THE PURITANS. PURITANS.
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PURITANS • Puritanism began in the 16th and 17th century as a reform movement against the Church of England. The Puritans followed the teachings of John Calvin, a French Protestant theologian, who wanted all remnants of the idolatry of Catholicism, such as gold threaded vestments, statues and music purged from church services. • The aim of the early Puritans was to purify the Church, not to leave it, but their ideas were too strict and they were forced to practice their beliefs in secret.
PERSECUTION AND EMIGRATION • The Puritans were unsuccessful in their attempt to impose their purifying ideas on the established Church. Persecution followed and a group arranged to journey to the wilds of America on The Mayflower. • In their new society, the minister had great political influence, although a group of men of property in the community exercised a measure of control over church affairs.
Artist’s conception of the signing of the Mayflower Compact aboard ship.
BASIC PURITAN BELIEFS • Mankind is basically sinful. • God “saves” those He wishes – predestination. No amount of good behavior or good works can alter God’s plan. • Jesus died for “the chosen” only, not everyone. • God’s grace is freely given, it cannot be earned or denied. But, it is only given to “the chosen.”
THE PURITAN WAY • The Puritan Church was an austere building. There was no crucifix. There were no statues, music, or stained glass windows. • The minister read a passage from the Bible and then delivered a lesson. • Men sat on one side on hard benches. Women sat on the other. • There was no labor on the Sabbath: no cooking, cleaning, farming, etc. The day was spent in quiet reflection after the service.
Puritan Oligarchy • Puritanism in America was an oligarchy. • An oligarchy is a form of government where the political power rests with a small, elite segment of society. • The Puritans were governed by a group consisting of the minister and select group of men of property.
Education of children • All children were required to attend school. • Puritan children had to learn to read and do mathematics. • Children and adults read the Bible or religious texts. There were no novels. • Drama and secular fiction was considered to be inspired by the Devil.
The Hornbook A Puritan child holding a Hornbook. A Hornbook was a wooden paddle with a narrow handle. Handwritten lessons on parchment were tacked onto the wood each day.
Page of a Hornbook A – In Adam’s Fall, We sinned all.
The Puritans were a strict society. Sins both social and religious were punished. • Stocks – A man convicted of public drunkenness would have his head shaved and hands placed in a locked stockade for a day. The community would be invited to pelt the guilty with food. • A man or woman would be forced to wear a handwritten sign indicating their crime. • Branding on the cheek, forehead or hand would reveal a more serious crime such as horse thief or adulterer.
Punishments continued Women only could be dunked into the water on a stool – crime – gossip. Whipping was a common punishment. Various crimes had a certain number of lashes. Public shaming – the criminal is pulled by a rope through town while everyone points fingers, throws small objects and laughs.
The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book, The Scarlet Letter, reveals another method of shaming.
Puritan Influence • “Although the United States is truly a melting pot of the people and cultures of the whole world, the influence of the Puritan code still permeates the beliefs of its people. We are prone to weigh our own behavior and that of our fellows in the absolutes of right and wrong.” Goldfinger, Alexander M. “The Puritan Influence.” www.cooperativeindividualism.org/goldfinger-alexander_puritan-influence.html
Puritan Influence • The United States has long had a decency code for films although it has been relaxed a great deal. (PG-13, R, NC 17) • The American Library Association releases a list of challenged or banned books each year. Titles have included all of the Harry Potter books, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Color Purple.
The Salem Witch Trials • Because of the Puritans’ deep belief that the Devil was constantly tempting them to stray from the strict path of God and his scriptures, it is no wonder that the Salem witchcraft hysteria occurred.