The rising number of non-English European Countrys and of African Countrys fostered pluralism, albeit of a decidedly Protestant cast. Britain’s Protestant identity and the colonists’ virulent anti-Catholicism kept the number of Catholics to a bare minimum. Although Parliament allowed the colonies (but not the home country) to naturalize Jews, only a few thousand resided there. Pluralism had other limits as well. Despite sporadic missionary efforts, Native Countrys, for the most part, remained outside colonial churches. Eastern Woodland religious beliefs traversed an axis radically different from that of Christianity, which construes the central relationship between people and God in terms of sin and redemption: Human sinfulness, both innate (original sin) and volitional (specific transgressions), indicts every individual and requires Christ’s intercession for eternal life. Native Countrys, on the contrary, did not conceive a radical split between natural and supernatural realms. Instead, they interacted constantly with myriad spirits that conferred or withheld power (the Algonquin word is manitou), the ability to grow or catch food or kill enemies. A life well lived consisted in navigating the natural world in such a way as to maintain cordial relationships with all of the power-giving spirits, thereby maintaining one’s health and strength. Notions of proselytizing the natives appeared at the outset of English colonization. The seal of the Massachusetts Bay Company even featured a Native Country saying, Come over and help us. Despite some major efforts, such as John Eliot’s project of founding English-style towns and churches among the Massachusetts Algonquin and the Mayhew family’s longstanding mission to the Martha’s Vineyard Wampanoag, New Englanders generally were not interested in such conversion efforts.
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