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‘Desolate Wilderness,’ ‘Fair Land’

Faith & Inspiration

The Wall Street Journal is not to every social conservative’s taste, in part because capitalism is a raging bull, knocking over traditions as it brings economic advance. But in one way the WSJ is thoroughly traditional: On every Thanksgiving since 1961 it has run the same two-part editorial, one that honors the social conservatives of 1620 called Pilgrims. Yesterday was no exception.

The first part, titled “The Desolate Wilderness,” quoted the account by Pilgrim leaders William Bradford and Nathaniel Morton of the Mayflower’s arrival in a new world. I love these last three descriptive paragraphs:

“Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

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“Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

“If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.”

The second WSJ segment, titled “And the Fair Land,” registered what I (and many others, I suspect) feel whenever we return to the United States after travel in the underdeveloped countries of the world. During the past month I’ve been in Africa and Central America, and it’s good to be back in the USA, even though now—as in 1961—it has an “air of unease that hangs everywhere.”

The WSJ went on to say regarding Americans:

“Sometimes the traveler is asked whence will come their succor. What is to preserve their abundance, or even their civility? How can they pass on to their children a nation as strong and free as the one they inherited from their forefathers? How is their country to endure these cruel storms that beset it from without and from within?

“Of course the stranger cannot quiet their spirits. For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue. No man, if he be truthful, can say that the specter of war is banished. Nor can he say that when men or communities are put upon their own resources they are sure of solace; nor be sure that men of diverse kinds and diverse views can live peaceably together in a time of troubles.

“But … we can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.”

Blessing: Too bad that word did not play a more prominent part in the WSJ’s second segment. The segment did not mention what motivated the Pilgrims to travel the Atlantic: They yearned to be free to worship God. They knew blessings came from the Lord, and unless we remember the same, this fair land will fall. On the day after Thanksgiving we should not stop thanking God for His kindness to us, and praying for more unmerited mercy.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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