In the early 1600s, England gave birth to the Puritan religion (Kopelson 2016). The Puritans recognized that the Anglican Church, England’s state divine agency, needed to be segregated from the Catholic religious faith Power. The Puritans sought to overhaul the Anglican Church in the early 1600s, with only little results. With many unsuccessful efforts to reform the church, Puritans were forced to secede from the Church of England in order to operate according to their convictions. The emphasis on righteousness was the main pillar of Puritans’ values (Kopelson 2016). They believed in and cherished a righteous life in all facets of their lives. This paper focuses on how the ideology of righteousness was reflected in Puritan’s literature and how it affects the contemporary world.
Kopelson (2016) posits that the group of Puritans who arrived in the America in 1600’s, portrayed strong work ethics and moral code. They moved from England to America to seek religious freedom. They lived according to the Bible. Their ways of lives were righteous reflecting the Bible. The literature of Puritans was merely for moral teaching. They believed that evils originated from inside human being. This implied that they had to purify and change themselves to live in a righteous way. They could not wear what they deserved because they were obligated to dress simple, decent and self-effacingly so as not divert them from their righteous way of life.
Puritans disagreed with the Catholic notion that priests were considered to be more sanctified than the rest of the worshipers (Kopelson 2016). They were partial when it came to the instructions of Old Testament. The Puritan point of view concerning the Old Testament scriptures mainly the narrative of Adam and Eve influenced their ideas of salvation. To Puritans, human beings were debauched evildoers who did not deserve to earn value in the eyes of God. Nevertheless, they believed God could choose those were fit for salvation. This kind of predestination was the backbone of the Puritan religion. This implied that they had to live adhering to the divine rules in all aspects of their lives, or the danger of brimstone and fire would be realized. Not even those who were considered to be preordained for salvation could run away from the traditional divine law.
The Puritans way of life in adhering to the divine law conducted every activity in moderation. While they did take alcoholic beverages and dress in their social classes, they were against those individuals would exaggerate or take in excess. Ethically, they believed that their duty in the community was to act as the role model to the way of life and be the chosen generation to establish a New Jerusalem (Kopelson 2016). This was a different notion compared with the other religions during that time. They sincerely believed that they were different people from the rest of the structured religion.
In his work, William Bradford showed the significant of living in a righteous way. Besides, he was one of the main reasons behind the success of Puritan movement. He played a crucial role in creating of the Mayflower Compact, leading to the first factual, independent structure of the civil governance in the United States (Fessenden 224). The idea of the Mayflower Compact and Puritan morals of that time contributed to substantial effects that are realized today and laid down the basis of a democratic American government. According to Bradford, the aim of Puritan principle was not solely on the dependence of humankind entirely of God for salvation purposes and emphasis on the sovereignty of God, but also the significance of the personal religious experience via purification of society and self. For example, “ Mr William Brewster, ther reverend Elder, & Myles Standish, ther Captein & military commander, unto whom my selfe, & many others, were much beholden in our low sicke condition. And yet the Lord so upheld these persons, as in this general calamity they were not at all infected either with sicknes, or lamnes. And what I have said of these, I may say of many others who dyed in this generall vissitation.” He indicated. According to Bradford ideology, God protect and care for those who live righteously. This is the Puritan righteousness or ethic: devotion to church and God, self-discipline together with contempt for sinful luxuries and pleasures.
Also, in Bradford text, there are various scenarios that his beliefs influence his interpretation of what occurs. He narrates of a sailor who at all times would be blaming the less fortunate people in their sickness and curse them on a daily basis. The sailor actions pleased God to smite him with grievous sickness which made him die in a desperate way (Fessenden 189). Hence, he was the first person to be thrown overboard rather than the poor people he was threatening. Bradford believed that God punished the sailor by death. According to Bradford, the sailor unrighteousness way of life displeased God. The sailor’s mistreatment and cursing of other people made God to punish him accordingly.
The idea of righteous was also clearly reflected in Puritans literature. According to Rowlandson, Puritans texts were very solemn and heavily relied on their beliefs. They illustrated life as an assessment from God and failure contributes to damnation. “I knew not whither. It is not my tongue, or pen, can express the sorrows of my heart, and bitterness of my spirit that I had at this departure: but God was with me in a wonderful manner, carrying me along, and bearing up my spirit, that it did not quite fail” She said (Rowlandson). The purpose of religion played a significant role in the Rowlandson Captivity Narrative and Restoration Puritans literature. The literature shows that even though Puritans moved to American because of religious freedom, they brutalized other people who were not of their custom and religion. Rowlandson illustrates her strong Puritan morals by demeaning and criticizing the Indian’s belief. According to Rowlandson, Indians completely lack morals, values, and religious conviction. “I asked them whether I might not lodge in the house, to which they answered, ‘What, will you love English men Still?’ This was the dolefulest night that ever my eyes saw. Oh the roaring, singing and dancing, and yelling of those black creatures in the night, which made the place a lively resemblance of hell…little do many think what is the savageness and brutishness of this barbarous enemy” Rowlandson). According to Rowlandson narration, Indians were horrific human beings: people who mistreat other and live in unrighteous way.
Besides, the idea of righteous life is expounded on Jone Lewis literature, Women in Indian Captivity Narrative. According to Lewis, stories of captivity serves as a warning sign in relating with ‘unrighteous’ or dangerous people. These stories also call for retaliation to these people. The captive stories functioned to explicate piety and women devotion to their religion and communicate a religious message concerning the value of righteousness and faith in times of difficulty (Lewis). This implies that if these women could hold on to their faith and live righteously in such profound circumstances, even the reader can sustain his/her belief in less challenging scenarios.
The Puritans value of a righteous system is till lodged deep in American culture shaping judgments, emotions, and behaviors. Its influence can be seen despite one’s religious and political affiliation. Films directors and producers in the modern society have gone to the extent of trying to portray values and beliefs of different people. For instance, in Man of Steel movie, Superman is the national role model and iconic American superhero. Superman has been the main character of many films. For the past few decades, Superman has reflected and represented the moral American dream. This dream is not about American economic prosperity but revolves around strength, justice, and moral integrity. This vision resembles Puritans believe of being the chosen people of establishing a New Jerusalem.
Superman is perceived as an outsider, a real alien having unique powers. He was in a position to take over the world and make it something “better.” Instead, Superman decided to be positive and allowed people to inspire him and as a result encourage other people. He has been fighting for justice and truth. Superman has been an iconic image of the modern American beliefs and a model to live up to, both being influenced and influencing American culture.
Bradford, William. “Bradford’s History of ‘Plimoth Plantation'” N.p., 29 Mar. 2008. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.
Fessenden, Tracy. Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular, and American Literature. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2007. Internet resource.
Lewis, Jone Johnson. “Women in Indian Captivity Narratives.” N.p., 18 June 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.
Kopelson, Heather M. Faithful Bodies: Performing Religion and Race in the Puritan Atlantic. New York: New York University Press, 2016. Print.
Rowlandson, Mary. “Captivity and Restoration.” N.p., 3 Nov. 2009. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.