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On the pilgrims' path


The big skies and country where pilgrims lived in England may have inspired them to head toward the the big skies of America.

Sturton le Steeple / Image: Wikimedia Commons

Charles McGrath writes in the New York Times:

Nowadays Pilgrims, with their funny, steeple-crowned hats and buckle shoes and their gloomy, pious ways (no games on Sunday, no celebrating even of Christmas!), have gone out of fashion.

. . .But the Pilgrims were nevertheless heroic in their way. . . .at the heart of their convictions was a radical political thought: that the state had no business in the running of religion, and that congregations had the right to elect their own leaders.

Author Charles McGrath headed back to England to look at "the handful of farming villages in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and southern Yorkshire, most within walking distance of one another" from which the pilgrims came. He meets author Nick Bunker, who wears "riding breeches, stout boots and thick knee socks" - very practical clothes, actually, with a bit of dash. Bunker wrote about the pilgrims after leaving his stockbroker's job.

I'm afraid the pilgrims thought that England was Babylon (in the Scriptural sense). Ah, well, they found Babylon wherever they went.

Americans have profited from their idea that religion should be free of government. That was an idea which was first established in 1215, in Magna Carta. But as we see today, rights and freedom which were won centuries ago have to be defended. Sometimes they have to be fought for all over again.

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