In the United States, our established practices of life and living – customs if you will – began during the early “Colonial Period” of our nation’s history. This would be the first 50 to 100 years of the great migration of English men and women during the early part of the 17th century (1607 to 1661).
Our English forebears came to this country in search of two things: “religious freedom” and a better “material way of life.”
When one surveys the early literature of the American colonies, one can only be struck with a sense of awe on how the early colonists felt that they were led by “The Hand of Divine Providence” to emigrate to America.
I have been recently surveying some of the early writings by two of the American Colonies earliest luminaries: William Bradford (1500-1657) and John Winthrop (1588-1649). Both of these men were two of the early Governors of what was known as the “Plymouth Bay Colony” (eventually renamed the Massachusetts Bay Colony).
Both Governors Bradford and Winthrop wrote two wonderful key manuscripts that were in essence their personal journals that have survived over the last several centuries. Mr. Bradford wrote “From Of Plymouth Plantation” and Mr. Winthrop wrote “A Model of Christian Charity.”
When you read these books you are immediately struck with the fact that “The Holy Bible” (most likely the Protestant Geneva Bible) was continually cited and referenced to throughout their writings.
What many Americans today fail to remember is that the early colonists were direct descendants of an earthshaking revolution known as “The Protestant Reformation.”
A slight digression is in order here: This writer would highly commend to your reading one of the historian Jacques Barzun’s magisterial works entitled, “From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present- 500 Years of Western Cultural Life” (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, New York, 828 pages, 2000).
According to Barzun, there are two key components to every revolution and they are the transfer of both (1.) Power and (2.) Property within a nation or society.
Mr. Barzun states that over the last 500 years (1500 to 2000) that the Protestant Reformation was the equivalent of a “seismic earthquake” that tore Europe asunder and laid the groundwork / framework of the modern world.
The Protestant Reformation was really a series of schisms & transformations within Christendom that upended and destroyed the dominant Religious Hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church (up until Luther nailed his 95 theses on the Church at Wittenberg in 1517, Western Europe was thoroughly Roman Catholic).
The Protestant Reformation produced a Roman Catholic Counter-Revolution known as “The Council of Trent” (the theological writings of this council produced the Roman Catholic Tridentine Church 1546 to 1965).
Martin Luther followed on the tails of the great Roman Catholic Man of Letters, Theologian, and “Humanist” Thomas Erasmus.
Erasmus and Luther were two clerics who upended Europe of the early 1500s by their writings and incessant questioning of what was the proper role of The Church with regards to mediating Christ’s Saving Work to Christian believers.
The early “pilgrims” and “emigrates” to the American Colonists were men and women whose lives had been radically transformed by the ongoing metamorphous being produced by the aftershocks of the ministries of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Saint Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Society of Jesus or “The Jesuits”); Henry VIII (The founder of The Anglican Communion or The Church of England); the Anabaptists (re-baptizers); and the emigration of the Puritans (or Separatists, men and women who wished to reform The Church of England) to America.
Bradford and Winthrop would be considered to be Pilgrims or Separatists
Today, modern “Conservatism” is thought of being (1.) Judeo-Christian; (2.) Free Market liberalism (Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations 1776); (3.) Constitutional Governance (The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of The United States; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1776); and (4.) Strong Military Defense (America’s Global role since the end of World War II).
It is important to ask a person who claims that they are a “Conservative” to explain which of the four brands of Conservative thought that they embrace.
- Are they Social (Judeo-Christian) conservatives?
- Are they Free Market (Laissez-Faire) conservatives?
- Or, are they a Limited Government (Libertarian?) conservatives who believe that “the Government that Governs least governs best?“
- Strong Military (Robust Defense) conservative?
William F. “Bill” Buckley, Jr. was known as the foremost exponent of modern day “Conservative Thought” in America in the Post World War II (1951 to 2008) era.
Mr. Buckley is best known as the founder of National Review (1955) and as the creator of the popular T.V. News Magazine known as Firing Line (1966 to 1999).
Bill Buckley embraced a view of Conservatism that he called “Fusionism.”
Buckley attempted to join or “fuse” Social (Judeo-Christian); Free Market (Economic Libertarian); and Strong Defense (Robust military preparedness) conservatism into one unified movement.
As I continue this survey on Conservative thought over the next few weeks and how it applies to our current political landscape, I would like to make a final digression to offer a prayer of “Thanksgiving” to The GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who has given us our precious liberties:
Dear LORD and Precious Heavenly Father, On this Thanksgiving Day Holiday week, it is essential that we take time to say “Thank Your O LORD” for the brilliant men and women who preceded us who have bequeathed unto to us a beautiful legacy of Faith, Freedom, Stability, and Wonderful God-given opportunities.
LORD Adonai, We Thank You for watching over us and for also allowing men and women of color who were not part of America’s original vision and promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to join their brothers and sisters in creating a wonderful nation that is still growing in reconciliation and harmony and beauty.
Heavenly Father, we Ask You to forgive us for not being as thankful as we should for the magnificent blessings that you continually bestow upon our nation and upon our children.
LORD, we ask You for Your Guidance and Help as we seek to navigate an uncertain path in the midst of turbulent times and a tumultuous future.
Finally, LORD, Your Holy Word promises us that if we will “humble ourselves and pray; and seek your face and turn from our wicked ways (Pride and Hubris) that You will Hear from Heaven and Forgive us of our sins and Heal our Land” (2 Chronicles 7.14).
We ask that You Remember Your Promise to us as expressed in 2 Chronicles 7.14.
LORD, we Praise and we Worship You!
It is in JESUS Name that we pray… AMEN!