The recent election once again revealed the stark contrast of political sentiment across our nation. Rural America, as demonstrated by the red and blue maps, tends to vote conservative while large metropolitan areas lean to the left. Cities are far more attractive for those seeking financial prosperity, but the country cousins often remain in the weeds, preferring a lifestyle of greater freedom. High density populations require more rules, regulations and taxes which place greater expectations on government solutions. Consequently, big government, the manifesto of liberalism, is more palatable to the cliff dwellers, but seeking affluence as a first priority has always been beset with difficulties. “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” II Timothy 6:9
This profound truth is well illustrated in a brief examination of the very early history of our republic. The disastrous results of the Roanoke and Jamestown experiments provided a sobering backdrop for the subsequent spiritual victories of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies. For nearly three decades Queen Elizabeth I and her court had drooled with covetousness as a steady fleet of galleons transferred the plundered wealth of the Spanish Main to the coffers of King Philip II. The common man was also hypnotized by such riches. The prevailing impression was that great wealth was to be found in the New World.
Finally, in 1585, Sir Walter Raleigh led in the establishment of a pioneered colony on Roanoke Island off the coast of North Carolina. When these first settlers deserted, facing starvation, a second, more determined company was organized in 1587. When it became increasingly obvious that the local Indians were gaining in hostility toward the invasion of the palefaces, the besieged prospectors persuaded their governor, John White, to return to England for emergency relief. After a two-year delay (due to the attack of the Spanish Armada), White returned to discover America’s first ghost town. Not even a single human bone could be found.
It would be twenty years before the English people were willing to consider a return to the savage wilderness. The get-rich-quick mentality is hard to shake which once again revealed itself in the formation of the Virginia Company. Three ships laden with 144 prospectors set sail in December of 1606. A glance at the passenger manifest indicates the incentives; there were no women or families on board nor any heads of households intent on building a homestead. No one was planning on permanent residence.
The wretched passage took five long months compared with the Mayflower’s crossing of only sixty-five days. Although the later New England settlers would endure untold hardships as well, there was a discernable difference between the two experiments. Whereas their northern counterparts grew accustomed to providential interruptions of the sufferings, the Jamestown group knew only perpetual misery and despair. For instance, a mere sixteen years after the Pilgrims landed, Harvard College was founded in Cambridge with the declared purpose being “to train a literate clergy.” By comparison, a 1620 census revealed that of the 1200 would-be colonists who sailed to Virginia that year, only 200 were still alive by the following year! In 1621 another 1,580 souls attempted the trip. Of these, 1183 either died on route or shortly after arrival. Within weeks, the colony’s adjusted population of 1,240 was reduced yet again by hostile Indians who claimed an additional 400 victims. Interestingly, after fifteen disastrous Virginia winters, it was the Pilgrim Fathers, living in a harsher climate, who inaugurated a Thanksgiving on their first anniversary in New England. Is there any chance that the Jamestown destiny was sealed in Proverbs 28:22- “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him?” Was it just bad luck or a sign of divine displeasure when fire reduced Jamestown to ashes in 1608? Only three buildings survived. By this time the mortality rate was a horrific 90% per year, but the following year was even worse!
The notable difference between the Mayflower Pilgrims and the Jamestown gold seekers can be summarized in a conversation between Roger Babson and the President of Argentina. Dr. Paul Tan provides the following enlightening perspective:
Roger Babson, the statistician, was lunching with the President of Argentina. “Mr. Babson,” the President said, “I have been wondering why it is that South America with all its natural advantages, its mines of iron, copper, coal, silver and gold, its rivers and great waterfalls which rival Niagara, is so far behind North America.” Babson replied, “We’ll, Mr. President, what do you think is the reason?” He was silent for a while before he answered. “I have come to the conclusion South America was settled by the Spanish, who came to South America in search of gold; but North America was settled by the Pilgrim Fathers, who went there in search of God.”
The polarity exists not only between continents, but also between our own shores. Even blue cities have red punctuations of citizens who realize “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8). As this group becomes a lessening minority, “hope and change” is turning into “dope and danger.”