Myths about Pilgrim's sexual attitudes

They were not as myth says incapable of pleasure. But they were very serious about putting God before secular fun. They placed primary importance on spiritual growth – in fighting Satan and pleasing God. They had their faults but they were overall exemplary people with extremely high standards and very goal oriented but they enjoyed life, family and the marriage bed.

In the book Stepping Stones we read, "One of the canards hung on the Pilgrims was that they were opposed to sex and repressed it sternly.  Hardly an accurate reflection of fact.  They had large families.  Widowers and widows remarried quickly, sometimes within weeks after the death of a spouse. They did oppose and punish both illicit sex and perversion.  But they believed in normal sex."

Traditional Roles for Men and Women

In the book, A Little Commonwealth, we read, "We know in a general way that male dominance was an accepted principle all over the Western World in the seventeenth century.  The fundamental Puritan sentiment on this matter was expressed by Milton in a famous line in Paradise Lost: 'he for God only, she for God in him;' and there is no reason to suspect that the people of Plymouth would have put it any differently....Within the family the husband was always regarded as the 'head'".

The Pilgrim pastor John Robinson held a different view than most who held Eve to be the cause of the fall of man and therefore all women were suspect.  He "opposed any tendency to regard women as 'necessary evils' and greatly regretted the currency of such opinions among 'not only heathen poets ... but also wanton Christians.'  The Lord had created both man and woman of an equal perfection, and 'neither is she, since the creation more degenerated than he from the primitive goodness.'  Still, in marriage some principles of authority were essential, since 'differences will arise and be seen, and so the one must give way, and apply unto the other; this, God and nature layeth upon the woman, rather than upon the man.'  Hence the proper attitude of a wife towards her husband was 'a reverend subjection." America should restore these traditional views in their families.

Marriage was a very serious commitment.  Young people went through courtship with parental approval.  "Marriage came somewhat later than it does now and needed at the outset substantial gifts of property from both sets of parents."  Men usually did not gain positions of power and prestige until they were older.

Family functions

The book A Little Commonwealth explains that the Pilgrim family was central to the community and had many functions.  It was "first of all, a 'business' -- an absolutely central agency of economic production and exchange."

"The family was also a 'school' in which parents had the responsibility to teach their children 'at least to be able duely to read the Scriptures."

"The family was a 'vocational institute.'"  Young men were apprentices.

"The family was a 'church.'  ... Daily prayers and personal meditation formed an indispensable adjunct to the more formal devotions of a whole community."

"The family was a 'house of correction.'  Idle and even criminal persons were 'sentenced' by the Court to live as servants in the families of more reputable citizens.  The household seemed a natural setting both for imposing discipline and for encouraging some degree of character reformation."

"The family was a 'welfare institution'; in fact, it provided several different kinds of welfare service.  It was occasionally a 'hospital' ... an 'orphanage' ... an 'old people's home' ...  and it was a 'poorhouse' too."
Sunday service

They held their religious services in a one story fort, built of heavy oak timbers. Cannons were mounted on the roof, and a guard kept day and night. They had to divert some men from sowing the fields to build a fort. They had heard stories of Indian attacks and many settlers being killed.

In their services the men sat on one side of the room and the women on the other. One book says, "This custom of dividing the men and women, was called 'dignifying the meeting."

"Members of the congregation lived their daily lives according to strict rules of conduct which they called the Holy Discipline of Christ.  Their place of worship was always referred to as the 'meetinghouse' in order to distinguish it from the churches that the Saints so heartily disliked."

"Beginning at eight in the morning, on the Sabbath, the congregation stood up -- sometimes for an hour -- while the opening prayer was said.  Kneeling was never permitted, since it reminded the people too much of Catholicism and the Church of England."

"The Saints next heard a sermon, which usually lasted several hours. ... When the sermon ended, another song was sung, followed by communion."  Then they left for the noonday meal.

"In the second service, which began early in the afternoon, there was an opening prayer and a short sermon delivered by the pastor.  Then a general discussion, called 'prophecying,' began, in which the men might argue their opinions of  a text from the Bible.  The women remained modestly silent at all times, for they were not permitted to speak out at meeting."

"The bishops of England" mocked and laughed at how the Pilgrims had such long prayers and "frequent and farfetched sighs."  They even made fun of their short haircuts.

In the summer the air was stifling hot. Little fresh air came through the small windows. In the winter they wrapped themselves in extra shawls. The long benches they sat on had no backs to lean against. In the winter they shivered in the cold. They sang many songs and it lasted till five or six o'clock. Rev. Moon also divides men and women during his services and he often talks for hours without a lunch or dinner break.  Sometimes he speaks all day without stopping.  And often the members are sitting on hard floors, not comfortable chairs or even benches.  Members of the Unification Church also spend long hours on Sunday when Rev. Moon speaks.  He begins every Sunday at 5 a.m. and sometimes speaks all day without any break.  Not even to go to the bathroom or take lunch.  Some former members have written how hard it was and to them it now seems ridiculous that he does this.  But this is just another example of the fervency and urgency that pioneers feel.

During the Sunday service a man was assigned to make sure everyone paid attention – a physically enduring day. He stood at the back with a long birch rod in his hand. On one end was a squirrel’s tail and on the other a bone knob. If anyone fell asleep he tickled the person awake, and anyone who did not pay attention or misbehaved was rapped smartly with the hard bone knob.

The courage and strength of these young people are legendary. They are the most famous settlers of America. Today we call them the Pilgrim Fathers, but it is not realized by most that they were very young people.

Bradford writes movingly of how in the first few years men staggered in the street from hunger as they tried to work from morning till night, barely able to work in the corn fields which they depended on for their very lives.

Bradford wrote that the settlers were in rags, some of whom were "little better than half naked." When the newcomers arrived in late 1621, they were so horrified at the ragged condition of the Pilgrims that some "fell a-weeping." The English merchants kept sending people but no supplies. The Pilgrims were forced to go on half rations. They went three years without receiving desperately needed food, clothes and tools, but received extremely incredible difficulties because there were more people.

In 1624 the ship Charity arrived with supplies. The atmosphere of Plymouth was as happy as a modern day Christmas. They eagerly tore open the barrels and wooden chests, and exclaimed joyfully over seeing such things as new shoes and tools.
 Can we go on half-rations?

When the Pilgrims had to go on half rations "they bore it patiently with hope of supply." Can we go on half-rations of corn and beans for months without complaint "patiently with hope?"  Many Americans are obese.  We are so low spiritually that we lead the world in clogged arteries.  One of the first things Americans need to do is simply quit eating so many donuts.  God wants us to be a disciplined people, but the world looks upon us as fat slobs.

The story of the Pilgrims is deeply relevant to Americans. America must serve the world. It must be able to go on half rations. It must fight its enemies when they attack, and it must win them over as the Pilgrims did Squanto. We must get up and pray with our children and go to bed with prayers. Our challenge is greater than theirs. They could never do what they did without God, and we cannot do we must do without an intimate relationship all day long with God as the Pilgrims had. God was the center of their lives, and we must revive America to do the same.

Often the Pilgrims went to bed not knowing where their next day's food would come from. This did not stop them from loving God and giving thanks and singing songs to him.

Socialism to Capitalism

Robert Cushman came the next year and lectured them on socialism. He used the verse First Corinthians 10:24: "Let no man seed his own, but every man another's wealth."

Bradford wrote that after several years of living a communistic, socialist life that people lost the will to work. It was natural to pool their resources together when they first landed, but after they established themselves it was obvious that a new way of ordering themselves was needed. Bradford completely changed things.  He gave everyone their own piece of land.  Having private property encouraged everyone to work in the fields, even women and children. Plato was shown to be wrong in advocating socialism. Bradford saw that the idea that political systems do not make a difference but what matters is only that men are good and then there will be prosperity was wrong. He saw that socialism was ineffective because it had been tried by "Godly and sober men" i.e., extremely religious and selfless persons and still after "years" there was constant poverty. "Taking away property" he found did not make for a "happy and flourishing" people.

By introducing capitalism he laid the foundation for America's future wealth. In the spring of 1623 Bradford abandoned the pure communism they had used to structure themselves. To stimulate production of corn and prevent the constant penury of nearly always almost starving they changed their economics. Each household could keep all the corn and other produce they managed to grow on its own plot. The results were dramatic and Bradford writes: "So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression."

"The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst Godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort."

This is one of the most eloquent and powerful statements against socialism and for free enterprise ever written.

They were under contract with 70 merchant business men to work seven years. They were indentured servants for seven years, during which time they had no freedom.

Bradford knowingly broke the agreement with the English merchants. He announced that every man would raise his own corn. But that spring after planting all their seed corn, they had nothing to eat: "All their victuals were spent, and they were only to rest on God's providence; at night not many times knowing where to have a bite of anything the next day."

So they turned to the sea and worked long hours there and lived day by day with what they caught. Free enterprise brought a bumper crop and never again was Plymouth to know a shortage of bread. In fact, from that time on there was always a surplus to sell.

Communism abandoned at Jamestown too

In Virginia, Jamestown had also experimented with communism, but, like Plymouth, it proved to be disastrous.  Every settler was given land of his own from which he was to support himself. This change was a striking lesson in human nature and the science of government. Each person became immediately industrious when he saw that his labor would bring him direct reward. One colonist wrote that "Three men did more work under the new rule than twenty did under the old." Communism discourages extra labor and frugality. God's economics is laissez-faire capitalism.  I discuss this in detail in my chapter called "Prosperity" which deals with economics in my book Divine Principle II: Ten Keys to Building the Ideal World at