Northwest of Eden # 16 – A KINGDOM FOR THE HOMELESS (HCC, IDB, SHB)

Protestantism, more correctly Lutheranism could never agree on being one like Roman Catholicism.  It did not fall short of persecuting and suppressing those that were not pleased where the reformers were taking their followers.  Luther had no place in his reform for Zwingli the founder of the Reformed and Presbyterian Churches, for Erasmus the humanist and leader of the common man, for Carlstadt, Hubmaier and Munzer that leaned on additional spirit led revelations.  Zwingli denied the Anabaptists their right to practice believer’s baptism.  He had three hundred put in bags and drowned.  Calvin, a Zwingli disciple was just as intolerant with his dogma on predenation in Holland and Switzerland and so was Knox the founder of the Presbyterians in Scotland.  In England King Henry VIII took over religion, after the Pope had refused his request for divorcing his queen.  He remained intolerant towards all the Protestant infusions and added the Catholics to his list.  The King appointed an Archbishop and allowed the clergy to marry.  The King’s Anglicans too would experience reform but it would come back from the Americas.  It will not come from the Pilgrims but from Moravians, Methodists and Quakers.  After the Anglicans took over England and grudgingly let in the Presbyterians in Scotland, Europe had closed the door on anyone with a different conviction or conscience.  Who were these people that were driven from their homes by Anglicans, Lutherans, Reformed Churches (Holland, Scotland and Switzerland) and Roman Catholics?  And where did they move? 
The believers in question were regarded as Dissenters or Separatists.  They did not differ in dogma but in their applications.  They wanted the right to believe and manage their lives without secular or religious interference.  The Creator had endowed man with the ability to distinguish right from wrong and the Scripture was all they needed to lead a life that could please God and man.  These were the true free-will democrats that could not with a clear conscience accept religious conformity.  They had no problem with being subjects to the state or a king but not to a human being elevated to the position that dictated what one had to believe.  But, when some of the Dissenters were granted such liberty, they too denied it to others.  Kings were more tolerant than the religious leaders.  Fredrick the Great had no conviction regarding the faith of others as long as they were productive citizens and so these people were.  Catharine of Russia also allowed the Mennonites, Huguenots and others to make their homes in her adopted country.  My ancestors were driven from Belgium, Holland and the Palatine.  They were Lutherans and settled in West Prussia under the Great Fritz.  Later, the Poles drove them to the Ukraine.  Lutherans and not Catholics persecuted my ancestors when some became Baptists, some Church of God and some Pentecostal.  The Polish Catholics and the Russian Orthodox political leaders valued these peace loving, hard working and self-sustaining settlers.  The common people did not welcome the new comers.  Ultimately, politics did change and intolerance drove many of our people to the new world of the Americas and elsewhere.
The first to explore North America were Norsemen, Spaniards, Portuguese and Frenchmen.  They explored with armies, traders accompanied with Roman Catholic priests to plunder and evangelize the heathen.   Over one hundred years before the rise of the British Empire disabled Spain, Portugal and France to plant permanent settlements, Portugal had acquired Brazil by 1510.   During the same time, Spain had moved as far north as Florida, New Mexico territory and California.  French traders with Jesuit priests by 1608 had laid claim to Quebec, Canada, Louisiana territory, half of New York, half of Maine and half of Vermont.  The homeless that came from Europe had nowhere to go but to settle in the new world.  They had come to survive so they could practice their faith and with the help of friendly Indians they did.  North America became a haven for Dissenters and Separatists to mushroom and impose their understanding of the Bible on each other.  They formed small theocracies.  The Pilgrims (1620) and the other new comers all began strong within their own limits and persuasions.  There was no unity among them.  They like the Europeans feared for their faith or dogmas from people that were different in culture, race and religion.  Congregationalists in Plymouth placed Roger Williams in stocks for his Baptist conviction.  He escaped to Rhode Island and formed his own intolerant colony.  The Plymouth settlers made a pact with the Indians and then coerced them to become Christians.  Pennsylvania, under the Quaker William Penn, was more tolerant but did not encourage any cooperation or interaction.  The different persuasions, races and cultures remained distinct and isolated from each other in all of the new settlements.
The Mayflower people were not the first to settle permanently.  To grow the Empire, the king needed revenue and people to manage the huge colonies.  King Henry VII asked John Cabot and sons to explore the Carolinas in 1497 and Sir Walter Raleigh the Virginias in 1607.  These settlers were royal loyalists and Anglicans and many after the revolution for independence moved to Canada.  Those that remained became Episcopalian and separated from the Church of England.   All denominations severed their European hold on them except the Catholics.  George Calvert, eminent Catholic and friend to Charles I was granted a charter for Maryland and a haven for Catholics in 1634.   The Marylanders were tolerant to other persuasions and ended up being outnumbered by Protestants.  The Colony was the first to adopt the “Toleration Act of Religion” in 1649.   The Dutch Reformed Calvinists settled in New Amsterdam (New York) in1623, but gave way to the English and was renamed New York.   Lutheranism also came in 1623 and the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians in 1640.  William Penn planted his roots in Pennsylvania for his Quakers or Friends in 1660, but could not deny access to Mennonites, Dunkers and Moravians in 1688.   John Wesley brought a revived Anglicanism to America that became known as Methodism.  By the time the U.S.A became a nation, their influence of Christianity on public life was at a minimum.   Before the infusion of Pietism and Revivalism led by Whitefield a predestinarian, Wesley an Arminian (free-will), Edwards a Calvinist, rationalism under Kant, Bacon and Descartes elevated reason as man’s solid guide rather than a divine source or a god.   Naturalism or Deism held on to one Creator that left man to tend for himself with reason as a sufficient guide.  Romanticism held that reason needed a sister to understand the interaction between reason and life itself.  Descartes thought, therefore he was.  Schleiermacher felt, therefore he knew that he was.  One could not know without feeling.  His theology of feeling became essential to conversion, repentance and forgiveness.  All these movements were instrumental in forming the basis for a society where freedom, tolerance and cooperation could coexist and prosper.  The Great Awakening incorporated all these ideas and emerged as the purest form of humanism.  For the Christian, God was in love with man and supplied all his needs.  And no one could dispute his feelings for God, Christ or the Holy Spirit.  For one hundred years, revivalism had become a way of life for the pioneers that build this nation.  For being left alone, Christians served government as well as they did God.