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 A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?

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Temperance
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PostSubject: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Fri 22 Apr 2016, 12:45

Things have gone very quiet here at Res His: is it time for another thread in the Religion and Superstition section? (I love the way nordmann put those two together when he set up his site. Smile )


As you all know, I go through periodic spells of religious angst and always end up foaming at the mouth and/or in total despair when I have anything to do with, not, as might be supposed, the rational folk here, but with fellow "Christians" -  the Fundamentalist/Creationist variety. Even cleaning the church candlesticks with renewed vigour and attack does little to alleviate my fury at and with these people. I become full of an unreasoning - or do I mean reasoning? - rage which is not in the least Christian and - more seriously - I start to doubt my own faith. It is invariably a miserable experience for me.


I am, therefore, always relieved to know I am not alone, and I cheered up a bit when I stumbled upon this from the New York Times: it is Chapter One of a book by a chap called Bruce Bawer (who actually lives in Oslo - wonder if nord has ever come across him - he's a well-known writer and poet, apparently), a book which has the interesting title of Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity. I have ordered it and await its arrival tomorrow with eager anticipation. I found what Bawer had to say in this extract very interesting: he puts into words everything I too have struggled/am struggling with.


http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/b/bawer-jesus.html


What particularly caught my eye - and which may be of interest and relevance on a History site - is the following:


Fundamentalist, evangelical, and charismatic Christianity cannot easily be discussed and understood without reference to the distinctive characteristics of American culture. Yes, these forms of legalistic Christianity claim adherents on every continent; but it is in America that they have taken root most firmly and borne the most fruit. They barely exist in Western Europe*; their success elsewhere owes everything to American missionary work among the poor and undereducated. In their suspicion of the intellect and their categorical assertion that the Bible contains all truth, these kinds of Christianity reflect the American distrust of mind described by Richard Hofstadter in his book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, indeed, they can be understood as ways of avoiding the obligation to think--and, especially, to think for one-self. As William Ray puts it, "fundamentalism demands believers, not thinkers"; Ray's observation that "no evidence, no logic, no personal experience, nothing can change the fundamentalist's mind about `revealed truth' "applies equally to conservative evangelicals and charismatics "Questioning `revealed truth' in any way, even hypothetically," notes Ray, "challenges the ... belief system at its core.... The more successfully any `revealed truth' is challenged, the more vehemently the challenge must be rejected,"

Why did this kind of religion develop in America, of all places? Well, first of all, America is the place to which the Puritans came, and their fixation on stark antitheses (God and Satan, saints and sinners), their conviction that you're damned unless you believe exactly the right doctrine, and their tendency to equate immorality with sex all helped lay the foundations for today's legalistic Christianity. So did the pragmatism and materialism of the pioneers, whose respect for "honest work" and suspicion of professors, philosophers, and others who don't produce anything "real" spelled success for faiths that involved quantifiable sacrifice, little or no abstract reflection, and a concrete payoff in the form of a tangible heaven. Those pioneers' individualistic sentiments, moreover, made them distrust ecclesiastical elites and accept the right of every person to interpret the Bible according to his or her own lights; this emphasis on scripture was also fed by the notion of America as a new Eden, which, as the religious historian George M. Marsden has noted, "readily translated into Biblical primitivism," the idea that "the Bible alone should be one's guide." Yet given those pioneers' literal-mindedness and aversion to abstract interpretation, it was a short--and disastrous--step from the idea of the Bible as guide to a twisted insistence on biblical literalism.




I wonder what other people here think about that reference to the Puritans? As far as I know, we have not discussed them much on Res His. (Shakespeare certainly didn't like them - he, like most of us here, was a cakes and ale man.) Were the Puritans - in England and on the Continent (Calvin's followers) and those who eventually set sail for the New World - the begetters, as Bawer suggests, of the dangerous Christian fundamentalism that seems to be growing stonger every day?

*Bawer published his book in 1997: the thinking of these people - or rather their non-thinking - has taken root in Western Europe during the last twenty years - certainly in England.)
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Fri 22 Apr 2016, 13:51

@Temperance wrote:

.... Even cleaning the church candlesticks with renewed vigour and attack does little to alleviate my fury ....

Ah well you're using the wrong stuff, vigour and attack are only good for floors,

       

For silver candlesticks you need to put your faith in Miror,



Sorry Temp ... I'll go get my coat.


Last edited by Meles meles on Fri 22 Apr 2016, 14:40; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Deleted than restored, but still silly, sorry Temp)
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Fri 22 Apr 2016, 14:35

Oh, that's a shame - I was just composing a silly and flippant reply!

I thought yours was funny. I had no idea there really were cleaning products called Attack and Vigour - must be French stuff.

I'm not going all holy again, honest. I just thought a religious thread gets discussion going.

Cleaning brass is really good for working off temper. It's very satisfying when the tarnish comes off.



You haven't lived until you've Brasso-ed one of these, MM - the eagle, I mean, not the vicar.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Fri 22 Apr 2016, 15:05

They are indeed all French products although I imagine catholic church floors in France prefer to use,

      or    

Cleanliness is supposedly next to Godliness, though I doubt the puritans would have approved of a cherubic St Mark being used to sell floor cleaner, or the Crucifix being used for a range of tile, sink, oven and toilet cleaning products.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Fri 22 Apr 2016, 19:34

Presumably Darwinists would prefer to use this

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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Sat 23 Apr 2016, 00:04

MM wrote:
Reason for editing : Deleted then restored, but still silly, sorry Temp.


No need to be sorry - I did rather ask for it, didn't I?


The thread was an attempt to get discussion going again - I thought anti-Puritan satire might  be an interesting thing to look at: my knowledge of the 17th century is sadly limited. But here's a bit from Butler's Hudibras (written after the Restoration). Butler didn't like Puritans:


From Wiki:


The epic tells the story of Sir Hudibras, a knight errant who is described dramatically and with laudatory praise that is so thickly applied as to be absurd, and the conceited and arrogant person is visible beneath. He is praised for his knowledge of logic despite appearing stupid throughout, but it is his religious fervour which is mainly attacked:


For his Religion, it was fit
To match his learning and his wit;
'Twas Presbyterian true blue;
For he was of that stubborn crew
Of errant saints, whom all men grant
To be the true Church Militant;
Such as do build their faith upon
The holy text of pike and gun;
Decide all controversies by
Infallible artillery;
And prove their doctrine orthodox
By apostolic blows and knocks;
Call fire and sword and desolation,
A godly thorough reformation,
Which always must be carried on.
And still be doing, never done;
As if religion were intended
For nothing else but to be mended.






But perhaps everyone here is - to borrow an expression Priscilla once used - "all historied out". Hope not.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Sat 23 Apr 2016, 11:22

I'm afraid that anti-Puritan satire in the 17th century is not something to which I can add anything at all but this struck me immediately:

For his Religion, it was fit
To match his learning and his wit;
'Twas Presbyterian true blue;


As a Glaswegian, I'm ashamed to admit that rang a bell - if we say anyone is True blue then it is certainly implying that they are of the right-fitted persuasion and definitely support The boys in blue, Rangers  FC.
So where does that blue=Protestant association come from and when did it arise?
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Sun 24 Apr 2016, 09:32

I think the association of blue with protestantism probably came about because the Scottish Covenanter forces during the 1640s Scottish Civil War specifically chose blue as the colour for their standards to be in contrast to red which was the predominant colour of the royalist standards.



A 1640s Covenanter flag which of course closely resembles the Scottish white saltaire cross on a blue background.


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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Sun 24 Apr 2016, 09:41

The usual answer is the one given in Phrase Finder:


'True blue' is supposed to derive from the blue cloth that was made at Coventry, England in the late middle ages. The town's dyers had a reputation for producing material that didn't fade with washing, that is, it remained 'fast' or 'true'. The phrase 'as true as Coventry blue' originated then and is still used (in Coventry at least). The town's standing was recorded in 1670 by John Ray in the first edition of A Compleat Collection of English Proverbs:


"Coventry had formerly the reputation for dying of blues; insomuch that true blue became a Proverb to signifie one that was always the same and like himself."



However, I've found this from The Presbyterian Magazine, 1852:


http://www.genevaninstitute.org/articles/true-blue-presbyterianism/


Let us glance at the origin of this homespun word – often a term of reproach – but, like the banner of Caledonia (the ancient Latin name for Scotland), significant of strength and loyalty.

The term seems to be suggested by some part of the dress which was blue; and some say that, after the fashion of other Presbyterian things, it is taken from the Scriptures. “Did you ever hear of such a word in the Bible?” exclaimed master Charles, who had learned a good deal in the Scriptures, at home and in parochial school. “Stop a minute,” said I, “my young scholar, and bring me the family Bible. Now turn to Numbers, 15th chapter and 38th verse.” The boy, with some amazement, read as follows:


“Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the garment a riband of blue. And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them.”

“Well,” said Charles, “I always knew that Presbyterians tried to do the commandments of the Lord, but I never thought of this blue before!”

Without entering deeper into the origin of our clannish blue, (the reproach of which color, by the bye, tinges the vesture of our Congregational brethren, whose far-famed legislation was scandalized with the name of “blue laws”), we will content ourselves with assuming that blue characterized the Scottish tartan from time immemorial, like red the dress of Southern Englishmen, and that in the civil wars of the seventeenth century, a “true-blue Presbyterian” was synonymous with a Scotsman who fought for liberty and his church. What is the meaning of the word now-a-days? That, dear reader, we shall explain very briefly, and in its truest sense. The word has some definite meaning at our hearth-stones, and in our school-houses and churches...



...A true-blue Presbyterian is a Christian who loves the old fashioned Bible doctrines in the Confession of Faith. He lays much stress on God’s sovereignty and the doctrines of grace.

All Presbyterians do not thus magnify revealed truth; this characteristic more properly belongs to the “true-blue.” The Word of God, in its simple and spiritual meaning, as explained in the Confession of Faith, not for “substance of doctrine,” but for true doctrine, is dear to the heart of a thorough Presbyterian.

Though infidels blaspheme, and Arminians deride, and papists mystify, the doctrine of election, it stands forth in the prominence of heaven towering sublimity in the vision of the Christian we are describing. “You need not quote Paul,” said an infidel, combating the doctrine of election, “Paul was a Presbyterian.”




So Saint Paul was a true-blue then!



Re satire - I've just been reading about Ben Jonson's attacks on Puritans: just the names of some of his characters make me laugh. He has a Zeal-of-the-Land Busy and a Dame Purecraft in Bartholomew Fayre - both Puritans and terrible hypocrites. Busy ends up having a religious argument with one of the puppets at the fair and the puppet exposes itself to him in order to prove it hasn't actually got any genitalia.


To be fair to the Puritans, Bartholomew Fair did have a terrible reputation: all human life was there, as the News of the World used to claim about itself, plus a few extras. The fair was finally banned during the reign of Queen Victoria - after centuries of wicked fun every year. The fair started in 1133 when Henry I granted a charter for it. It even survived the Reformation. I wonder if the Londoners protested when their much-loved and ancient Bartholomew Fair was no more?


The fair was suppressed in 1855 by the City authorities for encouraging debauchery and public disorder.[2][5] The Newgate Calendar had denounced the fair as a "school of vice which has initiated more youth into the habits of villainy than Newgate itself."

PS Crossed posts - haven't read the one from MM yet.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Sun 24 Apr 2016, 10:02

From: 'Sketches of the Covenanters', by J. C. McFeeters, 1913. (NB that it's primarily a theological work rather than a historical study).

"The Covenanters in Scotland's struggle for liberty carried a significant banner. Letters of gold, on a field of blue, displayed the soul-stirring motto: "FOR CHRIST'S CROWN AND COVENANT."

The men of the Covenant unfurled their colors with dauntless spirit, and went forth in the name of the Lord, conquering and to conquer. And this is the victory by which they overcame the world, even their faith. The Covenanters carried their banner as an emblem of the truth in Jesus Christ. The Bible focussed its light in the burning words that flashed on their ensign. These fathers accepted the Bible without reservation or apology, as God's Book, inspired, inerrable, authoritative, the rock foundation of faith, and the supreme law of life. They grasped the wondrous system of redeeming truth, as bearing on their own lives, on the Church, on the world, and on all generations to come. They embodied it in their Covenant, and wove it into their flag. They saw all Bible truth converge in Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father, the Mediator of the Covenant of grace, the crucified and risen Redeemer, the exalted Prince and Saviour; and on their banner they emblazoned their faith. But while their profession was embroidered on their colors, their creed was pulsating in their veins. This standard they carried boldly into the battle in defence of Christ and His Church. The deadly missiles that tattered its folds, and plowed through their flesh, could not subdue their spirit. Their blood often stained it, but it was never surrendered. One standard-bearer fell, and the flag-staff was grasped by another. Thus the Old Blue Banner, in all its significance, has come down through the ages; it is the Covenanter's banner yet."



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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Sun 24 Apr 2016, 11:33

MM quoting J.C. McFeeters wrote:
 The Bible focussed its light in the burning words that flashed on their ensign. These fathers accepted the Bible without reservation or apology, as God's Book, inspired, inerrable, authoritative, the rock foundation of faith, and the supreme law of life. They grasped the wondrous system of redeeming truth, as bearing on their own lives, on the Church, on the world, and on all generations to come.


And they started the movement - the Fundamentalists - who are destroying what Christianity is really all about, and who are making the idea of being a "Christian" something to be hated and despised - or laughed at - by all sane people.

I'm so glad I stumbled on the New York Times article I mentioned in the OP - and was so prompted to order Bawer's book. I've been reading it non-stop since Friday. Bawer draws a clear distinction between what he calls the "legalistic", Bible-thumping "Christians" - whose church is "the Church of Law" (biblical law) and who are the heirs of the worst kind of Puritans - and the "nonlegalistic": those who believe in a Church of Love (which is not some awful hippy-dippy thing):

For to be a serious nonlegalistic Christian today...is to recognise that the word "Christian" - and more important, the real "living" Christ - are crying out to be unshackled from the prejudices and precepts to which legalistic Christians have bound them. To be a serious nonlegalistic Christian is to recognise that while legalists present themselves as "true Christians", the narrow doctrines they profess, the authoritarianism they practice (sic), and the laws they uphold represent a damaging distortion and subversion of Jesus' message. And it is to recognise that in recent years, even as serious biblical scholars have answered with increasing clarity the question of who Jesus was and what he was about, legalists have radically redefined Jesus, condemning the principles he really stood for and instead identifying him with their own ugliest tendencies. Meanwhile secular Americans have looked on blindly or indifferently, for the most part either not realising or not caring what was going on. And nonlegalistic Christians have held their tongues...

Yes, they certainly have "held their tongues" - not just in America -  and this has got to stop. Bawer's book has roused me from the Slough of Despond I have been wallowing in for past weeks as I, here in sleepy old Devon, have crossed swords with such legalistic Christians - having arguments which left me convinced that I was the only one in our community who felt like this (i.e. like Bawer) and despairing that the Church tradition (nonlegalistic!!!) that I have loved all my life, was dying, if not dead. If, as it has seemed recently, the Church of England is going down the charismatic, "it must be true because the Bible says so - thump" route, it is time for me to give up and go. Although where I'm not sure. After attending so many so-called Bible "discussion" groups where, to quote Bawer again, "questions weren't welcome, thinking wasn't acceptable, and that what was called for was unreflecting, unquestioning assent", I really have been on the point of abandoning it all. But that is running away. Perhaps it's time to fight...

There is a discussion on Saint Paul this afternoon in a nearby town. I shall go and I shall argue. And I shall take my Bawer book to brandish defiantly at them.

Sorry, this is turning into a rant.

Back to Puritans.

Earl of Rochester - master of satire - loathed Puritans. He was completely debauched, mind you - died of alcoholism and syphilis at the age of 33. I'd better not bring him up this afternoon. Oddly enough - or perhaps not so oddly - Rochester's mother was a Puritan.


EDIT: Lord, this is a rant - sorry.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Sun 24 Apr 2016, 12:14

Temperance quoting J.C. McFeeters wrote:

The Bible focussed its light in the burning words that flashed on their ensign. These fathers accepted the Bible without reservation or apology, as God's Book, inspired, inerrable, authoritative, the rock foundation of faith, and the supreme law of life. They grasped the wondrous system of redeeming truth, as bearing on their own lives, on the Church, on the world, and on all generations to come.

Yes that way, the legalistic Christian way, does unfortunately rather lead inevitably to New Earth Creationism; Pro-Life anti-abortion views in all circumstances; anti-gay legislation; severe penalties for apostacy; compulsory (approved) religion in schools; blasphemy laws; no work or trade on Sundays ... hey, it even permits, indeed encourages, slavery.

@Temperance wrote:
After attending so many so-called Bible "discussion" groups where, to quote Bawer again, "questions weren't welcome, thinking wasn't acceptable, and that what was called for was unreflecting, unquestioning assent", I really have been on the point of abandoning it all. But that is running away. Perhaps it's time to fight....

That's an interesting comment .... because weren't the Puritans originally distinct from most other non-conformist protestant sects in that, instead of abandoning the established Church of England and effectively becoming exiled from the Anglican communion (and indeed often choosing exile from England itself), they deliberately became political and fought to change the Church of England from within? That is somewhat different from the usual American view of the Pilgrim Fathers as being refugees escaping religious persecution. In the early 17th century they were being persecuted but largely because they insisted on being such a pain in the ass for the rest of the population, and judging by their performance once they'd got hold of power during the Commonwealth, the population seems to have largely been right about them.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Mon 25 Apr 2016, 05:49

MM wrote:

That's an interesting comment .... because weren't the Puritans originally distinct from most other non-conformist protestant sects in that, instead of abandoning the established Church of England and effectively becoming exiled from the Anglican communion (and indeed often choosing exile from England itself), they deliberately became political and fought to change the Church of England from within? That is somewhat different from the usual American view of the Pilgrim Fathers as being refugees escaping religious persecution. In the early 17th century they were being persecuted but largely because they insisted on being such a pain in the ass for the rest of the population, and judging by their performance once they'd got hold of power during the Commonwealth, the population seems to have largely been right about them.


Just how "persecuted" were the Puritans? I always thought it was the Catholics who bore the brunt of "persecution" in late 16th century and early 17th century England.

Bawer comments that the first Puritans went to America "less because they sought religious freedom than because they considered themselves to be God's Elect and saw the virgin continent as a second Eden where they could be American Adams who, this time, would not succumb to Satan's temptations. He writes:"Many of them also identified the New World with the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation." Chillingly, Bawer adds: "Their apocalyptic emphasis and their conviction that America is special in God's sight live on today in the hearts of their legalistic heirs."

Your comment about the Puritans fighting to "change the Church of England from within" is very interesting, and it's reminded me of something I read recently in Alexander Larman's biography of the Earl of Rochester, the satirist whom I mentioned above. Larman says that one of the many remarkable things about Cromwell's Commonwealth was the way in which religious freedom, supposedly the bedrock of the new English identity, was tolerated only if it were the right sort of religion. Catholics continued to be persecuted, of course, but that where Cromwell "distinguished himself was in all but obliterating the Anglican Church, first by forbidding ministers to practise, and second, by the heavy-handed way in which churches throughout the country were robbed and desecrated...Clergymen would be prosecuted for blasphemy and ejected from office for a variety of offences ranging from the reasonable (fornication, drunkenness and fighting) to the absurd (Morris dancing or public reading of the Book of Common Prayer.) " Apparently things got so bad for the "traditional" C of E clergy of the sane Elizabethan settlement that the diarist John Evelyn wrote of a collection "for persecuted and sequestered ministers of the Church of England, whereof divers are in prison."

One historical note that has confused me is that the Scottish Covenanters, the Presbyterian movement mentioned above by ferval, were implacably opposed to Cromwell and actually entered into a what has been called a "Faustian pact" with Charles II in 1650. Charles II and Scottish Presbyterians would seem to be strange bedfellows, surely?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Breda_(1650)

MM wrote:
 ...but largely because they insisted on being such a pain in the ass for the rest of the population.


Yes, a group that wanted to ban drinking, sex and the theatre - how on earth did they get into power in England of all places? The Puritans were right about Morris dancing and Christmas, though - you have to give them that.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Mon 25 Apr 2016, 08:17

I think maybe in terming a perceived rise in what you might agree to call "Christian fundamentalism" as a legacy of Puritanism you - and also the author Bawer (who admittedly has moved on in recent times to much more controversial and harder to prosecute convictions regarding being "swamped" by Muslims etc) - are actually doing religious faith a disservice.

This might sound surprising coming from one such as myself, who you know to harbour antipathy towards the subversion of the principle of "faith" when it is qualified purely through theological means and then applied as a behavioural control. But if the human tendency to accommodate a concept of faith which can be justified chiefly through metaphysical means - itself a fantastic confirmation of human ingenuity - is to be viewed historically and in its broadest sense, then two things stand out; the malleability of the faith in question (which is constantly tailored to suit current social exigencies), and the never-ending supply of volunteers to exploit it.

A principal method of such exploitation is to reduce theological constructs to fundamental tenets and even at times absolutist directives, using all the ready-supplied controls and triggers religious belief makes available - basically fear and ignorance. In that sense the controlled party - be it today's earnest young Christian literalists, the equally literalist Muslim, or for that matter the 17th century Puritan - represents simply the inevitable proof of such exploitation, and the more pertinent line of inquiry in situations where there is a perceived growth in such behaviour is to identify the manipulators, who they are, where in society they function, how they go about their business, and - crucially - why.

In this perspective we have no more inherited a legacy from Puritanism as much as 17th century Puritanism itself also inherited one from previous manifestations of such manipulation. The framework in which they engineered their world view was most definitely a visible legacy from previous authoritarian attempts to employ religion as a form of societal control. The principal difference in their case - a peculiarly European case - was that they were at the vanguard of a social revolution in which such control had been wrested to a huge extent from its traditional practitioners and the structures which had served that control well - almost exclusively - for centuries. And bear in mind that a feature of that control was very much, if analysed from a modern perspective, a fundamentalist one. The European pre-reformation church in many ways takes the biscuit historically indeed for its literalist and simplistic ideological approach to defining its (and more crucially its members') theological beliefs. One needs to be very careful indeed before one labels the Puritan "fundamentalist" in that context and ignore that framework of belief to which they were opposed. The argument could well be made that they were in fact the radical experimenters of their day, however obtuse their core principles might appear now.

But more pertinently and in an historical sense, the Puritans and their reformation bed-fellows were actually and inevitably re-enacting incidents of such revolution that had already repeated themselves throughout the eons. Christianity itself had benefited from such a seismic shift in structures of control when it was in its nascent form, as indeed has almost every "new" faith in its first steps towards recognition. And in particular political circumstances - especially in times when there is a perceived diminution in the "old certainties" and a fear for what is about to transpire socially - new "faiths", or new versions of "faiths", actually tend to exhibit a rather predictable shift towards what we term fundamentalism today, though in their followers' eyes that very same fundamentalism - pitched as it is in opposition to the status quo - is equally as often identified and portrayed as revolutionary thought (religion favours other adjectives for this - such as transcendental, epiphanic etc - but means the same).

So in short the answer to your question in the OP, in my opinion, is "no". Dangerous, yes. A legacy, yes. But of Puritanism, not quite. Coming from a country where I have to forcibly remind certain people that their republicanism owes much in terms of inheritance to Presbyterian roots, I tend to shy away from generalising 17th century "dissenters" as a homogenous mass - their epithet after all was largely applied to them by conservative traditionalists who could not countenance any departure from the state-church symbiotic basis of social control which, they reckoned, could be tinkered with but not abandoned (still a basic C of E tenet, if one thinks about it). And at that time in their particular political situation one can readily see why dissenters were badly treated, and why in turn some of them treated traditionalists equally as badly when presented with the opportunity. The largely American perception historically of Puritans being a persecuted people is, as easily can be seen from the records, a contentious and self-serving perception which has simply persevered for want of someone to contradict it. However Puritanism's origin in a time when extreme and often violent measures were taken by all sides to prosecute their ideological and political stance does explain very much how such a notion at least has some slight grounds in the historical facts surrounding their eagerness to colonise the "new world".

It does not however - in either a US or a UK sense - adequately explain any perceived lurch to fundamentalism in recent decades, I feel.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Mon 25 Apr 2016, 09:59

@Temperance wrote:


Yes, a group that wanted to ban drinking, sex and the theatre - how on earth did they get into power in England of all places?

... because Cromwell had the New Model Army (composed of zealous, puritan, battle-hardened veterans) behind him, and he thoroughly purged Parliament of any dissenting voices. It was effectively a military coup. But after years of civil war (something like one tenth of the population had been killed or died as a result of the war) I imagine most of the population just wanted stability and so the country knuckled under, at least for the time being.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Mon 25 Apr 2016, 10:50

As we discussed before - the Putney debates rather lent the lie to the notion that Cromwell, Ireton and company were rabid Puritans first and foremost. As opposers to the Agitators' insistence on universal male suffrage, Cromwell's party at the debates had to basically define the political nature of the Englishman who could be trusted to vote - and surprisingly used traditional notions (as "freeman" he likes his beer, his roast beef, his visit to the tavern, and woe-betide anyone who stands between him and these freedoms) to shoot down the Agitators' more revolutionary notions of all men being equal before God and so should enjoy equal franchise. Cromwell was very against the principle of extending such "freedom" to non property holders, but equally adamant that those freedoms had to exist as privileges and should not be tampered with.

Cromwell's was of course a military coup - you're absolutely right there, MM. And one moreover that was prosecuted citing many different justifications for its reasons, its conduct and the proposed outcome of its constitutional aims. However few if any of these justifications mentioned religion much at all, and when they did they tended to liberal "laissez-faire" pronouncements, obviously with one eye on keeping the bulk of the population happy. A Puritan take-over it certainly wasn't, and I am sure a lot of the stuff about "banning Christmas" etc that we associate with the interregnum merits rather close scrutiny regarding how much was legislative, if in fact legislatable at all, and how much was subsequent royalist/restoration propaganda.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Mon 25 Apr 2016, 11:32

Well the Puritans "banning Christmas", whilst a bit of a modern myth, is in essence true.

The Long Parliament of the Interregnum had laid down legislation defining mandated fast days just in the same way as many previous governments had done at least as far back as Henry VIII's break with Rome. Unfortunately Christmas day in 1644 fell on a mandatory fast day and no exemption had been made in the act as Parliament considered it to be a normal day like any other. So strictly on Christmas Day 1644 no meat or dairy produce could be eaten, hence the "puritans banned mince pies" myth. Similarly in 1644, as it was a fast day, all public festivities were banned, the government ordering that Christmas Day should be marked, "... with the more solemn humiliation, because it may call to remembrance our sins, and the sins of our forefathers, who have turned this feast, pretending [to] the memory of Christ, into an extreme forgetfulness of him, by giving liberty to carnal and sensual delights". In January 1645 Parliament issued its new Directory for the Public Worship of God, which was supposed to be a radical alternative to the established Book of Common Prayer. The Directory made no reference to Christmas at all. Thus the way was paved for the 'anti-Christmas' of 1645, when any public celebrations of Christmas were actively suppressed. Inevitably there were dark mutterings amongst the population, and numerous pamphlets such John Taylor's satirical, 'The Arraignment, Conviction and Imprisoning of Christmas', were widely circulated in London (although one should note that Taylor was a staunch royalist writing from Oxford, Charles I's wartime capital).

Subsequently in 1647, the Long Parliament did introduce legislation to ban all Christmas festivities (An Ordinance for Abolishing of Festivals, 1647). The act banned any celebration of Christmas other than by church attendance and quiet religious observance of the day at home. Christmas Day as such wasn't banned, but it was to be treated the same as any other day, and specifically the traditional twelve days of feasting, fun and frolics were most strongly disapproved of and any public display or festivities were made punishable offences. In London, a crowd of apprentices assembled at Cornhill on Christmas Day 1647, and there “in despite of authority, they set up Holly and Ivy” on the pinnacles of the public water conduit. When the lord mayor despatched some officers “to pull down these gawds,” the apprentices resisted them, forcing the mayor to rush to the scene with a squad of soldiers and to break up the demonstration by force. The worst disturbances of all took place at Canterbury, where a crowd of protestors first smashed up the shops which had been opened on Christmas Day (in accordance with the directive that Christmas Day was to be treated the same as any other) and then went on to seize control of the entire city. This riot helped to pave the way for a major insurrection in Kent in 1648 that itself formed part of the 'Second Civil War', a scattered series of risings against parliament and in favour of the king, which Fairfax and Cromwell eventually suppressed but only with great difficulty.

Following parliament’s victory in the Second Civil War and the execution of Charles I in 1649, demonstrations in favour of Christmas became less common. Doubtless many people continued to celebrate Christmas in private, and in his pamphlet The Vindication of Christmas (1652), the tireless pamphleteer John Taylor provided a lively portrait of how, he claimed, the old Christmas festivities were still being kept up by the farmers of Devon. With Cromwell’s installation as Lord Protector in 1653, the celebration of Christmas continued to be proscribed. While he had not been personally responsible for "cancelling Christmas" in the first place, it seems that both Cromwell and the other senior members of his regime were supportive of the ban, frequently transacting government business on 25 December as if it were a day just like any other. Further legislation was proposed in 1656 to clamp down on illicit Christmas celebrations, but it was never enacted.


John Taylor's The Vindication of Christmas (1652) mocking Parliament's attempts to suppress the celebration of Christmas.

Statutes of the Interregnum were held to be invalid following the restoration of the Monarchy, as they had been passed without Royal Assent. Some statutes of the Interregnum were later re-enacted by Charles II, but the 1647 Ordinance that banned the celebration of Christmas was not amongst them.

PS:

Of course the Puritan attack on the feast of Christmas had deep roots which long pre-date the Civil War. As long ago as the reign of Elizabeth many zealous protestants had been troubled both by the boisterous nature of the festivities which took place at Christmas, and by the perceived association of those festivities with the old Catholic faith, but until the early 1600s most English Puritans seem to have been prepared to tolerate Christmas.

However following the rebellion of the Presbyterian Scots against Charles I in 1637, all this changed. The Scottish Kirk, which was itself fiercely protestant, had abolished the traditional Christmas festivities as long ago as the 1560s and, although James I had managed tentatively to restore the feast in his northern kingdom in 1617, it was banned there once again after Charles I's defeat by the Scots in 1640. From this time onwards, attitudes towards Christmas among English Puritans hardened as political tensions between Charles I and his opponents in parliament rose during 1641, and a handful of Puritan extremists took it upon themselves to completely abandon the celebration of Christmas, feeling that it should be treated just like any other day. But it was only when they achieved political power that they were able to legislate against the popular celebration of Christmas.


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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Mon 25 Apr 2016, 14:50

MM - I was joking when I mentioned Christmas and the Puritans, but thank you so much for all that information. As ever, you post such interesting stuff.

nordmann - thank you for bothering to reply in such thoughtful detail. Yet your comments make me despair. I am completely deflated. Such an uncomfortable state in which to find oneself. You never seem to understand me and I never seem to understand you. However, as always, I am sure you are absolutely right in your historical analysis and wisdom, but quite wrong in everything else.

What I was trying to say is that love is more important than doctrine and law and control. Those latter things have dominated the Church since its early days, not just since the 17th century - yes, of course, we all know that - but there have also always been genuine persons of faith - people who have been responsible for so much that is good in the world. You always seem to ignore those people and discount that side of religion. Those nonlegalistic Christians - going back to Christ Himself? - would surely agree with the following quotation from Bawer. He is actually quoting one of his heroes, a man now forgotten, one Harry Emerson Fosdick, a Baptist (yes, a Baptist!) preacher who, way back in the 1920s, appalled at the rise of the fundamentalists wrote this:

"There are many opinions in the field of modern controversy concerning which I am not sure if they are right or wrong, but there is one thing I am sure of: courtesy and kindliness and tolerance and humility and fairness are right. Opinions may be mistaken; love never is."

Trouble is the fundies don't agree and they - the legalistic Christians, from 325AD to our own times - have always had their way. I agree we should examine what makes the earnest young ones so susceptible. Perhaps because the legalistic way of definite "answers" is the "safest" way in this mad world. A spurious safety, of course. Trouble is it makes the world an even madder place - of which we have daily proof.

Sorry, this is really lame stuff after your eloquent post, but will have to do for now.

Back to my Slough of Despond, I fear, and a bottle of good red wine. Perhaps MM will join me?

Not even Priscilla can be tempted to post anymore - nothing here to interest her, it seems.


PS Your remark about Bawer and Muslims - I presume you are referring to his book While Europe Slept. Please note he refers to extremist Muslims, not the sane sort. Remembering your comments on the I am Charlie Thread, I should imagine you agree with his views.


The struggle for the soul of Europe today is every bit as dire and consequential as it was in the 1930s. Then, in Weimar, Germany, the center did not hold, and the light of civilization nearly went out. Today, the continent has entered yet another Weimar moment. Will Europeans rise to the challenge posed by radical Islam, or will they cave in once again to the extremists?

As an American living in Europe since 1998, Bruce Bawer has seen this problem up close. Across the continent in Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin, Madrid, and Stockholm he encountered large, rapidly expanding Muslim enclaves in which women were oppressed and abused, homosexuals persecuted and killed, infidels threatened and vilified, Jews demonized and attacked, barbaric traditions (such as honor killing and forced marriage) widely practiced, and freedom of speech and religion firmly repudiated.

The European political and media establishment turned a blind eye to all this, selling out women, Jews, gays, and democratic principles generally even criminalizing free speech in order to pacify the radical Islamists and preserve the illusion of multicultural harmony. The few heroic figures who dared to criticize Muslim extremists and speak up for true liberal values were systematically slandered as fascist bigots. Witnessing the disgraceful reaction of Europe s elites to 9/11, to the terrorist attacks on Madrid, Beslan, and London, and to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bawer concluded that Europe was heading inexorably down a path to cultural suicide.


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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Mon 25 Apr 2016, 14:57

I know you were joking about Christmas ... my reply was more directed at Nordmann's questioning of whether the supposed "banning of Christmas", was actualy legislated/legislatable, or was perhaps just later Royalist propaganda. While Cromwell himself might have had a "laissez-faire" attitude to religion, the Long Parliament certainly took a far more active approach in decreeing what the people should do. A far cry from Elizabeth's desire not to "look into men's souls".

PS

Actually I know little about the Puritans or the 17th century generally ... I only know about the business of Christmas from once looking up the history and old recipes for Christmas mince pies!


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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Mon 25 Apr 2016, 15:03

I know you were replying to nordmann, not me, but I found it very interesting: as I admitted earlier, I know very little about the 17th century - just a bit about some of the literature. And not really very much about that if the truth be known.

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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Mon 25 Apr 2016, 15:12

EDIT: You've added the bit about Elizabeth - my heroine. As Lytton Strachey observed: "She found herself a sane woman in a universe of violent maniacs..."
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Mon 25 Apr 2016, 15:54

@Temperance wrote:

Back to my Slough of Despond, I fear and a bottle of good red wine. Perhaps MM will join me?

Bien sûr, pourquoi pas. Santé! Cheers


"Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy heart."

Proverbs 31:6 (King James Bible).
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Mon 25 Apr 2016, 16:11

Deleted - silly and flippant.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Tue 26 Apr 2016, 07:50

I wrote:
 
You never seem to understand me and I never seem to understand you. However, as always, I am sure you are absolutely right in your historical analysis and wisdom, but quite wrong in everything else.

What I was trying to say is that love is more important than doctrine and law and control. Those latter things have dominated the Church since its early days, not just since the 17th century - yes, of course, we all know that; but there have also always been genuine persons of faith - people who have been responsible for so much that is good in the world. You always seem to ignore those people and discount that side of religion...



But then I too am wrong in that I tend to ignore the fact that there have been men and women of no faith - who profess no belief whatsoever in the possibility of transcendence - whose lives have also been full of love and service and kindness to their fellow humans.

The terrifying ones in this world - always have been -  are those who claim to follow and serve a god of mercy and love - call that deity what you may - but whose actions reveal something quite different. Faith without love is worse than no faith at all. Which is, I suppose, what Paul's great bit of writing in Corinthians 13 is all about.

It was during the time of the Puritans that so many terrifying ones came out of the woodwork and went about torturing and killing whilst brandishing their Bibles. Nothing new in that, I agree. But the Puritan era of the Civil War and the Commonwealth has always struck me as a particularly awful time to have lived - and to have been young then must have been very hell. No wonder the world went completely mad in 1660 - the defiant adolescents had wrenched the world back from the moralising, immoral parental controllers (see Berne's Transactional Analysis model of human behaviour).

Here's the passage from Saint Paul. I'm not Bible-thumping at 7.30 am in the morning, so please don't recoil in horror and/or irritation, it's just it sums up everything I'm struggling to say. From the pen of a man who had a natural Pharisaic legal mind, it is a beautiful bit of nonlegalistic thinking that is the essence of Christian - and, yes, of basic human, secular - goodness.


If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast; it is not proud. It does not dishonour others; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


And so, with that little pious Thought for the Day, which will no doubt have nordmann reaching for his gun (joke), I shall go and put the kettle on.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Tue 26 Apr 2016, 08:15

If you take a step back from the assumption that religion motivates religious people mainly because religious people claim it does, and assess their behaviour and their actual motivation in a broader and more comprehensive sense than that which the narrow theological constraints on logic allow, then Puritans behaving badly can also be seen simply as a very observable part of one aspect to human nature that indeed transcends such narrow definitions. Remember, there were good Puritans too who really tried to live lives without impinging on their non-Puritan neighbours, and indeed many communities where this was achieved harmoniously and people got on with more important things.

I'm not sure why you think I don't understand your comments above. The only flaw I can see with your assessment is your insistence on trying to understand behaviour - be it of people nowadays or of people historically - purely using their supposed theological principles to define their motives. In matters of manipulation, as far as I can see from contemporary and historical observations, religion is simply a handy tool which can be deployed to that end, but really it is just one of many.

That which appears a constant however is that "good people" (however they themselves describe their motives) pop up in every scenario, regardless of which theology, ideology, political philosophy or similar might be dominating their particular circumstances. And another constant which emerges from history is that where "good people" manage to influence events for the common good they invariably do so having at least partly, but often fundamentally, reinterpreted or even abandoned theological principles which were purportedly a mainstay of their particular religious faith, if they had one.

So you see, we actually agree, and even understand each other. I just choose not to get bogged down in the assumption that religion - certainly a form of expression which cannot be ignored - is a root cause of particular dangerously aberrational behaviour and therefore also the means to explain, address and rectify such aberrations when they occur. The cause, and the solutions, if they are to be found then will be found in a more realistic analysis of human interaction and behaviour of which theology is simply a perverse version of philosophy used to account for both.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Tue 26 Apr 2016, 12:18

I apologise as I have only skated over this thread - a lot of long and detailed posts too complex for my little brain this early in the morning (it was not yet noon when I started writing this!).

The problem with the term 'Puritan' is that it covers - if you'll pardon the expression - a multitude of sins.  Presbyterians and Independents are both under the umbrella of Puritanism, but had many differences.  Even Scottish and English Presbyterianism were not quite the same thing (by-and-large the English version was not quite so strict, for a start).  Cromwell's religion has been the subject of much debate, and he probably became a lot more moderate over time.  He's often described as an Independent, but I would say he was more of an 'aformalist'; Independents thought each Church should make up its own mind about their particular forms of worship.  Cromwell, at least by the time he became Lord Protector, doesn't seem to have considered specific forms to be particularly important.  As one of his chaplains said, "the heaven of heavens cannot hold Him [ie Christ] so why subject Him to any one form [of worship]".  (NB: I quote from memory, so I may not have it exactly right, but that was the gist). 

His Noseship was often at odds with his Parliaments over religious affairs (as they had the right to overrule him), notably in the case of a Quaker - James Naylor, IIRC - who Parliament had flogged for his beliefs.  Cromwell was understandably furious over this breach of Naylor's 'liberty of conscience'.  Yet it is a strange thing that whilst Roman Catholicism and Episcopalianism remained the only forms of Christianity officially banned, it has been argued that Catholics had greater freedom under the Commonwealth than in many years - people were free to attend Mass (albeit in the chapels of the Embassies of Catholic countries) and Catholic clergy could walk the streets in safety.  There is even a letter from Cromwell to Cardinal Mazarin in which Cromwell discusses the possibility of extending formal toleration to Catholics, although its authenticity is debated.  The Commonwealth had an ambassador to the Vatican, who was himself a Roman Catholic (and brother to the Royalist General George Digby).

Drifting even further off topic (if you'll indulge me) - the decision by the C of E some years ago to reinstate the Feast of Charles, King and Martyr, remains a great irritation to me.  This is not only because I can't stand the man.  Whatever Charles claimed about dying for the Faith, in truth he doomed the Anglican Church: the Heads of the Proposals, the peace treaty the New Model Army offered Charles, included a clause whereby the Church of England would continue to exist, the only concession being that attendance would no longer be compulsory.  He had his chance, but out of sheer arrogance and stubbornness (the other clauses were quite reasonable and placed only minor restrictions on his power, in many cases only temporarily) he missed it.

EDIT: By the way, just because Cromwell probably personally disapproved of celebrating Christmas, it doesn't necessarily mean he believed the ban should be forced on other people.  Nobody really knows his thoughts on the matter, and unless someone discoveres 'the Cromwell Diaries' I don't suppose we ever shall.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Wed 27 Apr 2016, 15:34

@Anglo-Norman wrote:
The problem with the term 'Puritan' is that it covers - if you'll pardon the expression - a multitude of sins.  Presbyterians and Independents are both under the umbrella of Puritanism, but had many differences.  Even Scottish and English Presbyterianism were not quite the same thing (by-and-large the English version was not quite so strict, for a start).  Cromwell's religion has been the subject of much debate, and he probably became a lot more moderate over time.  He's often described as an Independent, but I would say he was more of an 'aformalist'; Independents thought each Church should make up its own mind about their particular forms of worship.  Cromwell, at least by the time he became Lord Protector, doesn't seem to have considered specific forms to be particularly important. 



Like MM's posts, really interesting stuff, A-N. I know so little about Cromwell and his times - I wish Hilary Mantel would write a novel about him, then I should know what to think  Smile . "Liberty of conscience" -  I admit that's not something I've usually associated with Cromwell - but that is no doubt an unfair comment, born of my ignorance? I am ashamed to admit that I have no idea as to what the "Committee" mentioned in Milton's Sonnet XVI refers, but I see Note 1, in the info given about the poem, mentions "religious toleration". The work does contain that famous description of Cromwell, "our chief of men", so my shame is complete.  Embarassed


Then there's all the  later trouble caused by Titus Oates - ugly little man, apparently, in all senses of the word, and a "religious" trouble-maker if ever there was one. Ordained a minister in the C of E, then became a Jesuit, then a Baptist. Sometimes whipped in the streets, sometimes paid a liberal pension - yet he died quietly in his bed, unlike some of his victims. Another character from the 17th century I know little about - yet his name is so familiar. I've been mulling over nordmann's post - and Oates' name immediately came into my head. Oates' problems sprang not so much from any real religious fervour, but were psychiatric in origin? He was used by others, though, I think - politicians who were neither religious nor mad? But I really have no idea.



Sonnet XVI: To the Lord General Cromwell


On the proposals of certain ministers at the Committee for Propagation of the Gospel



             1Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud

             2     Not of war only, but detractions rude,

             3     Guided by faith and matchless fortitude,

             4     To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough'd,

             5    And on the neck of crowned Fortune proud

             6     Hast rear'd God's trophies, and his work pursu'd,

             7     While Darwen stream with blood of Scots imbru'd,

             8     And Dunbar field, resounds thy praises loud,

             9    And Worcester's laureate wreath; yet much remains

           10     To conquer still: peace hath her victories

           11     No less renown'd than war. New foes arise

           12    Threat'ning to bind our souls with secular chains:

           13     Help us to save free Conscience from the paw

           14     Of hireling wolves whose gospel is their maw.

Notes

1] Though not printed till Phillips's Life of Milton (1694), the sonnet was composed in May, 1652, as the Cambridge MS. states, and on the occasion of the proposals of certain ministers at the Committee for Propagation of the Gospel (of which Cromwell was a member). The Committee was set up by the Rump Parliament to bring some order into the Church by licensing preachers and to examine methods of supporting a ministry other than by tithes, which, however, were to be maintained until the Committee reported. The proposals referred to were offered by a group of moderate Congregational ministers and recommended state support for the Church. Milton by this time was an advocate of the complete separation of Church and State, and relied on Cromwell's agreement, since he had long supported religious toleration.


5-6] The allusion to the overthrow of the monarchy and beheading of Charles I is obvious. God's trophies are memorials of victories in God's cause.


7] Darwen stream: referring to the battle of Preston.


8] Dunbar field: The Scots had acknowledged Charles II, on his father's execution. Cromwell invaded their country and defeated them, September 3, 1650.


9] Worcester: Cromwell's last great victory (1651); his "crowning mercy'' he called it; hence laureate wreath.


13-14] Milton had condemned the Roman Catholic priesthood under the image of the wolf (Lycidas 128-29) and the Episcopal clergy as mere hirelings (ibid. 114-22), then the greed of the Presbyterian ministers (New Forcers of Conscience), and now he couples wolf and hireling in a similar condemnation of the ministers of the Committee.


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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Wed 27 Apr 2016, 20:38

I "temped" for a small company that was run by a family that were "Brethren" of some type but I can't recall what type "Plymouth", "Strict and Particular" or some other faction well over twenty years ago.  They were actually quite nice people and I would not call them dangerous but they wouldn't have computers in the office because they thought they were "sinful". The ladies in that branch of the Brethren had to cover their heads (sort of headscarf thing).
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Thu 28 Apr 2016, 08:37

Cromwell's attitude to the Jews is an interesting one, famously championing their readmission to England.  Why?  Was it and extension of his tolerance?  Was it the act of a millenarian who saw saw the Conversion of the Jews as something necessary before the Second Coming, and was using them as a sought of human weathervane?  Or was is something more pragmatic?  For a cash-starved nation the Jews' mercantile nous would have been invaluable, not to mention their international network which his 'intelligencers' could make good use of (and did - the Jewish community proved quite ready to aid the State).  It's certainly interesting that Cromwell's decision was partly based on the urging of John Thurloe, Secretary of State, Postmaster General and head of the Commonwealth's unofficial secret service - although curiously enough Thurloe's own motivation seems to have been one of principal, not pragmatism.

On another note, the author Bernard Cornwell was brought up in the US by an adoptive couple who were members of an ultra-strict Protestant sect known as the Peculiar People.  He quickly rebelled against their way of thinking (attributing his interest in military history to their forbidding of such things).  I can't help wondering if the hostile attitude to religion - and Christianity in particular - which crops up in several of his books was influenced by this upbringing.
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Thu 28 Apr 2016, 09:01

09:22:50
@Anglo-Norman wrote:
Cromwell's attitude to the Jews is an interesting one, famously championing their readmission to England.  Why?  Was it and extension of his tolerance?  Was it the act of a millenarian who saw saw the Conversion of the Jews as something necessary before the Second Coming, and was using them as a sought of human weathervane?  Or was is something more pragmatic?  For a cash-starved nation the Jews' mercantile nous would have been invaluable, not to mention their international network which his 'intelligencers' could make good use of (and did - the Jewish community proved quite ready to aid the State).  It's certainly interesting that Cromwell's decision was partly based on the urging of John Thurloe, Secretary of State, Postmaster General and head of the Commonwealth's unofficial secret service - although curiously enough Thurloe's own motivation seems to have been one of principal, not pragmatism.



Mmm. That is interesting. Commerce, high finance and its links with Protestantism is a fascinating topic. Is it fair to say such links continue to this day, especially in the US? The convenient mixing of principles and pragmatism - much  food for thought there?



@Anglo-Norman wrote:

On another note, the author Bernard Cornwell was brought up in the US by an adoptive couple who were members of an ultra-strict Protestant sect known as the Peculiar People.  He quickly rebelled against their way of thinking (attributing his interest in military history to their forbidding of such things).  I can't help wondering if the hostile attitude to religion - and Christianity in particular - which crops up in several of his books was influenced by this upbringing.


Prompted by LiR's post, I checked out the Plymouth Brethren, about whom I know nothing. Seems another very extreme sect. I should think anyone would rebel against such religious ideas. The Peculiar People (love that name) seem to be similar. The practice of "shunning" (see below) is not very Christian, but I think there is something in one of the epistles attributed to Saint Paul which "justifies" (please note the inverted commas) the idea - I'll try and find it.


Discipline may also involve formal social ostracism or "shunning" to varying degrees, dependent upon which kind of Brethren group it is. (For instance, people placed "under discipline" may be asked not to attend any group functions which are purely social, and people may decline to eat with, or even shake hands with, members who are under discipline.)...Reasons for being put "under discipline" by both the Open and Exclusive Brethren include refusing to recant and disseminating gross Scriptural or doctrinal error, in the eyes of the fellowship, or being involved in what is deemed sexual immorality (including adulterous, homosexual, or premarital sex). Being accused of irregular or illegal financial dealings may also result in being put under discipline. In Exclusive meetings, a member "under discipline" in one assembly would not be accepted in another assembly (allowed to "break bread" or play an active teaching and worshipping role), as the Assembly generally respects the decisions made by the other Assembly. Exclusive assemblies have developed into a number of different branches; when there is not universal agreement among the assemblies in a specific case of discipline, a particular act of discipline may not be recognised by all assemblies. Exclusive assemblies are also much more adherent to the shunning (or "shutting up") of the offending party, using as guidance instructions given in Leviticus 14:34–48 for dealing with a "leprous house". In extreme cases, members may be asked to shun or divorce members of their immediate families (as described in Ngaire Thomas' book Behind Closed Doors).


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngaire_Thomas
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PostSubject: Re: A Dangerous Puritan Legacy?   Thu 28 Apr 2016, 10:08

I'd never heard of the Peculiar People  ... seems they were formed in Essex during the early 19th century as an off shoot of the Wesleyans. They generally refused all medical treatment, reyling solely on healing by prayer, and so fell foul of the law during the 1910 diptheria epidemic as they refused to allow their children to have medical treatment ... several children died and some parents were imprisoned. As a result the sect split into the Old Peculiars and the New Peculiars, with the New lot, who were prepared to accept medical intervention in some cases, eventually winning the argument and patching up the rift. Church membership had peaked in the 1850s but it declined until 1956, when the Peculiar People changed their name to the less conspicuous Union of Evangelical Churches. The movement continues with regular worship at 15 remaining chapels in Essex and London although some of their traditional distinctive features have been abandoned, so that UEC churches today are similar to other Evangelical churches.

By the way, shunning is also a feature of the Jehovah's Witnesses, The Seventh Day Adventists, Anabaptists (such as the Amish), and the Church of Scientology ... but I suppose in this day and age when there are no legal sanctions for religious crimes like blasphemy and heresy, then shunning is the only punishment a sect can enforce. But of course it is only effective for tightly-knit religious groups who keep themselves largely isolated from the rest of the population, or conversely, lilke catholic excommunication prior to the reformation, when the whole of rest of the population was of exactly the same religion.
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