Puritan, Not Pollyanna

An Overdue Response to Thomas West’s Theory of Protestant “Transformation” in Colonial America

Editor’s note: This is part 1 in a series in response to Thomas G. West’s essay, “The Transformation of Protestant Theology as a Condition of the American Revolution”

Series Introduction

John Taylor of Caroline’s Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States, finished in 1811 and published in 1814, can fairly be labeled “[a] rather wide-roaming answer to John Adams’ Defense of the American Constitutions.”1 Adams’ two-volume Defense had been completed in 1787 and 1788. There is at least some precedence, then, for meandering responses to twenty-year-old works provided that the work under consideration is substantial enough to merit delayed treatment.2

Thomas West’s “The Transformation of Protestant Theology as a Condition of the American Revolution” is such a work, and this response a delayed one in the vein of Taylor’s, but hopefully livelier. West’s article first appeared now twenty years ago in Protestantism and the American Founding.3

This overdue response could have, perhaps more fitting to its genre and appropriate to its subject, been published elsewhere but it is relevant to American Reformer readers insofar as it seeks to correct misconceptions about our American Protestant inheritance not merely for its own sake, but to provide firmer basis for revived national self-consciousness and new political action. False narratives, nefariously told or not, especially regarding our first founders, should be combatted at every turn. National self-understanding requires it. If our first founders, what they built and thought, are not rightly understood, they cannot be rightly integrated into any corrective of our present ills.  As I’ve argued elsewhere, American history is Protestant, and the Puritans, in many ways, are the genesis of that history. Their esteem in American hearts and minds must be restored if any kind of particularist, historical, national renewal is to be achieved. Specific to this first entry, the recognition of the Puritan martial spirit should bolster American assertiveness and pride. It was not a late adaptation but embodied by our first planters.


West begins with the common but unfounded assumption that Puritanism was defined by a “spirit of independence from all human authority while being totally devoted to Christ.”4 This alleged impulse, he says, “made them radical democrats.” West cites no sources for these preliminary claims and a host of counter evidence could be mounted against him, not least of which would be the disparagement of democracy by the New England patriarchs like John Cotton (1585-1652).5

Such a squabble will not detain us, however, for it would distract from West’s central and equally problematic thesis, viz., that American Puritan theology underwent four key changes conducive to the American Revolution.

By extension and implication, said changes being so intricate to the Revolution, no changes means no Revolution. The real issue with West’s analysis is that he determines at the outset the chronological crescendo and end point by which to orient the study of his subjects. That is, the Puritans are not examined on their own terms by West.

In progressive fashion, the desired means are found to meet the determined end, conclusions in search of evidence. Albeit to West’s credit he does recognize the importance of the Puritan period in conditioning the eventual republic. But throughout his analysis, West identifies shifts, changes, or developments in Puritan-Protestant theology in colonial America and assumes or concludes—it is difficult to discern which—that the ingredients isolated by his thesis were not (in some form) preexistent in the same.

To summarize West’s four key shifts: 

First, reason was restored to a theretofore Biblicist people. 

Second, “man’s imperfect or fallen nature was acknowledged to be unchanged by divine grace,” necessitating “limited government and the rule of law.” 

Third, a “warlike manliness and wily prudence,” or a “martial virtue,” were embraced. 

And fourth, the “European social compact theory as taught by [John] Locke” was adopted. As West himself summarizes,

“The gist of it is this: There was an initial faith in the possibility of a perfect community of Puritan saints, animated by Christ’s grace and communal love. The trust in the transforming power of divine grace led, logically and inevitably, to Anne Hutchinson’s fanatical attack on the Puritan leaders in the name of her own personal experience of God and Christ. Likewise, the trust in a community bound together by no other limits than brotherly affection led to lawless government. Hutchinson was exiled, limits were set on government, and a definite legal code was instituted. The early Puritan hope for a community of love gradually gave way to an awareness that selfish human nature was still alive in new England, no less than in old Europe.”6

Further, as the Puritans experienced war with indigenous populations as well as tensions with the home government leading up to the Glorious Revolution (1688), “manly virtues… came to be celebrated as equal to such pietistic virtues as humility, prayer, churchgoing, repentance, and self-denial.”7 Ultimately too, in West’s mind, the revocation of the original Massachusetts charter and the tyranny of Edmund Andros led to the restoration of democracy—again, presuming a democratic, populist, and anti-authority bent to American Puritanism.8 When these advances of 1689 were “partially rolled back by the new British king” a “rethinking of the proper relationship between man and God” occurred. An intellectual milieu ripe for “European social compact theory” then existed circa 1715 which culminated in a thoroughly Lockean political theology.9

West’s narrative is clean and not implausible, it must be said. Yet, its basis is an understanding of New England Puritanism—a sort of Lockean triumphalism, really—at odds with source material on every count. Each of the four shifts identified by West will be engaged in turn.

This multi-part response will not treat West’s transformations in order. 

Part 1 will confront West’s “third crisis” and the supposedly new adoption of martial virtue by the Puritans after King Philip’s War whereby they evolved from a passive “community of love” to one of warlike spirit appropriate for the coming confrontation with the mother country. 

Part 2 will consider West’s first transformation, the shift from Biblicism to reason. 

Part 3 will engage West’s claims concerning the “rule of law” and “limited government,” again, both allegedly late adoptions, in conjunction with so-called Lockean social compact theory.

We must begin with a few more preliminary comments, however, to set the stage. 

Admirable is West’s desire to prove a theological transition rather than a secularization thesis for the lead up to the Revolution. He agrees with the “traditionalists” that the founding was religious but insists that it was not “exclusively Christian.” Here already West exhibits an ignorance of both historical Protestant orthodoxy generally and Puritan theology in particular—though, it must be said, he is right that the impetus for national birth provided in the Declaration of Independence, or cause for union offered in the Constitution, differed in degree from that of the colonial charters or documents like the New England Confederation (1643). The latter was purely defensive, localist in concern, and did little to usher in federalism. The former was internationally facing, geared to combat a theory of colonial dependency, and concerned with legislative sovereignty rather than common defense.

Caveats aside, it is West’s central claim that occupies us; it is the question of “transition” that is being questioned here.

There are further historical problems in West’s brisk introduction to his thesis we might mention, particularly that of periodization. This is not nitpicking for its own sake. It may be that West’s identification of Samuel Langdon (1723-1797) as a “Puritan preacher” skews his analysis. By even the most generous of metrics, Langdon sits well outside any coherent Puritan period in New England. There is really no such thing as “Puritans of the eighteenth century.” Generally, the period spans from 1630 to sometime during the last decade of the century. At the latest, 1723 marks the death of Increase Mather (1629-1723)—justifiably called the last Puritan10—or, perhaps, 1725 when John Wise (1652-1725) passed and with him the memory of the last Puritan scuffle over their favorite topics: church discipline and polity in the Cambridge Platform (1648). But reference to a coherent Puritan project—decidedly socio-political in nature—surely ends, however, sometime between 1683/4 and 1689/91. We might also invoke Richard Muller’s periodization of Reformed Protestant Orthodoxy with the time of “High Orthodoxy” coming to a close around no later than 1725.11 

To be fair, West is reacting to Michael Zuckert, situating the latter as his foil. Nevertheless, the comment regarding Langdon is West’s and if Puritanism is synonymous with anything in New England prior to 1776 or 1787 then it becomes indistinct and historically incomprehensible—as much as it makes some sense to dub Samuel Adams “the Last Puritan” in reference to his disposition, religion, and historical consciousness—as embodying the Puritan mood or spirit and filial piety. Under West’s framing, Puritanism certainly becomes unintelligible as the socio-political project that it was. He seems to employ the label as shorthand for New England Protestant theology generally which is well and good for questions of ethos but not history.12

Quibbles aside, West’s attempt to critically engage Zuckert is welcome and well taken. West’s insistence that Zuckert only accounts for part of the Puritan story is undoubtedly true, but West’s “transformation” tale is a defective corrective.

To reiterate in part, West argues that a post-1700 “encounter with Locke” by “Puritans” did not secularize their political theology but rather made it more Christian.13 There may be a normative argument for what West seeks to prove but the causal historical case he musters is lackluster.

If the four turnings or crises he identifies as instrumental to arriving at a point of further Christianization of New England theology vis a vis the American Revolution did not occur as West describes them, then the conclusion of West’s thesis should be called into question.

Tenacious, Not Radical. Communal, Not Individual. English, Not Democratic.

West begins his assessment by claiming that the Puritans were “radicals in their hostility to all traditional forms of authority, religious and political” and that they practiced a “denial of any human authority not approved by themselves.”14 On West’s reading, the Puritans are to be remembered as “individually tenacious,” “strong, independent characters.”15

This may be West’s most striking assertion, and it may be owed more to the emphasis of historians of the English Civil War on its radical factions rather than a deep study of the character of the first New Englanders. Much could be said in response, but it will suffice to direct West to fuller treatments of New England colonial life, a life high communal and, in truth, more medieval than modern. True enough, Congregationalism, the New England Way, featured a comparatively high level of lay participation, albeit the franchise in church and state was limited to church members.16 And New England Congregationalism, contrary to popular belief, featured high deference to synodical authority, not to mention the elite cadre of the day, viz., the local ministers themselves. For a long time, proponents of Congregationalist organization had rejected the “Independent” label and characterized themselves as the ideal Aristotelian mixed polity, a vocal aristocracy governing a silent democracy with Christ himself as the chief monarch.

In any case, what West aims to describe is the Puritan disposition; not merely their ecclesiology as such, but rather the attitude toward authority that animated their polity at every turn. This he gets wrong.

To demonstrate how wrong West is, we will briefly survey the communalism of the Puritans and how this was reflected in their laws and, by extension, informative of their political outlook generally.17 Others have already done yeoman’s work on this front; we need but avail ourselves of the fruits of their labors. 

In things social and political, the Puritans of New England were surprisingly conventional. None of the radicals followed them in the initial migration—they shunned Fifth Monarchists and Levellers and drove out obstinate Quakers and Anabaptists to “Rogue Island.” The thing they tolerated least was radicalism in church or state; individualism was only slightly more tolerated. Consider that Massachusetts law prohibited young men to live alone. Either they must be married or lodged with a family. The use and distribution of property was heavily regulated for the common good. Church attendance was required of citizens (i.e., members) in good standing who alone could serve as freemen to the General Court. The Sabbath laws were a staple of all townships.18 And so on.

Recall how Perry Miller described the Puritan political disposition. He instructs that to understand the Puritans one must get behind eighteenth century developments in political thought wherein

“For the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire religion could be separated from politics, doctrinal orthodoxy divorced from loyalty to the state, and the citizens of a nation be permitted to worship in diverse churches and to believe different creeds without endangering the public peace.”19

By contrast, in seventeenth century New England, “the unity of religion and politics was so axiomatic that very few men would even have grasped the idea that church and state could be distinct. For the Puritan mind it was not possible to segregate a man’s spiritual life from his communal life.”20

This translated into a decidedly active role for government in leading men to virtue and true religion, prioritizing the good and health of the whole over the preferences of individuals.21

“Puritan opinion was the oppose pole from [Thomas] Jefferson’s feeling that the best government governs as little as possible. The theorists of New England thought of society as a unity, bound together by inviolable ties; they thought of it not as an aggregation of individuals but as an organism, functioning for a definite purpose, with all parts subordinated to the whole… Puritans did not think that the state was merely an umpire, standing on the side lines of a contest, limited to checking egregious fouls but otherwise allowing men free play according to their abilities and the breaks of the game. They would have expected laissz faire to result in a reign of rapine and horror. The state to them was an active instrument of leadership, discipline, and, wherever necessary, of coercion; it legislated over any or all aspects of human behavior, it not merely regulated misconduct but undertook to inspire and direct all conduct.”22

John Davenport (1597-1670), in his Discourse About Civil Government in a New Plantation Whose Design is Religion (1663), conceived of church and state as two species of the same genius, viz., the Christian communion (corpus Christianum), which were to operate in a coordinate, complimentary (diaconal) fashion in safeguarding both the temporal and spiritual common good.23 There was no room for antagonism between church and state and neither was there space for a pluralistic individualism on either front. The Cambridge Plaform’s description of the magistrate’s authority in religion should also be consulted. John Norton’s Answer to William Appolonius also presents a standard formulation. 

This dualism is traditional and introduces no innovation of basic church-state conceptions of authority which remained hierarchical, aristocratic, and in conformity to the Aristotelian ideal of mixed regimes. It agrees with the Scottish Presbyterian George Gillespie (1613-1648)24 as well as magisterial Reformers like Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531),25 and in many ways, the Reformation presented a replay of late-medieval debates over conciliarism. These did not deny hierarchy or monarchy as such but rather questioned the particular arrangement of authority vis a vis juridical considerations.26

Indeed, the story of the Reformation in socio-political terms can be cast as a recovery—as with other doctrines—of dogma standing behind the innovations of late-medieval popes and schoolmen. Repeatedly, from Wolfgang Musculus to Peter Martyr Vermigli to Martin Bucer to Richard Baxter, the narrative was that Innocent III, Boniface VIII, and Gregory VII had corrupted the classical Gelasian formula (Duo Sunt) of church and state, progressively capturing temporal capital for the papacy. The Reformers and their progeny sought to reassert the proper religious role of the temporal sword and restore dualist equilibrium whilst challenging papal supremacy generally. If anything, this maneuver elevated temporal monarchy rather than diminishing it, and at times maintained an episcopal hierarchy albeit geographically limited (i.e., national). (In a real sense, the Reformation was a conflict over political jurisdiction. Note that Martin Luther’s “first wall” in his Letter to the German Nobility was the papacy’s inordinate subjugation of the magistrate.)

Even as Puritanism emerged in the Elizabethan period and asserted synodical rule over and against that of the archbishops, this was nothing more than an aristocratic challenge to an ecclesial monarchism that claimed insulation from God ordained civil authority. The result was an affirmation of the temporal monarch’s earthly headship over the church and supplanted prelacy which was broadly perceived by Puritans as a Romanist holdover. Further, even when the right of revolution and deposition of tyrannous monarchs was asserted against the Stuarts, monarchy as such was not disparaged in the main.27 Individualism and democracy were nowhere on the radar of seventeenth century Puritans, apart from radical elements, on either side of the pond. Their world was still wrapped up in what contemporary liberals would pejoratively style medieval debates over sovereignty, authority, and representation. This was too of “religious liberty” as well. 

In 1681, a group of Anabaptists from Charlestown attacked the Bay government for withholding suffrage and diverse privileges of citizenship from them. The dissenters rooted their critique in the example of the nonconformist first settlers who purportedly established the colony as a haven for aggrieved consciences. Samuel Willard (1640-1707), swiftly put this objection to bed.

“I perceive they are mistaken in the design of our first Planters, whose business was not Toleration; but were professed Enemies of it, and could leave the World professing they died no Libertines. Their business was to settle, and… secure Religion to posterity, according to they way which they believed was of God.”28

Likewise, Nathaniel Ward (1578-1652) famously suggested in his Simple Cobbler of Agawam (1647) that dissenters from the Puritan majority had all the religious liberty in the world to go elsewhere. “Polypiety” was of the gravest evils to Ward and his contemporaries. Ward could not comprehend how any elder, in church or state, could suffer blasphemy, heresy, and the like to run amok. The proliferation of false doctrine was the death knell of any polity. 

Seventeenth century New England was not a society eager to accommodate expression of individual dissent in any forum. It was not radically averse to traditional modes of authority. Deference was owed to rulers as, at bare minimum, an expression of communal sovereignty and in pursuit of peace.

As Miller rightly notes, the medieval conception of society as an organic whole, with each constituent part being properly subordinated to said whole and not as a mere amalgamation of matter, was alive and well.29 divinely created organization of the Universe as a prototype of the first principles which govern the construction of human communities… all Order consists in the subordination of Plurality to Unity.”).] This is evident even up through the eighteenth century in the dedication, sometimes desperation, of New Englanders to maintain public peace, cohesion, and agreement,30 and to submit private interests to those of the public for the common good.31 Thomas Hooker (1586-1647) declared that the aim of a rightly ordered polity was “to preserve the good of the whole,” and “unto this all must be subordinate.”32

Puritan politics was not predicated on pluralism and individualism because it was not founded on an appreciation for disagreement and dissention. Agreement and cohesion were actively fostered at every turn, as the marvelous work of Michael Zuckerman has shown. And the results speak for themselves. Timothy Breen and Stephen Foster have shown how New England stood alone in the seventeenth century in terms of its unmatched tranquility in the western world.33 It was generally conflict free while all the rest of the world was “on a fire,” to quote New Englands First Fruits (1643).

Aversion to traditional forms of authority did not produce such an achievement. A democratic spirit did not animate the same. Rather, it was a close and attentive authority in church and state that fostered the necessary preconditions for such cohesion via what moderns would not undoubtedly consider coercive—or, at least, stifling persuasive—mechanisms. The Massachusetts Code of 1648 unflinchingly declared that any who settled in the colony were “totally to submit to this government,” and that a government of the godly.

The Puritans “abhorred democracy,”34 and Cotton and many other patriarchs said as much. Individualism was not even in their vocabulary. Each member of the Bay colony was to be fit together as one man, instructed John Winthrop (1587-1649), perhaps before the Arbella had weighed anchor, in his famous Modell of Christian Charity (1630) sermon. This was perfectly congruent, within the Protestant covenantal frame, with Wise’s later description of a state as the compound moral person.

The Puritan context for political life was a tight-knit, dense community. They did not abhor the structure of the government from which they fled so much as the moral and religious import of it. They came to establish and enforce a society in their own image, not to license each member to do so on his own accord according to his own way. The structure of authority in Massachusetts remained basically traditional in this regard. One is hard pressed to discover a “Puritan spirt of independence” that “promoted individual self-reliance”35 therein which “contributed mightily toward the success of democracy in America.”36 To boot, the relationship between church and state in early New England was one of coordinate states, as both Cotton, Davenport, and John Norton (1606-1663) described it.37 Both, as two species of the same genus,38 received their power from God and were oriented to the glory of God as their final end. Mutual aid was, therefore, necessitated.39 Hardly a pluralistic, democratic, individualistic conviction that.40

(No one can read Winthrop’s Arbitrary Government Described (1644) and infer a democratic spirit imbedded in Puritanism such that it could be “recovered” at a future date. Had Winthrop radically changed his views since the Model of Christian Charity (1630)?) Herbert Osgood’s description of actual governance in the first hundred years of Massachusetts also despells this notion. 

Preliminary matters aside, and now to approach West’s four transition moments, his critical crises instrumental to a “discovery of natural rights,”41 directly.42

Whither Martial Virtue?

Contra West, King Philip’s War (1675-1678)–the bloodiest war in American history–was not the first conflict endured by the Puritans in New England. Most notably, the war with the Pequot from 1636-1637/8, which William Hubbard (1621-1704) recounted for Puritan posterity, would be the proper antecedent for such a development, assuming such a development did occur.43

It is John Mason’s (1600-1672) Brief History of the Pequot War—written in 1670, with contributions from Increase Mather and John Allyn (1596-1671), partially circulated in 1677,44 but not fully published until 1736 by Thomas Prince45—that most confirms a martial virtue, a warlike spirit and manliness, in the New Englanders discernable decades before the period emphasized by West. Indeed, Mason himself (and Captain John Underhill (1597-1672) of the Bay46) led the Massachusetts-Connecticut militia in a joint operation that decimated the Pequots at the Mystic Massacre, leading to their eventual near eradication of the tribe.47

Mason’s record was addressed as an official report to the General Court in Connecticut but, as evidenced by the contributions of Mather and Allyn—both Massachusetts Bay clergymen—a wider readership was intended.

The Pequot controlled much of the territory surrounding Long Island Sound. Prior to Mason’s campaign, Massachusetts Governor Henry Vane had dispatched captain John Endicott with three vessels to attack Block Island, a known Pequot outpost, in response to the murder of traders at Hartford, specifically John Oldham.48 This initial excursion precipitated the larger conflict not least because Endicott himself executed his duty in rather brutal fashion. As John Fiske describes it, Endicott’s crew “ravaged” the island, “burning wigwams, sinking canoes, and slaying dogs, for the men had taken to the woods.” Endicott then proceeded to the mainland to engage the Pequots further killing “a score of them” and seizing their crops, burning the rest.49 This inflamed the tensions and full-scale conflict erupted. The Pequots retaliated after Endicott’s attack and began terrorizing settlements throughout Connecticut. Mason was in short order called on to campaign against the Pequot in concert with Underhill. 

What will strike modern readers about all accounts of the war is that the ruthless means of men were still considered providential and God-ordained: “The blood of the innocent called for vengeance,” wrote Underhill. “God stirred up the heart of the honoured Governour Master Henrie Vane and the rest of the worthy Magistrates to send forth a 100 well appointed Souldiers under the conduct of Captain John Hendicott.” Underhill adds in passing commentary on the campaign, “you see God useth weake meanes to keepe his purpose unviolated.”50

Similarly, Mason called the victory over the Pequot a “special Providence.”51 His only ambition in telling the tale was that “God may have his due Praise,” and it is clear that Mason considered the war a just one and, if Alfred Cave is right, conceived of the war as possessing cosmic and even eschatological significance—a predictable position if one thinks he is literally fighting the agents of Satan.52 Whatever the Pequot were, devils or no, the Puritans considered their own response as defensive. And their retaliation was especially justified because of the barbaric behavior of their adversaries. Phillip Vincent’s (b. 1600) retelling of the campaign briefly waxes eloquent on this principle:

“Nature, heaven’s daughter, and the immediate character of that divine power, as by her light she hath taught us wisedome, for our owne defence, so by her fire she hath made us fierce, injurious, revengefull, and ingenious in the device of meanes for the offence of those we take to be our enemies. This is seene in creatures voide of reason, much more in mankind. We have in us a mixture of all the Elements, and fire is predominant when the humours are exagitated. All motion causeth heat. All provocation mooveth choller, and choller inflamed, becommeth a phrensie, a fury, especially in barbarous and cruel natures. These things are conspicuous in the Inhabitants of New England. In whose Southermost part are the Pequets, or Pequants, a stately warlike people, which have been terrible to their neighbours, and troublesome to the English.”53

Vincent reasoned that justice required retaliation and that a “long forbearance, and too much lenitie of the English toward the Viriginian Salvages” had nearly destroyed that colony.54 New Englanders, by their swift and shrewd action, did not make the same mistake.

Likewise, Mason begins his narrative by describing the Pequot as tyrannical and lists their acts of aggression against English and Dutch alike including unprovoked murders of tradesmen, incursions into territory not their own, and the siege of Saybrook. (Noteworthy throughout this brief background from Mason is the reference to preexistent fortifications and militia throughout Connecticut.55) In response to these events, a court was called in 1637 which, as paraphrased by Mason, observed the embattled state of the colonists and, in language reminiscent of Numbers 13,56 that the Pequot were a

“great People, being strongly fortified, cruel, warlike, munitioned, &c, and the English but a handful in comparison: But their outrageous Violence against the English, having Murdered about Thirty of them, their great Pride and Insolency, constant pursuit in their malicious Courses, with their engaging other Indians in their Quarrel.”

Only a militant response would do:

“These Things being duly considered, with the eminent Hazard and great Peril they were in; it pleased God so to stir up the Hearts of all Men in general, and the Court in special, that they concluded that some Forces should forthwith be sent out against the Pequots; their Groundings being Just, and necessity enforcing them to engage in an offensive and defensive War.”

Mason recalls marching to Saybrook with his relief force and along the way engaging some thirty Pequot, killing seven of them “out right,” and shipping a prisoner upriver for interrogation. Mason further details the maneuvers of his company in some detail, along the way offering observations and wartime proverbs, e.g.,

“In Matters of War, those who are both able and faithful should be improved; and then bind them not too narrow a Compass: For it is not possible for the wisest and ablest Senator to foresee all Accidents and Occurrences that fall out in Management and Pursuit of a War: Nay although possibly he might be trained up in Military Affairs; and truly much less can he have any great Knowledge who hath had but little Experience therein.”57

The precautions taken by Mason’s company as it sought out the Pequot would shock those of West’s persuasion who presume a certain passivity and inexperience of the Puritans pre-1685. For instance, Mason records that when rendezvousing with a Narragansett outpost the latter party, albeit Puritan allies, were ordered to not remove from the fort overnight on pain of death. This because Pequot spies had been known to infiltrate the Narragansett ranks.

Throughout Mason’s campaign—hard marching day and night—some of the Narragansett abandoned his company out of fear of the Pequot. Yet, Mason’s core company of Englishmen pressed on, with the allies brave enough to continue, resolved, “God assisting, to see the Pequots, and to Fight with them before we returned, though we perished.”58 And, indeed, every victory is interpreted through that lens by Mason. When he and his men overtake a Pequot settlement and fire the Wigwams, it is the Almighty who let a “dreadful Terror” “fall upon their Spirits.”59 When the Pequot camp was conquered by Mason and Underhill in the wee hours, it was the judgment of the Lord against the heathen, “filling the place with dead bodies.”60 In the end, Mason and his men killed some 700 Pequot at Mystic. Most perished by fire, others who attempted to flee were shot. Many killed were non-combatants. All of it was the “just Judgment of God.”61 Just or not, it was surely brutal. Mason concludes: “O let us mediate on the Great Works of God: Ascribing all Blessing and Praise to his Great Name, for all his Great Goodness and Salvation! Amen.”62

Hubbard’s account is likewise unflinching and providentialist, as was Lion Gardener’s (1599-1663).63 (Gardener had been hired by the Connecticut Company to complete construction of the Saybrook Fort the year before the conflict broke out.) Hubbard casts the Pequot as lustful for English blood and imminently unreasonable in diplomatic conference with the English and Dutch—even Machiavelli could not have persuaded them to peace, insists Hubbard.64 He paints well a picture of a national security crisis, so to speak, amongst the Puritan colonies in concert with the Dutch of New Amsterdam. Mustering forces was swift and coordinated. The colonists did not shirk from war when necessary. When it was all over, and the Pequots seemed “nothing but a name,” the Puritans commemorated their victory a day of thanksgiving, for over 700 of their enemy lay dead in the fields around Mystic.65 They were in step with Providence, but those steps had been taken with prudence, vigor, and blood—just as they had been a decade prior when “the hand of God fell heavily” upon the natives “with such a mortal stroke that they died in heaps… left for Crows, Kites and vermin to pray upon.”66 Indeed, Thomas Morton (1579-1647) criticized the Plymouth government relentlessly following his 1628 banishment for suspected heathenism, consorting with native women, and leading pagan celebrations at his “Epicurean” Wollaston settlement. Among other things, Morton took issue with the over-fortification of the colony and hostility toward the natives.67

Of note too, before we leave the topic, is an additional, very real concern for the colonists during the first decade of settlement was encroachment from the home government. The Puritans had their enemies in Whitehall and Westminster from the beginning, especially as the old country moved toward civil war. In the end, the outbreak of war may have saved the colonist contingent. For prior thereto, there were credible reports that Charles planned to strip New England of its first charters and consolidate and subjugate the colonies under the rule of royal governors, a plan which finally, if sloppily, came to fruition under Charles’ son decades later.

The reaction to such news in Boston was frantic but not passive.

“[W]hen the news of [the king’s] evil designs had first reached Boston the people of the infant colony showed no readiness to yield to intimidation… Orders were immediately issued for fortifying Castle Island in the harbour and the heights at Charlestown and Dorchester. Militia companies were put in training, and a beacon was set up on the highest hill in Boston, to give prompt notice to all the surrounding country of any approaching enemy.”68

The description sounds more like late eighteenth century, not early seventeenth century, Boston. The result would have surely been disastrous for the colonists at that juncture had Charles not been distracted by domestic unrest. That New England was spared from war with England then was dubbed a sign of providential favor, but Puritans from Boston to Hartford readied themselves for combat in any case. Evidence of their martial virtue is surely demonstrated by their foolhardy willingness to defend against the royal navy when they had barely been in country for six years. Whether courage or insanity, there was no period in which the Puritans of New England recoiled from military engagement.

Just War and Reason of State

The first generation already recognized the evils and necessities of war in the wilderness and engaged both head on just as their children would in 1675. Their decidedly masculine, martial spirit was not inaugurated by King Philip’s War; pacifist utopianism (i.e., Anabaptism) never gripped them. It existed from the beginning, doubtless forged in the crucible of the Atlantic crossing and harsh Massachusetts winters, as William Bradford had recounted the Plymouth crew enduring. Seven years after landing in the Bay the Puritans were already embroiled in their first proper conflict with indigenous populations. Forty years on, such conflicts were nothing new. In truth, it was not even the Pequot war which aroused martial virtue. The preparations in Boston in response to potential war with England suggests that this virtue traveled with the Puritans aboard the Arbella, the Talbot, the Lion’s Whelp, and all the other scores of ships that joined the great errand into the wilderness.

To boot, Mason was not some godless mercenary hired to outsource the dirty work. He became deputy governor of Connecticut, his account was addressed to the General Court (and supplemented by two of the most notorious clergymen in the colonies), and the men he led were decidedly Puritan men. Endicott became the longest serving governor of Massachusetts (16 years in all). Only Underhill was a true mercenary, never to find status in the Puritan colonies during peacetime. The careers of Mason and Endicott, however, indicate a Puritan appreciation for a military mentality as much as it was revered in the subsequent century by their progeny.

Query also whether Mason and Endicott were so different from Benjamin Church (1639-1718). West acknowledges the latter was a Christian but insists that “he did not rely on prayer or divine intervention to get things done,” as if the two were mutually exclusive.69 (Query whether the charge of Deism to many men of the late eighteenth century is rooted in this false dichotomy.) Again, this ignores the theological import, imbedded in Puritan (i.e., Reformed Protestant) theology, of God working through means—sometimes brutal means as the Old Testament sufficiently demonstrated—indeed, the industry of men.70 The Puritans arrived in the new world with eyes wide open, not ignorant of the corruption of men—for they had seen it firsthand before traversing the Atlantic—and not neglectful of statecraft and diplomacy. Treaties with their indigenous neighbors were business of first order nearly upon arrival. Towns were fortified. Men were armed. Watches were set. Defensive resources gathered. These were not weak, passive men. They were under no impression that mutual affection would prove sufficient to carve a society—indeed, to survive—out of a foreign, harsh wilderness.

West makes too much of Church’s martial spirit because he makes too little of the martial spirit that preceded Church. Further, he assumes an impracticable impulse and general timidity in the first generation that defies the historical record. Formative for colonial America conflict with Metacomet surely was. This cannot be denied. All North American conflicts prior to American independence influenced the spirit of the colonial people, the fervor of the secessionist cause, and the eventual, resultant nation’s character. West improperly elevates the war with King Philip as uniquely formative. It did not introduce so stark a revolution in Puritan thought and posture as he insists. It was not their first rodeo, so to speak. Arguendo, if such a “crisis” in Puritan conviction had happened, it certainly would have occurred in the Pequot conflict, which was followed swiftly by civil war in the homeland from which the Americans were not insulated. As shown, even this is doubtful. The search for the focal, transitional point West desires is a fool’s errand because those Puritans who embarked on the errand into the wilderness were not fools, nor weak, nor inexperienced, nor weak-stomached. They were hard men, not seventeenth century hippies. The Puritans were not faint of heart, nor were they ill-prepared for combat. Francis Higginson’s (1587-1630) group of 350 settlers traversed the north Atlantic on six ships, fully armed and ready to engage with pirates and Spanish navy alike.71 A martial readiness was in them before their feet had lifted from English soil.

Indirectly related but relevant to West’s assessment is the presence of the reason of state tradition in New England political figures, from William Ames (1576-1633) to John Winthrop. Glenn Mosse has expertly surveyed this feature of Puritan political thought. The holy pretense, the noble lie, and war itself were all recognized as, properly considered, legitimate tools of a fallen ruler of fallen men, the first priority of which was preservation of rule.72 Participation in Botero’s tradition was not acquired late in New England but rather, as Mosse convincingly shows, was intricate to Puritan casuistry as it developed from William Perkins (1558-1602) onward.73 


Puritans were not Pollyanna. They lacked no grit or masculinity nor “wily prudence.”74 Their voyage and settlement experience alone would have promptly drained any softness out of them. Fueled by millennial ambitions they might have been, they were politically self-conscious, educated, men of means, as Perry Miller rightly discerns.75 They came to establish a new society in their own image but not necessarily for its own sake. That is, in Miller’s phrasing, Massachusetts Bay and its sisters were originally conceived as a necessary flanking maneuver on old England; a demonstration of what she could be if rightly and fully reformed. Such an undertaking cannot be called passive. The ambition of the Puritan faction—insofar as it can be denominated as one, unified thing—aimed to rule.76 Anabaptist political instincts were as anathema to them as Jesuit political interests were terrifying. This may explain, in part, why the New England reaction to Quaker immigration was so strong, for Quakers too were not then as they are now thought of. They were self-consciously political and arrived in Boston by way of Barbados on a mission to subvert Puritan hegemony of church and state in New England. Both groups understood the stakes and clashed accordingly. This much is clear, a martial spirit was not learned but imported by the Puritans of the Bay. No “shift” occurred in the late seventeenth century.

Image Credit: Pequot War, 1636-3. The destruction of the Pequots and their fort near Stonington, Connecticut, by the English colonists under the command of Captain John Mason, May 1637. Steel engraving, 19th century

Show 76 footnotes
  1. Joseph R. Stromberg, “The Political Economy of John Taylor of Caroline,” Abbeville Institute (Nov. 6, 2014), https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/the-political-economy-of-john-taylor-of-caroline/.
  2. Special thanks to Clifford Humphrey for providing this anecdote.
  3. Protestantism and the American Founding, eds. Thomas S. Engeman & Michael P. Zuckert (University of Notre Dame Press, 2004).
  4. West, “The Transformation of Protestant Theology as a Condition of the American Revolution,” in Protestantism and the American Founding, eds. Thomas S. Engeman and Michael P. Zuckert (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004), 187. (Hereinafter “West, “Transformation.”)
  5. “Democracy, I do not conceyve that ever God did ordeyne as a fitt government eyther for church or commonwealth. If the people be governors, who shall be governed?” Cotton, Letter to Lord Say and Seal (1636).
  6. West, “Transformation,” 190.
  7. West, “Transformation,” 190.
  8. The radicalism of West’s Puritans is, perhaps, owed to an inability to distinguish between strands or factions of Puritanism under the overarching, admittedly ill-defined, umbrella of Puritanism which stretches from Thomas Cartwright to John Milton to Roger Williams, none of whom would have called themselves allies.
  9. I assume 1715 is selected because of the second publication of John Wise (i.e., the Vindication (1715/1717)), often labeled a Lockean (or Hobbesian) though he never cited either. Samuel Pufendorf was his man and, for West and many others, such use of a late-century continental signals something new in Puritan theology. In fact, Puritans had never been averse to continental sources, even ones of recent vintage, had possessed within their covenant theology something congruent with so-called social compact theory, and were faithful purveyors of natural law theory. Wise was thoroughly conventional when he inveighed against what he considered Presbyterian tendencies of Cotton Mather, Benjamin Coleman, and their band of standing pastoral associations—the controversy is esoteric to us now and even that tells us something about Wise’s position within the scope of Puritan history, viz., he wrote (as he had in the satirical Churches Quarrel Espoused (1710)) defending a point of church polity on the basis of the Cambridge Platform (1648) and cited many others sources, classical and Reformed, other than the Lutheran Baron Pufendorf; too much has been made of the latter citation, and too little of his use of Increase Mather, Urian Oakes, and John Owen. The references to the latter outweigh that of Pufendorf or Warrington, for instances.
  10. Michael G. Hall, The Last American Puritan: The Life of Increase Mather, 1639-1723 (Middletown, Wesleyan University Press, 1988).
  11. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725, vol. I (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, (1987) 2003, 2nd ed.), 31ff.
  12. West, “Transformation,”190 (“Puritan theology remained the dominant theology in New England from the time of the first settlement in 1620 to American independence in 1776 and beyond.”) Throughout, West fails to distinguish between the Separatists of Plymouth (i.e., Pilgrims) and the remainers, so to speak, or the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay, which is not to say that certain theological claims were not shared between the two groups but rather to highlight again that “Puritanism,” for West, seems to function as shorthand for non-Anglican Protestantism. Query whether West includes therein Protestants of other ecclesiological persuasions such as Presbyterians or if only Congregationalism is in view.
  13. “In other words, no Zuckertian ‘convergence between Locke and Protestantism’ was necessary, because Locke already was a Protestant theologian.” West, 190. On the one hand, West gets the Puritans wrong. On the other hand, he responds to an historian’s impulse as Clarence Ver Steeg identified it, viz., the perception of “the evolution of institutions and ideas shaped by the forward thrust of events.” Ver Steeg, The Formative Years: 1607-1763 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1964), 105.  I simply refute West’s theory or version of causality and lineage in this particular case.
  14. West, “Transformation,” 191.
  15. West, “Transformation,” 192.
  16. “There was a clear distinction at all times between the congregation and the body politic, but this distinction was largely academic so long as the two bodies had an identic personnel.” Wertenbaker, Puritan Oligarchy, 69.
  17. See generally Gillis J. Harp, Protestants and American Conservatism: A Short History (Oxford University Press, 2019), 14-21.
  18. On Massachusetts laws generally, see Herbert L. Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century (Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1957), 215-216. George Haskins, Law and Authority in Early Massachusetts: A Study in Tradition and Design (New York: MacMillan, Co., 1960).
  19. Miller, Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge: Belknap, 1956), 141-142.
  20. Miller, Errand, 142.
  21. As the Cambridge Platform (1648) instructed: “It is the duty of the magistrate to take care of matters of religion… The end of the magistrate’s office is not only the quiet and peaceable life of the subject in matters of righteousness and honesty, but also in matters of godliness, yea, of all godliness. Moses, Joshua, David, Soloman, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah are much commended by the Holy Ghost for the putting forth their authority in matters of religion. On the contrary such kings as have been failing this way are frequently taxed and reproved by the Lord.”
  22. Miller, Errand, 143.
  23. Francis Bremer and others persuasively argue that the Discourse was penned by John Davenport (1597-1670). See Bremer, New Jerusalem, 172 n 26. Yet, Cotton’s Letter to Lord Say and Seal (1636) summarizes the same model. In either case, Davenport and his mentor, Cotton, were in substantial agreement. Whether Cotton or Davenport, continental magisterial sources, viz., Franciscus Junius, are mustered for support and to demonstrate congruence within international Protestantism.
  24. Gillespie, Aaron’s Rod Blossoming (London, 1646). See also Gillespie’s CXI propositions concerning the ministerie and government of the Church (1647).
  25. Walton, Zwingli’s Theocracy (University of Toronto Press, 1967), 20-21ff.
  26. These same debates stretch back at least to the ninth century. See generally Karl Frederick Morrison, The Two Kingdoms: Ecclesiology in Carolingian Political Thought (Princeton University Press, 1964) (setting up a dichotomy between “royal monism” and clerical dualism).
  27. For more on this, see my review of Stephen Wolfe’s book, “Hail, Caesar?” American Reformer (Dec. 8, 2022), https://americanreformer.org/2022/12/hail-caesar/.
  28. Miller, Errand, 145 (quoting Willard).
  29. Zuckerman, Peaceable Kingdoms, 70 (“The values of the settling generation—transplanted Englishmen adapting English customs and preserving English values from an England rather more medieval than modern—persisted through the succeeding century and a half in Massachusetts.”). See also Otto Gierke, Political Theories of the Middle Age (trans. Frederic William Maitland, Cambridge University Press, 1900), 7-8 (“Political Thought when it is genuinely medieval starts from the Whole but ascribes an intrinsic value to every Partial Whole down to and including the Individual. [This as a reflection of the
  30. See generally Michael Zuckerman, Peaceable Kingdoms: New England Towns in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Random House, 1970); Barry Alan Shain, The Myth of American Individualism: The Protestant Origins of American Political Thought (Princeton University Press, 1994).
  31. See e.g., John Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, 8 Jan. 1776.
  32. Miller and Johnson, The Puritans, 238.
  33. Breen & Foster, “The Puritans’ Greatest Achievement: A Study of Social Cohesion in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts,” Journal of American History 60:1 (June 1973), 5-22.
  34. Miller, Orthodoxy in Massachusetts (Boston: Beacon, 1959), 37.
  35. West, “Transformation,” 203.
  36. West, “Transformation,” 192.
  37. See Norton, The Answer, trans. Horton Douglas (Harvard University Press, 1958).
  38. Cotton, Discourse, 5-7.
  39. Herbert Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, vol. I (Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1957), 217.
  40. All manner of theological and ecclesiastical offenses were prosecuted. Osgood, Colonies, 215-216.
  41. West, “Transformation,” 204.
  42. This response will not, and cannot possibly hope to—nor is the author sure it is warranted to—combat West’s grander thesis of natural rights as the source code of the American founding. See generally West, The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Conditions of Freedom (Cambridge University Press, 2017).
  43. Hubbard, A narrative of the troubles with the Indians in New-England, from the first planting thereof in the year 1607. to this present year 1677. But chiefly of the late troubles in the two last years, 1675. and 1676: To which is added a discourse about the warre with the Pequods in the year 1637 (1677).
  44. See Mather, A relation of the troubles which have hapned (sic) in New-England, by reason of the Indians there. From the year 1614. to the year 1675. Wherein the frequent conspiracyes of the Indians to cutt off the English. and the wonderfull providence of God, in disappointing their devices, is declared. Together with An historical discourse concerning the prevalency of prayer: shewing that New Englands late deliverance from the rage of the heathen is an eminent answer of prayer (1677).
  45. Prince, Major Mason’s Brief History of the Pequot War (1736).
  46. See Underhill, Newes from America; or, a New and Experimental Discoverie of New England; Containing, A True Relation of Their War-like proceedings these two years last past… (1638).
  47. The explanatory subtitle to Prince’s edition reads: “Especially of the Memorable Taking of their Fort at Mistick (sic) in Connecticut in 1637.”
  48. See Underhill, Newes, 2.
  49. Fiske, The Beginnings of New England or The Puritan Theocracy in its Relations to Civil and Religious Liberty (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin Co., 1892), 129
  50. Underhill, Newes, 4-5.
  51. The account of Edward Johnson (1598-1672), who served in the Pequot campaign, in The Wonderworking Providence of Sion’s Savior in New England (1654) is even more thoroughly providentialist and has no allergy to colorful descriptions of the sometimes violent occurrence within God’s providence.
  52. See generally Cove, The Pequot War (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996).
  53. Vincent, A True Relation of the Late Battell fought in New England, between the English, and the Salvages (1637), 4.
  54. Vincent, True Relation, 8.
  55. Henry Cabot Lodge, in his Short History of the English Colonies (New York: Harper, 1881), 346, mentions that a perimeter of forts was established in the Bay colony as early as 1632 to deter French incursions. Lodge recounts the Pequot conflict at Short History, 349-350.
  56. Indeed, Mason later remarks that “God led his People thro’ many Difficulties and Turnings; yet by more than an ordinary Hand of Providence he brought them to Canaan at last.” Mason, History, 4.
  57. Mason, History, 3-4.
  58. Mason, History, 5. For those Narragansett that remained, Mason’s gratitude is evident. History, 6.
  59. Mason, History, 8.
  60. Mason, History, 9. It appears here too that Mason’s men burned the Wigwams as the Pequot slept, creating a “fiery Oven” of judgment. Ibid.
  61. Mason, History, 10.
  62. Mason, History, 22.
  63. Gardener, Relation of the Pequot Warres (1660), 3 (his stated purpose in writing to be to “call to mind the passages of God’s providence at Seabrooke in and about the time of the Pequit (sic) warre.”).
  64. “Matchiavel himself if he had sate in counsel with them could not have insinuated stronger reasons to have perswaded them to a peace.” Hubbard, Narrative, 122.
  65. Vincent, True Relation, 14.
  66. Thomas Morton, New English Canaan (Boston: Prince Society, 1883 (London, 1637), ed. Charles Francis Adams), 132-133 (“And the bones and skulls upon the several places of their habitations made such a spectacle after my coming into those parts, that, as I traveled in that Forest near the Massachusetts, it seemed to me a new found Golgatha.”)
  67. Morton’s true designs were revealed in correspondence intercepted by Winthrop, viz., the revocation of the Puritan and Pilgrim charters. See Richard Gummere, The American Colonial Mind and the Classical Tradition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963), 42-43.
  68. Fiske, Beginnings, 113-114.
  69. West, “Transition,” 201.
  70. On the Puritan doctrine of Providence, see chapter ten of Joel R. Beeke & Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2012).
  71. See Higginson’s A True Relation of the Last Voyage to New England (1630). “That the settlers came as an armed host, ready to defend their new colony against possible attack not only by Indians or the Spaniards, but by England itself, was evident from the military equipment which they brought with them—armor, long pieces, swords, ammunition.” Wertenbaker, Puritan Oligarchy, 42.
  72. Mosse, The Holy Pretence: A Study in Christianity and Reason of State from William Perkins to John Winthrop (New York: Howard Fertig, 1968). See also, Timon Cline, “Good Deceit,” American Reformer (June 1, 2024), https://americanreformer.org/2024/06/good-deceit/.
  73. For expert treatment of Puritan casuistry see Joel R. Beeke & Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2012), 927-946.
  74. West, 187. Consider that Johannes Wollebius (1586-1629), in his Abridgment of Christian Divinitie (1629), 318ff, discussed the virtue of prudence—inter alia, as a posture of distrust—at length, and that Wollebius’s text was a staple of Harvard and Yale curriculum nearly from the beginning.
  75. Miller, Errand into the Wilderness (Cambridge: Belknap, 1956), 141-152.
  76. See also Francis J. Bremer, Building A New Jerusalem: John Davenport, a Puritan in Three Worlds (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).
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Timon Cline

Timon Cline is the Editor in Chief at American Reformer. He is an attorney and a fellow at the Craig Center at Westminster Theological Seminary and the Director of Scholarly Initiatives at the Hale Institute of New Saint Andrews College. His writing has appeared in the American Spectator, Mere Orthodoxy, American Greatness, Areo Magazine, and the American Mind, among others. He writes regularly at Modern Reformation and Conciliar Post.

7 thoughts on “Puritan, Not Pollyanna

  1. Young men were not allowed to live on their own? In other words, female supervision was required by law? Somehow I had never come across that law before.

    I know it was a side note in the article, but I wouldn’t want to re-adopt all the laws of the Massachusetts and Connecticut colonies. Of course, I am a southerner, our traditions are different.

    Apparently we southerners were too nice to Indians too. We’re just nice people I guess. 🙂

  2. Considering that the Puritans only had a significant demographic presence in a few New England states, were involved in slave trading, participated in the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans from the land, persecuted fellow Christians because of their different beliefs and martyred 4 Quakers, and committed a host of other abuses, why should we want a resurgence of their way of life? Why?

    There are not just factual and logical reasons why we hold to certain beliefs, there are personal reasons too. But what personal reasons would some have to want our whole nation to embrace a Puritan society when that society was such a minority in America? What personal reasons would cause Christians, who on a daily basis receive the forgiveness of sins because of Christ, to want to imitate such intolerant, abusive people? That is the question that Cline and other fellow believers must answer just as those who support elective abortion must answer why they support the killing of human life in the womb.

    Part of the answer as to why some want the nation to emulate the Puritans comes from Puritan characteristics that Cline mentions in the above article. But did those traits and their actions reflect the fruit of the Spirit or the works of the flesh? Did those traits resemble some idealistic notion of what it means to be a powerful, self-sufficient man or did they resemble the traits that reflect the compassion shown to us in the Gospel?

    I wish that Cline would share why he finds such intolerant and abusive people to be a model for himself and the nation to follow.

    1. If it’s true that people have personal reasons for their beliefs, please provide the personal reasons for your beliefs whenever you comment on this website. That way we can fully assess your thinking.

  3. The Puritans were not abusive or authoritarian as some delusional fools would claim, but rather a model for the New Christian Rights mission to retake American culture. In their view Jesus and John Wayne are good actually. Timon, this is one based article. Long live New England Supremacy !

    1. BP,
      Kicking people out, physically punishing people, or martyring those who hold to different beliefs is neither abusive nor authoritarian, is it? And who conducted the witch trials in which some who were found guilty and were executed?

      The question is how much of this remaking of America do you want to force on people?

      As for John Wayne, didn’t he dodge military service? It is odd that we would try to highlight similarities between John Wayne and Jesus. Jesus, who chose to be of lowly birth, came to serve and to suffer and die for our sins. John preferred movie roles where he made other people die. He presented a white machismo whereas Jesus willingly suffered scorn. John Wayne presented a self-sufficient attitude while Jesus died for those who know that they aren’t self sufficient.

      Finally, Jesus told us that those who would be great would serve others while you cheer on New England supremacy. Sorry but the only New England supremacy I can support is for the Sox and the Patriots.

      1. Curt,
        The Puritans were establishmentarians and as establishmentarians they came to the new world to establish their own brand of Congregational Protestantism. The “martyred” dissenters you speak of were a threat to public safety. Our modern image of Quakers and other dissenters is entirely false conditioned by the lies of Roger Williams. The Puritans did not force any conversion , but they did have an established preference towards Congregationalism. The Dissenters chose to come to the new world well aware that it was a Congregationalist establishment. As For Jesus and John Wayne , Why must Protestants be effeminate ? Why would most of the Great men of History be Christian ? Because Christianity called men to dare to do great things. John Wayne is a symbol of something lost. Something that must be recovered. The Puritan were among the most humble, gracious, and intelligent people of all time. Why not New England Supremacy ?

        1. BP,
          You’re excusing abuse and murder. But if you want to be tribal about the Puritans, no one can stop you, not even the New Testament. The New Testament doesn’t excuse the such a division in the Body of Christ nor does it excuse the murder of Quakers regardless of who they were. The New Testament doesn’t support supremacy of any group of Christians over the others.

          But by cheering for New England supremacy, you’re not just supporting what the Puritans wanted to establish for themselves, you’re supporting Puritan hegemony. Where in the New Testament is that supported? Abusing and martyring fellow believers and nonbelievers and trying to practice hegemony is not consistent with being humble and gracious. And so it is very difficult to take you seriously except that your views are consistent with some others who push this lording it over others. You may very well be speaking sarcastically, others are not.

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