Why Did the Pilgrims Come to America? With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, those of us who follow tradition will celebrate the day by telling our families the Pilgrims’ story before we head to the mall or turn on the football game.
And as is customary, we will tell a lot of the story incorrectly. The majority of the errors will be insignificant. We’ll picture the Pilgrims sitting at a large table full of turkey and pumpkin pie, their enormous silver buckles and black coats.
Though these are minor distinctions that don’t significantly alter the story’s spirit, it would be more appropriate to picture them dressed in vibrant colors, sitting on the ground, and savoring turnips and eels.
Why Did the Pilgrims Come to America?
The idea that the Pilgrims came to America in quest of religious freedom is appealing, but it is simply not true.
Religious persecution drove the Pilgrims from England to Holland in 1608, but none of the Pilgrim writers suggested that a yearning for greater religious freedom drove them to leave Holland for America in 1620.
According to them, God had endowed Holland with “much peace and liberty.” They cited reasons other than religious persecution for their desire to relocate across the seas.
When it came down to it, the Pilgrims had two primary concerns about their experience in Holland and why they opted to come to America: (1) it was a difficult location to raise their children and (2) it was an even more difficult place to make a living.
Most Pilgrim families lived in dwellings that were little bigger than a couple hundred square feet. The majority worked as textile workers in their own houses from dawn to sunset, six days a week, just to keep body and soul together.
What Does the Pilgrims’ Relocating to America Remind Us Of?
The reason given by the Pilgrims for coming to America is reminiscent of the story of the sower told by Jesus.
You recall how the word of God, like a seed, is thrown by a sower and lands on many surfaces, not all of which bear fruit.
When a seed falls on stony ground, it sprouts right away, but the plant withers in the midday sun. After a seed tossed among thorns sprouts, the surrounding weeds suffocate it.
According to what Jesus told His followers, the former stands for people who joyfully accept the message but falter “when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake” (Mark 4:17).
The latter is symbolic of individuals who let “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things” choke out the word (Mark 4:19).
By highlighting the Pilgrims’ purported quest for religious liberty, we increase the heat of persecution to the status of the main threat in their narrative.
The Pilgrims’ journey to America was a journey of faith, perseverance, and hope. They came in search of religious freedom and a new life, and their arrival changed the course of American history.