America is not only The New World, but it was also referred to by the early colonists as The Promised Land. America was founded and formed deliberately after the pattern of Ancient Israel. As with the children of Israel’s Exodus, there was a mass Exodus from Europe, “to escape the tyranny of the oppressors,” the European governments, as the people were being taxed every which way possible. As Charles Dickens wrote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” He gave a litany of every way in which they were being taxed and taken advantage by their governments in France and in Great Britain. Civilization had grown in sophistication, but so had government’s intrusion into their daily lives.
Just as there was the mass Exodus of several million Jewish people from Egypt led by Moses, Europeans came to America en mass. They had been in the pressure cooker too long. They had HAD it! The word LIBERTY filled up all the blue of the sky in their minds. LIBERTY was the siren call tempting them to leave all the familiarity of home and culture and to venture forth across the troubled waters to begin civilization all over again in a land they knew not, like Abraham. Our Founding Fathers saw America as the Israel of the New World, the new Promised Land. Just as Jerusalem is the only place called Holy City, out of the new Promised Land, there was only one city in America that has kept the nick name, The Holy City.
Charleston, South Carolina is that city, founded in April 1670. The air seems to be permeated in Charleston with an elusive charm and magic that makes first time visitors feel at home. Charleston is like an old shoe. She fits one and all alike. The Eight Lords Proprietors of England who were given this land by King Charles II kept a low profile during the reign of Olivier Cromwell, but when Cromwell died and his son Richard proved ineffectual, Great Britain had Eight Lords a Leaping! These lords risked their lives, lands, and reputations to reestablish the monarchy. The monarchy had been done away with in a big way. Charles I had been beheaded! These lords brought his son back from exile in the court of France and made him king of Great Britain. In appreciation, King Charles II gave them land in the New World, Carolina. The lord who took the most interest in this colony was Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, first earl of Shaftesbury, in Dorset, England, for whom our two rivers are named, the Ashley and the Cooper. His good friend and secretary was non other than John Locke. THE John Locke! Together they wrote the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina. Included was a protection of freedom of religion and freedom of speech with the provision that it was against the law to speak against anyone for their differences in faith. Everyone had freedom of speech to share their faith, but the limitations were not to use it as an excuse to be critical of others’ differences in faith.
Keep it positive, was the mood of the wisdom of our Founders in order to avoid the wars and burnings at the stake of the Reformation of Europe, and earlier the beheadings with the scimitar in the Crusades. Carolina had the widest range of religious freedom in America second only to Rhode Island in writing but in reality wider here than there. The line they included of not speaking against another for differences in faith was the same line and law that Middle Eastern King Nebuchadnezzar made after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fiery furnace unsinged, whose accusers had told King Neb. that these foreign slaves he had promoted did not bend the knee to his statue of gold at the dedication when the music played dramatically. (Read of it, if you will, in the book of the prophet Daniel chapter 3.)
Founding Fathers named not only their mountains and towns Hebrew names but their children here in the New Promised Land. My long time friend, Margaret Scott, told me today her ancestors who came here from England and joined Daniel Boone were none other than three brothers named Shadrach, Meshach and Abedneggo. Now that was a lot of faith in having more sons to follow for their parents to have started that name pattern! Early settlers and Founding Fathers also read in Hebrew and taught their children Hebrew. Hebrew was taught in schools and universities. Yale has Hebrew in its seal. Columbia University as well. William Bradford, who wrote Of Plymouth Plantation, read the Bible in Hebrew. I was astounded when I had Ashley Hall foreign girls over for tea from China that the Christian among them is teaching herself to read in Hebrew!
There is no nation in the world as closely linked to Israel as America. Charleston and Bermuda are on the same latitudinal line as Jerusalem. Charleston is the Holy City By the Sea, Bermuda is called God’s Country, and Jerusalem is the Holy City of this planet Earth, center of three world religions, which are allowed next door to each other, just as in Charleston. When you live this close together, you gotta love your neighbor! “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Let’s have a revival of that song!
June is coming! I am sharing the love of June with you. June McKnight is doing tours with me. She is a native Charlestonian as well, a friend through the Garden Club of Charleston, Ashley Hall, and through the rising star of her young son, the chef, Daniel McKnight, intern under Nathalie Dupree. With the recent loss of my mother, who did the tours with me faithfully for about 25 years, God has raised up June to help. She has immersed herself in study and made a 98 on the written and oral exam to become a licensed City of Charleston guide. She has been interning with me since December. Shemitah is the siren call to me through that Still, Small Voice. For such a time as this.
Laura Wichmann Hipp