"I cannot but take notice, how at another time I could not bear to be in the room where any dead person was, but now the case is changed; I must and could lie down by my dead babe, side by side all the night after. I have thought since of the wonderful goodness of God to me, in persevering me in the use of my reason and senses, in that distressed time, that I did not use wicked and violent means to end my own miserable life" (Rowlandson 41). Most early Americans, even when captured by people of another culture, did not give up their faith.It is in their faith that early Americans learned to cope with the transitions from their old lives to their new ones in America. Religion gave all people of all cultures values and helped to establish order in society.
Religion also helped early Americans to find guidance and hope in the "New World. " Furthermore, religion helped people of all walks of life in early America find common ground with each other. Many values were given to early Americans by religion. Puritans tended to value everything they had including personal belongings, land, or relationships.
The value of love was very important, especially to Puritan women. However, Puritans could not freely express their opinions on love so some wrote poems to include the value of love, such as, "I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold, or all the riches that the East doth hold" (Bradstreet 102). In contrast to Puritan beliefs, Native Americans expressed all of their feelings through stories passed down through their families. In the Iroquois tribe loyalty was valued highly.As stated in "The Iroquois Constitution", "If any man or ny nation outside the Five Nations shall obey the laws of the Great Peace and make known their disposition to the lords of the confederacy, they may trace the roots to the tree and if their minds are clean and they are obedient and promise to obey the wishes of the confederate council, they shall be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Tree of the Long Leaves" (Parker 24).
The Iroquois are saying that if another tribe will respect them and be loyal, then the Iroquois will take protect that tribe from whatever bad things may happen to it. Native Americans found comfort in having people to turn to when they were in a tough spot.Therefore the values a person possesses, if they are the same as the values of other people, can lead to friendship. Friendship also helped the Native Americans cope with the New World. In addition to giving values, religion provided order in society.
According to Puritan belief, religion is what holds everything in a person's life together and that, "... You find you are kept out of Hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation.But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it" (Edwards 108). Edwards states that even though things may seem to be going well, if a person does not believe in their religion and they do not repent God will let them go and things will fall apart.
Native Americans also find order through religion. The Five Nations, which consisted of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca tribes together, were the Iroquois Confederation.They met under what they called the Tree of the Great Peace and that was where order was established; "Under the shade of this Tree of the Great Peace we spread the soft white feathery down of the globe thistle as seats for you, Adodarhoh, and your cousin lords" (Parker 24). This tree acted as a God to the tribes, providing shelter, friendship and peace amongst them.
Religion also helped people to find hope and guidance in their lives. In Native American stories there was one person or group of people that acted as "The Creator" who made life on Earth.In the Modoc tribe's story, "The Sky Spirit broke off the small end of his giant stick and threw the pieces into the rivers. The longer pieces turned into beaver and otter; the smaller pieces became fish" (Erdoes 19). The Sky Spirit represents a mighty God who creates all life and then tells that life what to do to grow and prosper. The Sky Spirit guided the animals, plants and all other things he created by showing them how to evolve and setting an example for what things should be like on Earth.
In his guidance of the early life on Earth, the Sky Spirit set the standards for what life should be in the future years.The Europeans that came to America, however, had different ways of receiving guidance and hope than the Native Americans did. The Puritans believed that a person was nothing unless they were guided by God. "Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards Hell; and if God should let you go, plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of Hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a falling rock" (Edwards 109).
Jonathan Edwards refers to God as helping only those who deserve it, whereas Edward Taylor describes God as helping all people if He is asked. Taylor asks God to help him by saying, "Make me, O Lord, thy spinning wheel complete. The holy word my distaff make for me. Make mine affections Thy swift flyers neat And make my soul Thy holy spoole to be. My conversation make to be Thy reel And reel the yarn thereon spun of Thy wheel" (Taylor 101).
In saying this to God, Taylor is promising that if God is good to him, Taylor will see God as the basis of everything, he will obey God and he will pray. God also helps Captain John Smith when he is first starting out in Virginia. After being hungry for a long while and eating meager portions of the same meal repeatedly, God gave Smith and his men hope when the Indians "brought such plenty of their fruits and provisions that no man wanted" (Smith 73). In dealing with the separation from her children Mary Rowlandson finds comfort in religion. For as I was going up and down mourning and lamenting my condition, my son came to me, and asked me how I did; I had not seen him before, since the destruction of the town, and I knew not where he was, till I was informed by himself, that he was amongst a smaller parcel of Indians, whose place was about six miles off; with tears in his eyes, he asked be whether his sister Sarah was dead; and he told me he had seen his sister Mary; and prayed me, that I would not be troubled in reference to himself.
..I cannot but take notice of the wonderful mercy of God to me in those afflictions, in sending me a Bible" (Rowlandson 41-42). Rowlandson found refuge in the Bible to keep her mind off what could be happening to her children.
Lastly, religion provided a common ground between different cultures. When Europeans were first arriving at Plymouth Plantation, they had to cope with the Indians that had already lived there. Many times the Indians would just run away, but other times Indians would steal the Europeans' food and tools. However, there were two Indians who spoke English and talked to the Europeans.They were Samoset and Squanto. After making peace with the Europeans, Samoset "returned to this place called Sowams, some 40 miles from this place, but Squanto continued with [the Europeans] and was their interpreter and was a special instrument sent from God for their good beyond their expectation" (Bradford 84).
Therefore, in being an interpreter from God, Squanto linked the European immigrants to the Indians. In Mary Rowlandson's narrative there were Praying Indians who were Native Americans who converted to Christianity.They would live in self-governing towns and practice their religion. Rowlandson believed her family was to meet these converted Indians for a reason and she also believed that reason was God, for the narrative states, "God having taken away this dear child, I went to see my dear daughter Mary, who was at this same Indian town, at a wigwam not very far off, though we had little liberty or opportunity to see each other. She was about ten years old, and taken from the door.
.. by a Praying Indian" (Rowlandson 41).The common ground gained by different cultures was not just between Europeans and Indians, but between men and women as well. Native American stories, such as that of the Navajo, tell of the blending of different genders, different animals, even the cultural blending among different Indian tribes. In the Navajo story, when First Man and First Woman were created, "The gods directed people to build an enclosure of brushwood for the pair.
When the enclosure was finished, First Man and First Woman entered it, and the gods said to them: 'Live together now as husband and wife'"(Matthews 23).Through all the hard times the early Americans had, religion was there to help them out. Whether it have been for expressing how people felt, giving people the strength to carry on through a hard time or finding similarities in other people and making friends, religion affected everyone in America. Religion provided a balance between the young and the old, the rich and the poor, and the Puritans and the Native Americans. Religion touched each person in some individual way in early America, so that everything started to blend together, making America what it is today.