Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of columns Doug Phillips will write for WND about the quadricentennial of the settlement of Jamestown, Va., being celebrated this year.
It’s a tale of two cities. But this time the cities have the same name, the same founding fathers and the same anniversary.
As America remembers her 400th birthday at Jamestown in 1607, two competing histories and two rival visions of our nation have emerged. The winner will define the way the boys and girls look at themselves, their future and their nation.
The first Jamestown is a fiction. It is a pretend story that American schoolchildren are being spoon-fed by revisionist historians and special interest groups as part of the highly politicized events surrounding the quadricentennial.
Example: Boys and girls attending the state-sponsored Jamestown commemoration (and please don’t call it a “celebration,” for this phrase has been officially removed) may attend signature events where they can listen to speeches like “The Ecology of Jamestown – Origin of Environmental Injustice in America,” or watch panel discussions including the Rev.’s Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Otis Moss, the latter of which boldly declared the Jamestown settlers to be guilty of a “holocaust” and “lynchings.”
Students can even log on to the official Colonial Williamsburg site for articles that insist that Pocahontas was “forcibly converted” to Christ and that the Jamestown settlers were predisposed toward cannibalism because they craved human flesh.
The message of the Jamestown revisionists is clear: Christian settlers were vicious savages, genocidal murderers and environmental terrorists. In contrast, native pagans were noble, civilized and peace-loving. The providential history of America’s founding is a national embarrassment. Children should hate their forefathers.
But there is another Jamestown that American boys and girls can remember for their 400th birthday party. It is the same Jamestown that has been honored and remembered on historic jubilee and centennial celebrations spanning the last 200 years.
It is the real Jamestown – the story of imperfect but remarkable men who were instruments of a sovereign Creator to establish a nation of law and liberty under God.
What is the Christian legacy of Jamestown?
That story really begins in the 16th century with a visionary named Richard Hakluyt. A prolific author, cartographer and ordained minister, Hakluyt is the man primarily responsible for persuading the monarchy and a generation of explorers that Virginia was the best place for carrying out the Great Commission. His vision of discipleship and dominion was formally enshrined in the Virginia Charter of 1606.
The men who arrived at Jamestown inaugurated their settlement with the planting of a cross, thanksgivings to God and followed with daily prayers. They would build the first church in American history, disciple the first Indian converts and perform the first Christian baptisms.
Jamestown is the spot of America’s first “interracial” marriage based on the Christian faith. In his eloquent letter to the governor of Jamestown, John Rolfe would argue for the legitimacy of marriage, regardless of skin color or national origin, where the couple was united by faith in Christ. His theological argument won the day and established a legal precedent that endured for more than half a century.
The Jamestown settlers gave the Holy Scriptures a permanent home in America. This is perhaps the most enduring legacy of Jamestown. The coming of the Bible to America fundamentally changed the history of the North American continent. It was the Bible that communicated the hope of personal redemption and the basis for stable civilization.
This is one reason why Jamestown would become the first permanent settlement to establish a legal system based directly on the moral law of God and the applicable principles found in the case laws of Holy Scripture. This Christian “common law” was later incorporated by direct reference into our United States Constitution. Jamestown also gave us our first experiment in republican representative government, a model that finds its origins in the Hebrew Republic of the Old Testament, and was formally adopted by the Founding Fathers of a later generation.
While the legacy of Christian Europeans at Jamestown is not without its bumps and warts, the lasting influence of the settlement would change the world – and dramatically for the better! Before the arrival of these Protestant Christians and the successful planting of the first permanent English settlement, North America was dominated by warring tribes engaged in demonic activities like paganism, cannibalism and ritual torture.
Whether the sons and daughters of the 21st century experience a jihad of hatred against our Christian forebears – or whether they can rejoice in a jubilee of thanksgiving – largely depends on the messages we send them.
But there is reason for great hope.
For the week of June11-16, thousands of grateful families from across the United States of America will gather for an unabashed celebration. In the grand tradition of great centennial events of the past, “The Jamestown Quadricentennial: A Celebration of America’s Providential History” will trumpet a message of hope. Boys and girls will learn to defend their history. They will rejoice in dramatic presentations, tethered hot air balloon tours, boat rides and period music. Children will recite poetry, wear vintage costumes and listen to great orators of our day tell the true stories of 400 years of the providence of God and the perseverance of the American people.
They will learn that Christian civilization did not bring perfection, but it brought the hope, and later the reality, of law and liberty under God.