Dead Pilgrims’ Society

One of the most popular movies of 1989 was Dead Poets' Society, about a group of classmates in a boys' school who formed a secret society to celebrate American poets. Well, Christians might do well to adapt their example and form a Dead Pilgrims' Society. Why? Because today's kids are being fed a half-baked version of Thanksgiving lore, complete with glazed facts, mashed multiculturalism, and a generous helping of censorship. Several new children's books about the Pilgrims have just hit bookstore shelves. But in a cold November blast of secularism, much of the spiritual component has been blown away. As a result, our children are consuming a dumbed-down version of Christian history. They're taught that the Pilgrims risked their lives traversing the ocean for economic gain, not religious freedom. And that first Thanksgiving feast? It's described as nothing more than a three-day binge with the Indians. Take, for example, a new book called The First Thanksgiving by Jean Craighead George. As this book tells it, the Pilgrims left Europe "to seek their fortune in the New World." That would have come as news to the Pilgrims themselves. Pilgrim leader William Bradford wrote in his diary that the voyage was motivated by "a great hope… for advancing the kingdom of Christ." And when it comes to Thanksgiving itself, in this book the religious dimension finds no place at the table. The author states flat-out, "This was not a day of Pilgrim thanksgiving"—thanksgiving to God, that is. Instead, she writes, "This was pure celebration." Odd. That's not the way the Pilgrims themselves remembered it. Listen again to the account by William Bradford, who was actually there: "The Lord sent them such seasonable showers," Bradford writes, that "through his blessing [there was] a fruitful and liberal harvest… For which mercy… they set apart a day of thanksgiving." Why aren't we hearing this side of the Thanksgiving story? Some historians seem to view America's Christian heritage with about as much enthusiasm as they would a plateful of Hamburger Helper on the Thanksgiving table. And I can think of at least one reason: It's become a fun game for secularists to deride Christians as poor, ignorant, and easily led. But far from being easily led, the Pilgrims themselves led the way to settle the New World. These people sailed across dangerous oceans without the benefit of a government grant. They built their own housing in freezing weather without the assistance of a public works program. And when they fell sick, they didn't look to a government health program to take care of them. Even in the face of death, they nurtured a thankful spirit to God. It's difficult to poke fun at hardy souls like these, men and women of strong character and stronger faith. Which may explain why secular historians prefer to pretend they never existed. Christians need to read the books our own children are getting, and look for accurate versions of the Pilgrim story. And if we can't find them, we may have to start writing our own books. If it takes a Dead Pilgrim's Society to preserve our Christian past, show me where to sign up.


Chuck Colson



  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary