Lessons From The Puritans Essay

1055 words - 4 pages

The Puritans were a denomination formed by the great Protestant reformation in Europe. Refusing to submit to the Church of England, they supposedly came to the New World to practice their faith freely. As twenty-first century Americans, we often see the ways of the Puritans as hypocritical and intolerant. They eagerly slaughtered or banished those who did not adhere to their beliefs. However, Puritanism is one of the most important aspects of American culture. Many of the deeply held beliefs of our Country, both good and bad, come from our Puritan roots, and much can be learned from examining them. Life in England for the Puritans was full of persecution and hardship. The New World was like arriving at a Garden of Eden. The land was beautiful and untouched by the people of God. The puritans believed that they held a Covenant with God and everything that they did was the will of God. This Covenant was the way in which they justified their killing of hundreds of Native Americans. Because they believed God had called them to this new land, they viewed their killing of Native Americans as simply another obstacle in their paths to salvation. Interestingly enough, it is easy to forget that the New England puritans did not become intolerant after reaching the shores of the New World. They never claimed to be tolerant of ideas with which they disagreed. As Nathaniel Ward explicates, "Those who [do] not hold with the ideals entertained by the righteous… [have] every liberty to stay away from New England." They left England so that they could continue in their fanaticism. Within their own societies, surprisingly enough, the puritans exhibited very communal, loving ideals. According to the Puritans, you were responsible for one another, society was thought of as "not an aggregation of individuals but as an organism, functioning for a definite purpose, with all parts subordinate to the whole" . Individuals were responsible for the moral well being of one another. God was going to judge the community as a whole, and it was every member's job to ensure that the whole community was good and that it prospered. John Winthrop, a charter member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who served numerous terms as governor or lieutenant governor, believed greatly in the strength of the community. As John Schaar, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, states, "Winthrop acknowledges that conflicts are bound to arise… his response is that these are precisely the times when it is most important that the members of a group remember their need for one another. When affection is the bond, nothing can tear the group apart. When affection is absent, only fear, interest, or luck can hold it together." This is a far cry from today's society, based on individualistic achievement. We look out only for our own self-interest,...

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