Puritan Thought


Puritan Thought Essay, Research Paper

Many people today, when they believe that no one is watching, would behave differently than they would when they are in the public eye. Be it silliness, self-indulgence, or disobeying the law people think that since there isn t any one to witness their actions, it doesn t really matter what they do. This manner of thinking did not exist for the puritans. In their minds God was always watching and would punish the whole society for any individuals’ wrongdoing, whether in public or private. Compared to contemporary society the puritan culture had a much greater awareness of how their actions could and would affect society, this for most of us is an easier way of living, but it has its downfalls.John Winthrop, who led the puritan movement to America, loved his wife Margaret very much. Being bound by marriage God permits them to enjoy acts of love between them, but at the same time Winthrop and his wife understood that their love for God was to come first. In accordance to puritan views they knew if they let their love for each other exceed that of God, even if only in the privacy of their minds, the whole society would suffer the consequences. More recently, President Clinton was found to have been having an affair with Ms. Lewinsky. The adulterous nature of this is enough on it s own to have caused serious problems for Mr. Clinton in a puritan society. Apart from that, if President Clinton had prior awareness that his actions were to become public knowledge, the affair would have never happened. However, if our society today still held the puritan beliefs, he would have abstained from Monica even if there were no threat of someone discovering their actions. The goals of people today differ from those of the puritans in the seventeenth century. Most of the people I know, when you ask them why they are in college, would answer, To get a higher education so I can get a good job.” A good job to some extent means a high paying job that will enable them to do the things that they enjoy while not working. At the same time we want money left over for the kids to go to college, a nice house, a nice car, maybe a boat, etc. The puritans on the other hand worked in order to please God. They went to school as to better themselves and their talents, so that they are better equipped to serve God. They strive for higher positions, not for the money, but in order to have more influence in making the world holier and more acceptable to God. If amassing wealth incidentally then so be it, it could only be enjoyed so as to return to work refreshed. The fact is that people today work for their own cause, while the puritans worked because God willed it.

There is yet another vast difference in individuals relationship with society today versus the puritans. Most people have read a story in the paper like this: someone was attacked, the police were never called, the attacker got away, and all the while there were twenty people watching from their apartment windows. Something like this should never happen, you would think it never would, but it does. In the puritan s society this would never occur, for a few reasons. First, the attack would not have happened in the first place. The puritans society was much more closely knit than ours was, they knew most, if not all of the people in their community. The puritans also worked as, in a way, their own police. The idea of everyone being punished God, for one person s unpunished sins, worked as a good incentive for policing each other. So the twenty puritans witnessing the attack wouldn t have called the police either, they would have gone outside and stopped the attack themselves. All in all the puritans were just much more in tune with how their actions and the actions of people around them affected the whole of society. Today people can spend their whole lives not caring what other people around them are doing, and more importantly, what they are doing to the people around them. As with the president, when he was taking part in the activities we all have heard so much about, he surly didn t think it would end up in impeachment. I guess he didn t fully see how his individual, private actions could affect society the way it has. People working for their own benefit and well being seems harmless enough, it s the American way. However if the puritans were only working for their own benefit I doubt they would have made it through the first winter. As for people watching a crime happen and doing nothing to stop it, especially one causing physical harm to another human, I think this is one of the most despicable traits bred from our lack of connection with society. Most people, as do I, would agree that our way is better for the most part, but the puritans religion offered them no choice and a bunch of paradoxes. A whole society punished by the wrath of God for an individual s sins probably won t happen. It seems that it should have happened already.

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