in its length and breadth of instruction, it was pioneering in its concept of creating a covenant relationship among society to form a body politic that would self-govern.
For the preservation of a civil community, the men of the Mayflower, before ever stepping onto shore, undertook
"for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith" to "covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enacte, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for the generall good of the Colonie unto which we promise all due submission and obedience." - The Mayflower Compact
Stunning! A simple statement based on equality, covenant agreement, and concern for the general good of all colonists, to govern themselves by choice. This concept would develop, mature, and ultimately become the basis for American government and liberty. It began with a search to worship God freely. We, in the 21st century, are blessed to see how that pursuit played out across history and created a nation of destiny and hope.
If you're in the Cape Cod area, I strongly recommend taking time to tour the historical landmarks in the area. Walking in the places of history often gives us pause to think about who and what has gone before us to establish the freedoms we enjoy.
Marshall, P., & Manuel, D. (2009). Chapter 8. In The light and the glory 1492-1793. essay, Revell.