Sunday, November 28, 2004

A POOR RECOMMENDATION. David Gelertner celebrates our recent Thanksgiving by praising the magnanimity and tolerance of the Pilgrims, and by implication of current Jesus Freaks also.

Contradicting those who would make us askeered of Christian Fundamentalists, Gelertner says, "...that first thanksgiving was celebrated by radical Christian fundamentalists, and American Indians were honored guests -- as every child used to know." Gelertner's Pilgrims wore their Fundamentalism lightly, not endeavoring to convert even the heathen whose homeland they had appropriated -- "Obviously fundamentalists are capable of tolerating non-Christians on occasion" -- as Gelertner attempts to show by selective quotation:
The first settlers mostly wanted to be friends with the Indians -- and not only for obvious practical reasons. Alexander Whitaker was an early Virginia settler. His description of America was published in 1613. He doesn't think highly of American Indian religion, but goes on at length about American Indian talent and intelligence. ("They are a very understanding generation, quick of apprehension"; "exquisite in their inventions, and industrious in their labour.") And after all, he points out, "One God created us, they have reasonable souls and intellectual faculties as well as we; we all have Adam for our common parent: yea, by nature the condition of us both is all one."

In time, attitudes changed. American settlers and American Indians fell to treating one another savagely, and the Indians got the worst of it. But human greed and violence, not Christianity, brought those changes about. Christian preachers did not always condemn them -- but, Christian or not, they were mere human beings after all.
Except for the subsequent genocide, all seems cheery and tolerant, doesn't it? Unfortunately for Gelertner, Whitaker's entire text is available online, and contains passages such as this:
The naturall people of the Land are generallie such as you heard of before: a people to be feared of those that come upon them without defensive Armour, but otherwise faint-hearted (if they see their arrows cannot pearce) and easy to bee subdued. Shirts of Male, or quilted cotton coates are the best defense against them. There is but one or two of their pettie Kings, that for feare of us have desired our friendship; and those keepe good quarter with us being very pleasant amongst us, and (if occasion be) serviceable unto us. Our eldest friends be Pipsco and Choapoke, who are our overthwart neighbors at James-Towne, and have been friendly to us in our great want. The other is the Werewance of Chescheak, who but lately traded with us peaceably. If we were once the masters of their Countrey, and they stoode in fear of us (which might with few hands imployed about nothing else be in short time brought to passe) it were an easie matter to make them willingly to forsake the divell, to embrace the faith of Jesus Christ, and to be baptized.
And so it would seem Whitaker did seek to subdue his redskin predecessors, instill fear in them, and thus bring them to Jesus.

I'm beginning to see the resemblance to our current Fundies, at that.

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