It Was Never Freedom FROM Religion
By: Jim O'Brien
What would it take for you to walk away from everything you own and move to a foreign country? Let's say you own a business, a home, have friends and family and a few financial investments. What would have to happen to you to cause you to walk away from every bit of that, put your family on a dark, damp and oftentimes smelly ship for a voyage across the ocean to spend the rest of your life in a country where people spoke a different language, had different laws and a different culture?
It would probably take an absolute catastrophe, right? Okay, can you imagine a challenge to your religious beliefs rising to the level of a catastrophic event equal to a natural disaster or military invasion? Yet virtually 100 percent of the people reading this have direct line ancestors that crossed the ocean to get to America to escape religious persecution. The inescapable fact is that this country was founded by people seeking the freedom to worship God as they understood Him. It probably wasn't the way YOU understand God, but they made their way here so you could worship God in peace even if it wasn't the way they worshiped.
During the 17th Century a group of mixed religious people from the Palatinate region of Germany suffered severe persecution. When a Lord from one area changed religious beliefs, he required that all subjects within his realm change. As a result, Catholics suffered when a Lord converted to Lutheran, or Protestants suffered when a Lord changed to Catholic. This mixed group of persecuted people numbered in the multiple thousands. Over 1,700 families immigrated to England.
In diplomatic discussions the English sought to secure religious and civil rights for the Protestants on the continent. In 1708 they even considered proposing in the negotiations for peace at Geertruidenberg that the change in a ruler's religion should not "influence the worship or revenues of his subject [by which] most of the evil effects proceeding from such a change of religion will be avoided."
One ship of about 300 passengers and crew left for America when a disease epidemic broke out in route. Of the 300 people on board only about 60 lived to make it to America. Among the survivors were ancestors to Elvis Presley, Tim McGraw and his biological father Tug McGraw.
Religious persecution is inevitably accompanied by economic deprivation and oftentimes a shortage of food. Too often the persecuted become the persecutors.
Anton Wilhelm Bohme, pastor of the German Court Chapel of St. James and an influential friend of the Palatines at court, advised a correspondent in Germany on May 26, 1710 of "the desire of many people to seek a non-sectarian Christianity in Pennsylvania." In other words, many of those coming to America wanted an end to denominational intolerance.
America was a melting pot. Huguenots, Anabaptists, Protestants, Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Pilgrims, Puritans, Mennonites, Amish-all these and more came to America looking for a place to worship God without persecution. So the residents of this country established the 1st Amendment to the Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"
What a great religious principle! It was the foundation for a free nation.
Until next time,
Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati
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