November 27, 2008


Pilgrims' Progress (Michael Rosen, 18 Sep 2006, Tech Central Station)

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War, Philbrick's masterful narrative of 17th century colonial life in Plymouth, depicts the trials and tribulations of the Pilgrims and their turbulent interactions with the Native American population of what is now New England. [...]

[A]mity with the Pokanokets slowly unraveled as a new generation began to take over. As the Pilgrims grew accustomed to the land, and as their material fortunes waxed, their need for assistance from the local Indians waned. As the burgeoning colonial population gradually acquired more and more land from the Pokanokets, Massasoit's son and successor, Philip, came to prominence in the 1670's and led a pan-Indian "resistance" movement against the Pilgrims.

The crazy quilt of sometimes allied, sometimes warring tribes included the Narragansetts, the Pequots, the Nipmucks, the Niantics, the Quabaugs, and the Sakonnets. But as the Indians closed ranks, so did the colonists. The conflict eventually enveloped all of New England and drew a thousand-man-strong militia from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Plymouth into the fray, which became known as King Philip's War.

Benjamin Church, a Rhode Islander who grew up in close proximity to the Sakonnets, distinguished himself on the battlefield and came to assume authority in the militia. Philbrick depicts Church as something of an ideal gentleman-warrior who resisted the hate-drenched slaughter of innocents pressed by his comrades-in-arms.

In the author's telling, only when the colonists started to co-opt some of these tribes and neutralize others did they find "the secret to winning the war." Adopting the tactics of the natives -- hiding in swamps, fanning out in dispersed fashion, traveling by night -- the militia began to take control. Church's band of friendly Indians eventually located and captured Philip himself, thereby effectively ending the conflict.

Philbrick doesn't mince words in his description of the combatants. At times he goes overboard in a vaguely politically correct indictment of the colonists. In his words, by July 1675, "most English inhabitants had begun to view all Indians with racist contempt and fear." He writes of "the horrors of European-style genocide" inflicted on the Narragansetts, horrors that included widespread deportation into Carribean slavery.

But he also depicts the Indians' guerrilla tactics and their desire to "kill men, women and children." They kidnapped women and held them hostage. And while they never raped their female captives, the tribes acquired a reputation for "savage, barbarous cruelt[ies]" such as ritual torture.

There are indeed many illuminating parallels between King Philip's War and our current struggle against Islamism.

It doesn't get any funnier than listening to irate American Christians shrieking about how Islam is the opposite of our peaceful religion, as if we took over the Hemisphere by reasoning with the savages.

MORE (via Qiao Yang):
Apologize for what? (David Warren, 9/16/06, Ottawa Citizen)

Here is the point Pope Benedict was making, also in the words of that learned Byzantine emperor, speaking on the eve of one of the many sieges of Constantinople:

"God is not pleased by blood, and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats. ... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death."

It is a point the Greek-educated and Christian emperor takes as self-evident, but which is not self-evident to a theology that holds God entirely beyond human reason, and says He may command whatever He commands, including conversion by force should He so will. As the Pope said, it is a conflict that stabs us once again today: Does God act with "logos"? (This is the Greek word for "reason" as well as "word") How do we defend this very Catholic (and Orthodox) idea outside the Church, where our own theological assumptions are not shared?

[originally posted: 09/18/06]

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 27, 2008 5:09 AM
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