Friday, July 04, 2014


Three groups of settlers came to America: 1) a contingent of 1,500 soldiers from Spain, representing the Spanish government and the Roman Catholic Church landed in 1565 on the northeast coast of Florida and founded the city of Saint Augustine. Their goal was exploration and the prorogation of the Catholic faith; 2) Representatives from the London Company and the Church of England settled in Jamestown, Va in 1607. They were the first to import African slaves to the continent; 3) the Pilgrims arrived in the 1620 and settled the Plymouth colony. They came to escape persecution from the Church of England for their non-conformist beliefs and to secure religious freedom. 

These three groups claimed land for themselves, displacing Native American tribes-often by means of force-that previously lived there.

Each group was a part of a different Christian tradition, but one that was not friendly to the other. Over the next 150 years the religious landscape changed in the colonies with the formation of new movements, sects and denominations such as Unitarians, Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, etc. The land in Florida remained predominately Catholic. But in 1763 England gained control of Florida in exchange for Havana, Cuba, which it had captured from Spain in the Seven Years War (1756-1763).

As people moved and migrated, the American colonies became a hodgepodge of religious expressions. The whole while the slave population exploded.

When the colonists declared independence from England, successfully fought the Revolution and eventually ratified the United States Constitution, they guaranteed "the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." Unfortunately this freedom did not extended to slaves, who were not viewed as persons but property. In fact, "the blessings of Liberty" gave citizens of American the right to own slaves.

On this Fourth of July those of us who are Anglo must never forget that the ancestors of our African American friends, relatives and neighbors had to struggle for nearly 200 more years before the promises of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were applied to them.

Which of these groups do you consider your forefathers? Colonists? Slaves? Native Americans? How you answer this question will likely influence how you celebrate Independence Day?

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