Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankful That I'm Puritanical

Today, I am thankful for the much-maligned Puritans, from whom I am partly descended:

"There's little less fashionable today than thanking the Puritans, especially for our egalitarian political idealism, our love of genuinely humane and liberating learning, and our human enjoyment and happiness. Praising the Puritans is especially difficult, of course, because even our Protestants — even our Calvinists — have abandoned them. When some European calls us Puritanical, we don't say "Yes, thanks a lot, you're right." We either deny it, saying we've progressed far beyond those dark days. Or we admit it, saying, "Yes, we should be less capitalistic, less repressed, and more free thinking, just like you."

"Still, we can remember that the best book ever written on America and the best book ever written on democracy — Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America — almost begins by showing us how much our democracy owes our pilgrim Puritans. They, Tocqueville tells us, established colonies without lords — without, in fact, even economic classes. Those founders differed from those of Virginia by not being solitary, mercenary adventurers. They weren't out to get rich or even improve their economic condition. Their lives were structured by morality; they came to our continent as family men — bringing their wives and children. They were also extremely educated men — on the cutting edge, in many ways, of European enlightenment. They were, Tocqueville observes, animated by a "purely intellectual need." Their goal was "to make an idea triumph" in this world."

Great essay! Read the whole thing:
Thanking the Puritans by Peter Lawler

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