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Corrugated Crosses, Common Sense & History

This year in our region we are celebrating the founding of Jamestown as the first permanent English settlement in modern-day America. It's good for tourism and a nice milestone for people to remember that we're part of something bigger than ourselves.

But Christians are at it again...
Don't get me wrong, I love Christians... I'm married to one... and I am one! I even Pastor a local Christian church. But sometimes I can't help but to view a segment of our Christian friends as "out to lunch".

This week all over our area we now have these cheap crosses made of corrugated plastic dotting every major road and intersection. On the front are the dates 1607 and 2007. Also on them it says "Reclaiming America for God". I have some problems.

1. They're ugly.
2. They remind me of crosses set up for where people have died in car accidents.
3. The dates look like dates on a tombstone. (Did America die this year?)
4. My well meaning Christian friends need a history lesson.

[To skip history, scroll down to the next header in red]

The lesson I wish my cross-planting Christian friends would consider.

While certainly most of the people who came over from Europe came with a faith, most did not come with the intention of establishing "freedom of religion" for God's glory. Those who came with a faith for the most part were still loyalists to the Church of England. The state-run church. There were those who came seeking a separatist position (protestant view) but to think that America was founded on some sort of unifying faith in Christ is crazy. It was settled by various groups who held various views. It's not as if our forefathers were unified in some one Christian faith.

People came over in the early years for various reasons. The ones who came for religious reasons weren't interested in freedom of worship... they were wanting freedom for their style of worship at the exclusion to others. In essence many of them wanted a continuation of the state run church. Their difference was just to cater it to their liking. Cafeteria Christians existed even back then.

True "freedom of religion" as we think of it today didn't exist early on. This "heretical" attitude came because of a maverick named Roger Williams who was insane enough to hold a few truths and stand for them.

He was booted from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635 for his beliefs... below is a copy of the court's decision:

Whereas, Mr Roger Williams, one of the elders of the Church of Salem, hath broached and divulged divers new and dangerous opinions against the authority of magistrates and…yet maintaineth the same without retraction, it is therefore ordered, that the said Mr. Williams shall depart out of this jurisdiction within six weeks now ensuing…

Mr. Williams holds forth these four particulars;

1st. That we have not our land by patent from the King, but that the natives are the true owners of it, and that we ought to repent of such a receiving of it by patent.
[Basically that it's not right for us to slaughter the natives and steal their land. If we're Christians who want to witness to them we should buy their land at a fair price. He went on to prove this in how he established Rhode Island.]

2nd. That it is not lawful to call a wicked person to swear, to pray, as being actions of God's worship.
[The government shouldn't force actions which are left to the work of the Holy Spirit. As today, the thought was to get people to ACT Christian and they'll BE Christian. Roger Williams saw problems with this (as do I)]

3rd. That it is not lawful to hear any of the ministers of the parish assemblies in England.
Basically he was a seperatist. He believed the church here shouldn't answer the the Church in England. Up to this point there was 'congregationalism' where Puritans wanted to remain connected but different. Basically they felt they could purify the church from within whereas the Separatists believed the Church was completely screwed up and it wasn't going to turn around... so it's best to separate. One of the charges against Williams was that he didn't believe the Church in England had authority over the parishioners in America.

4th. That the civil magistrate's power extends only to the bodies and goods, and outward state of men…
Basically the local church has religious liberty and the state magistrates shouldn't be dealing out church discipline. Let the authority of the church be separate from the authority of the state. Church handles church discipline while the state handles state discipline.

If you've read this far, I'm proud of you.
[End of History Lesson]

Why do I spend my time on this post? Why do I get frustrated at the well meaning Christians? It's because I'm tired of ignorance in the Church. I'm tired of the cross denominational back biting and I'm tired of people thinking that days gone by were so much more pure and people back then were so much closer to Jesus. They weren't. They are as sinful as the early church and they are as sinful as people of today.

Christianity hasn't ever been 'easy' and it won't be in the future (Hebrews 11:36-38 anyone?) Were there some well meaning Christians who came over to sincerely spread the gospel? Sure. But were there some completely wacked out people who wanted to prostitute the church as a cover for spreading England's dominance? You betcha.

I don't get why Christians try to hold tightly to a slanted view of history. Are we afraid of telling people that many who came to the colonies weren't saints? Are we afraid that God will be tarnished if we tell people that in truth many settlers came over with an arrogant attitude and killed off the natives to steal their land instead of trying to buy it from them? That they believed their right to the land came not from respecting property of the natives but rather by the decree of a foreign king? Are we afraid to admit that people lived here before Christopher Columbus and you can't 'discover' something that is already inhabited?

I think of Paul on Mars Hill. He comes to Athens and says "You guys are religious. So am I. Let me tell you about the god you worship." Many American colonists came over seeing themselves as a second version of the children of Israel... who were given permission by God to take violently the land before them. Many viewed the natives as either potential converts or potential enemies. If they didn't convert quick, they would be killed. Now... don't get me wrong... there were many Christian martyrs who came in peace in those days. But lets be honest and tell the whole story. God is big enough to handle the truth. Even ugly truth as people who meant well but were operating short-sighted and in their own sinful desire.

I don't want to go around putting up crosses to spread a lie that America was founded on completely pure motives. The truth is that even in the puritan colonies people were forced by law to worship. I don't believe that a regulated and forced act of worship is God's idea of salvation. Salvation is by GRACE through FAITH, not by Might makes Right. I suppose for some Christians we'd like to go back to the "good old days" of colonial evangelism where you either go to church and do as the state says or you get kicked out of your land or even killed. Where's the faith in that? Is that an attitude I want to promote as the attitude I wish to "reclaim"?

I guess it's also easier to put out crosses on roads in the cover of darkness than it is to share the gospel face to face in the daylight. I guess it's easier to put out crosses and gloss over history than it is to say that America and Christian people have misread God's play-book over and over again. We may do well to present the facts as they happened and stop trying to make up a version that seems more like a fairytale. I believe we'll gain more respect from those whom we say we're trying to reach with the love of God.

Okay.. I'm done. I feel better.

posted by Tally Wilgis @ Saturday, April 14, 2007


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