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The Puritan, or Separatist, society settled in New England in the early 1600s. They were a community of strict faith and Spartan rituals, more so than the pilgrims of the southern colonies. They believed they could create a model for all other establishments dedicated to the righteous worship and praise of God. They sought to purify their Church of Catholicism and Anglicanism. They practiced communal worship over a set of biblically based laws. In 1629, John Winthrop lead the group of over-zealous, persecuted Protestants to a "wilderness Zion" in the New World (Tindall 32-35). However, the Puritans goals of Church purification, Biblical righteousness and a life without hypocrisy failed miserably.
While the Puritans aspired to purify their society, they willingly allowed the Devil to delve into their homes and run wild during the Salem witch trials in 1692. Beginning with a West Indian slave named Tituba, people began pointing fingers at anyone they sought vengeance, one of the seven deadly sins (Proverbs 15:1), after (Tindall 71). The Crucible was written in this manner, depicting the sheer hysteria and chaos of the witch trials. "Only an unfortunate combination of an ongoing frontier war, economic conditions, congregational strife, teenage boredom, and personal jealousies can account for the spiraling accusations, trials, and executions that occurred in the spring and summer of 1692." The children ran around with the keys to the city, claiming they saw people with the devil, and killed nineteen men and women out of vengeance (Linder). Surely, fornication with the Devil was not in their original plan for separating from England.
The Puritans sought refuge from persecution in North America, but turned around and persecuted the Indians, revealing their hypocrisy of Biblical teachings and unraveling the basis of their community. They had no interest in dealing with the Indians on terms of equality. However, they were happy to exploit them for their land and knowledge. They set fire to Pequot villages, captured survivors and sold them into slavery (Tindall 39-40). Biblically, anyone who sells someone into slavery is condemned (1 Timothy 1:10). For a group of people who looked to Scripture as their final authority, they failed to follow it righteously.
The hypocrisy of Scripture continued when the Puritans banned Christmas. In 1644, Cromwell enforced an Act of Parliament that banned Christmas festivities. This included attending mass. He claimed that Christmas was a waste and jeopardized the basis of Christian belief. Ironically, Christmas was the celebration of the birth of Christ, which is a basis of Christianity and not simply a Catholic tradition. The intent was to strip to community of lavishness, but it in turn cleansed the society of the birth of a savior. The act was strongly disregarded and wildly unScriptural (Doe).
Long term effects of Puritan failure can be viewed today. Traditionally, if Puritans had a withstanding society, Massachusetts would be classified as rather conservative. However, MA is generally a blue state. "'No one thought normalcy – which in Massachusetts means Democrats winning – would prevail in 2010…'"(Mann). Oddly enough, Massachusetts defers away from conservative views and rather leans toward more liberal ones. Puritan ways of life did not work in
the late 1600s and they certainly do not stand the test of time.
The Separatist motivations were clear, but they had become victims of their culture, and the immigrants surrounding them that did not share their religious belief. They lost control of their children, who were their only methods of becoming valid church members. People stopped growing in faith because they could not live up to their own standards. When the standards were lowered, the theology was undermined and fell apart (Abshire). By 1692, Puritan society had been overrun with hypocrisy and the basic fabrication had been torn from underneath them. They stood back and watched their society crumble before their eyes.
Abshire, Rev. Brian M. "The Puritan Family." Highlands Reformed Church. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <http://highlands-reformed.com/
Doe, Martha. "The Puritan Ban on Christmas." Time-Travel Britain . N.p., n.d.
Web. 21 Sept. 2011. <http://www.timetravel-britain.com/articles/
Linder, Douglas O. "An Account of Events in Salem." The Salem Witchcraft Trials
of 1692. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2011. <http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/
Mann, Jennifer. "Mass. voters return to their blue state roots." The Patriot
Ledger. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2011. <http://www.patriotledger.com/
Tindall, George, and David Shi. America: A Narrative History. New York: W. W.
Norton & Company , n.d. Print.