This past week the news was all atwitter over the Brexit vote in Britain. (I think I just turned a humorous phrase in that sentence.) You may agree with the all-knowing world rulers who claim the exit will collapse the world economy, but it reminded me that people really do want to be free and control their own destiny. As we approach our own Independence Day, consider these two great stories from The Wonder of America by Derric Johnson. (It contains 100 short “remarkable stories celebrating the spirit of our nation.”)
A few years after James became king, a number of the Separatists living in England made up their minds to form a church of their own. They met for worship every week in the home of William Brewster, one of their members. The king was displeased. “Since these men do not obey me,” he declared, “they must be punished.” And they were. A few were thrown into prison; some were hanged. But the Separatists believed they were right. They decided to leave their country and venture to Holland where they could worship God as they pleased. They found that they didn’t want their English children using Dutch ways and words, but wanted them to be English in language, manners, and habits. King James was unwilling for them to live anywhere under his rule, but finally agreed to not disturb them in America, if they gave him no trouble. So they borrowed money and sailed from Holland to England. There they hired a small ship called the Mayflower and sailed from London. After 64 days at sea, they anchored off the New England coast. Because of their wanderings, they called themselves pilgrims. And it’s important to remember that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their plows, but to secure liberty for their souls.
The year 1776 saw 13 American colonies put together an army that ultimately defeated the forces of England. That victory was only a little more remarkable than the fact that the colonists were able to put together an army at all. Great divisions in lifestyles (one-family farms in the north and large plantations in the south), strong differences between those who lived in the sophisticated seacoast cities and those in the rural interiors, and various backgrounds were some of the problems. The Dutch in New York, Germans of Pennsylvania, Swedes of Delaware, Scots of North Carolina, as well as the Quakers, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Puritans, and Catholics – all of whom knew little tolerance – also contributed to the problem that became a miracle. Men from Maine and the South united with men from Georgia and the north under a general from Virginia to form one army, for one cause, for one nation: America.