Tuesday, January 26, 2010
We have always had a love / hate relationship with immigration, ever since the days of the Puritans. As children, we were told that the Puritans came to America for religious freedom, but the truth is a really more complicated than that.
The Reformation was underway throughout Europe, and with it came new ideas about the roles of the church and the roles of the state in the lives of citizens. The Puritans were at odds with the English monarchy over religious views and hoped to create a place where everyone believed as they did. The “puritans” wanted a pure religion, one base on the strictest interpretation of the Bible, and they wanted to purge the church of any influence from Rome. Puritans did not believe in religious liberty or personal freedom of conscience. They believed only in the religious freedom of others to agree with them and, in fact, they believed that God’s will required religious intolerance.
In 1625 Charles I, became the king of England. Charles I was an authoritarian ruler who married a Catholic and proceeded to crack down on the Puritans. To the Puritans of the day, it seemed that a refuge was needed and in 1627 they began planning the Massachusetts Bay Colony as that refuge. But even so, they were not entirely free to seek this refuge. The monarchy applied a sort of loyalty test when deciding who would be allowed to immigrate.
Religious intolerance in the New World resulted in a trials for those who dared to express differing opinions. Ann Hutchinson was one person who, because of her outspoken views, caused much controversy in the new colony. As a result, she was banished from Massachusetts and excommunicated from the church for her views in 1637. That summer, as ships entered the Boston harbor, the fisherman called out to the new immigrants, “the churches are on fire!” Many of the issues from those times, such as the separation of church and state, are still alive and well today.
In was into this environment that my ancestor, Matthew Whipple immigrated from England in about 1638 and settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
Intolerance is still with us, and during times of cultural uncertainty, we may unwittingly exaggerate any perceived threats to our way of life. In the past these threats have resulted in the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the Nazis regime, and Mao’s attack on intellectuals, to name just a few.
In my woven hat Pilgrim, I depict our intolerance, past and present, through color, using black and silver to represent dark and light. The brim and crown of the hat are separated by a hat band of Bible verse, in black and white. This hat band represents the separation of church and state, but also the common basis of the laws of both. Hung at the hat band is a small lock and a set of keys. Will we use the lock as the Puritans did, to “lock” onto an intolerant view of others? Or, can we find the key to responding to threats and struggles without intolerance? Do we wish to lock out new immigrants, or make a place for them, as once was done for us?
Posted by S E at 10:11 PM