Posts Tagged ‘Puritans’

This month, many will gather around the dinner table to celebrate Thanksgiving. For many Americans, the Thanksgiving meal includes seasonal dishes such as roast turkey with stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, yams and pumpkin pie.

For years we have been taught that in 1620 the Pilgrims sailed from England on the Mayflower to escape religious persecution and landed at what became Plymouth, Massachusetts. Over 1/2 of them died during the winter of 1620—even though by local standards, that winter was a fairly mild one. The Plymouth settlers were inexperienced at farming and not used to being exposed to the elements. The next year, with the help of the local natives, the pilgrims celebrated their first good harvest and invited a group of Native American allies to celebrate with them. The feast lasted three days. And ever since then, as the story goes, Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, this is a celebration that is based on a lie.

So what’s the true version of what happened?

The notion that the first Thanksgiving was some kind of cross-cultural love-fest, as it has been portrayed, has even been disputed by historians, who say that the settlers and the Indians were brought together more by their mutual need than by genuine friendship. The two struggling communities were never more than wary allies against other tribes. More like, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

The colonists were actually contemptuous of the Indians, who they regarded as uncivilized, paganistic heathens, and the fragile early peace between Native Americans and the early settlers would soon unravel into a horrific slaughter. When their “Native American allies” were celebrating their own green corn festival, a band of Puritans descended on their village and shot, clubbed and burned alive over 700 native men, women and children.

This slaughter, according to Robert Jensen, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was the real origin of Thanksgiving—so proclaimed in 1637 by Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop in gratitude for God’s destruction of the defenseless Pequot village. Thereafter massacres of the Indians were routinely followed by “days of thanksgiving.”

Native Americans and Israel

Although many of the early European settlers saw the Native Americans as savages (and treated them accordingly), others believed them to be the lost ten tribes of Israel. William Penn, for whom the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is named, was one who believed strongly that Native Americans came from the stock of Israelites. He was well known for his good relationships and successful treaties with the natives.

Although many Jewish scholars and historians have disputed this for years, the similarities between Israelite and Native American culture are remarkable:

They both worship one God. (Or one Great Spirit) Both groups were minorities in the face of enemy oppression—The Native Americans faced off against the expanding European colonists, while the Israelites were crushed by the powers of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Both groups have faced slavery, exile and the threat of genocide throughout history.

But what I find particularly remarkable is the similarities between Native American feasts and celebrations and God’s feasts set in the Bible. Both the Native American celebrations and the biblical Fall Feast Days typically coincide in the late summer and early fall and are tied to the ripening and harvesting of crops. They are both marked with dancing, feasting, fasting and religious observations. Activities vary from tribe to tribe, but the common thread is giving proper thanks to God.

In 1973 Dr. Joseph Mahan, an expert in ancient Indian ethnology of the southeastern Indians of the United States, discovered that the Yuchi tribe of Florida and Georgia amazingly showed strong evidence that they had contact with some form of Judaism in historic times. They had a custom that every year on the fifteenth day of the sacred month of harvest, in the fall, for eight days they lived in “booths” with roofs open to the sky, covered with branches and leaves and foliage. During this festival, they danced around the sacred fire, and called upon the name of God.

The ancient Israelites had virtually the identical custom in many respects. In the harvest season in the fall, on the 15th day of the seventh month, (Tishri) Jews and Torah observant believers celebrate the festival of booths for eight days. (Also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot in Hebrew) They live in temporary booths, covered with branches and leaves from “goodly trees”. This festival, and many others, goes back to the time of Moses and the Exodus from ancient Egypt. (See Leviticus 23)

Dr. Cyrus Gordon, of Brandeis University in Boston, was privileged to sit in on one of the fall harvest festivals of the Yuchi Indians, and listened to their chants, songs, and sacred ceremonies. An expert in Hebrew, Minoan, and many Middle Eastern languages, he was incredulous as he listened to the chants. He exclaimed to his companion, “They are speaking the Hebrew names for God!”

How is it that two totally separated peoples observe the identical custom? And since it has been a long standing custom during Sukkot to invite friends and family to share a meal inside their Sukkah, or shelter, is it possible that it was the Native Americans who invited the Pilgrims to celebrate their own fall harvest feast, and not the other way around?

Summary: 

In any civilization, error can be present, and false spirituality can arise. While I am not suggesting that Thanksgiving should become the occasion for a yearly guilt trip, we would do well to remember, as we sit around the bountiful table with our family and friends, the high price the first indigenous Americans paid for European expansion into their territories. Only by openly acknowledging the sins of our collective past, is it possible to proceed toward a future that all Americans can feel thankful for.

We need to de-program ourselves from arrogantly thinking that God would only want to reveal himself (and his laws) to just one part of his creation. We need to realize that God wants ALL of his creation to know him as Father, Creator and supplier of all our needs.

It is also worthy to note that the Native Americans themselves did not choose to identity themselves with the oppressed Jews, but outside powers did that for them.

It is clear that Native Americans possess a special spirituality, that should remind us of the holy teachings given by God—if we would only study God’s holy word and listen to his small, still voice.

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The 2016 elections have become a media circus of insults, lies, and mudslinging that the modern world has not seen before. According to politifact.com, not one of the leading candidates have been completely honest.

Donald Trump has taken many political pundits by surprise and has left the Republican Party scratching its head and wondering why he is leading the pack. Others are wondering how someone who is under a federal probe can still be so popular with Democratic voters. Some have even stated that this year’s elections could mean the destruction of our political process and the end of our constitutional freedoms.

So how did this happen?

When the Israelites wanted a king like other nations had, they were rejecting their unique, set-apart position as God’s people. The nation whose God was to be the Lord alone was envious of the nations who followed false gods. (1 Samuel 8:4)

The prophet Samuel answered the people and said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” (1 Samuel 8:11-18)

But the people no longer wanted to be ruled by God and they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (v. 19-20) And God’s people suffered great calamities for years afterward because of their decision.

It should be no surprise then, I suppose, that the powers of government have always been expanded under this same faulty way of thinking. Think of almost anything now provided by government today, (which is almost everything) and you will quickly realize that it could easily have been provided without government intervention!

God warned the Israelites that being ruled by a man would be costly both in goods and in freedom. Government is a very expensive item: you must pay for the bureaucrats who are always very wasteful, and you must give up the freedom to make your own choices, which is also very wasteful of human initiative and talent. God also pointed out that there is a point of no return on having government rule rather than God. There will come a time, God says in vs. 18, “when you will cry out for relief from the king whom you have chosen for yourselves. But the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

This is happening now! 

But it wasn’t always this way. A tiny band of religious outcasts who founded this country hit upon a formula for success that went way beyond what they could have imagined and established a nation that became the best example of civil, economic and religious liberty that the world has ever known.

Although not all the signers of the Constitution, the Declaration Of Independence and the Bill of Rights may have been Christians, they were wise enough to follow the example of those religious outcasts and use God’s rules as a blueprint for true freedom and liberty.

Sadly, it took less than 100 years for corruption to creep into our government of and by the people. Today we no longer want to be ruled by God, but like Israel of old we say,  “No! Let there be a government rule over us, that we may be like all other nations, and that our government leaders may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

So how can we apply these same foundational truths that brought our founding fathers liberty and freedom today? By turning from our wicked ways and turn back to God with a truly repentant heart; and realize that it is God alone who judges. And it is He who decides who will rise and who will fall. (Psalm 75:7; Daniel 2:21;1 Samuel 2:7)

I only pray that it’s not too late.

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.…”But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’” (2 Chronicles 7: 13-22)

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