Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Puritan Mind

We won't fully understand the "Red Puritans," until we understand the white ones. I will now quote from Herbert Wallace Schneider's The Puritan Mind (University of Michigan Press/Henry Holt, 1930) in order to set up posts yet to come.

According to Schneider, "The Puritans, searching the scriptures for texts relevant to their own particular needs, soon discovered the general similarity between them and the ancient Israelites. The Lord had obviously chosen them, as he had the children of Israel, to carry out his plans for the redemption of the world. They had been driven from their homes...for the sake of building a promised land..... The Puritans' constant preoccupation with the Old Testament and Mosaic law was...the natural turning for comfort and counsel to a people who seemed to have undergone a similar experience"(26).

He adds,"The belief in their divine election in a great work soon ceased to be a mere faith and came to be regarded as an empirical fact"(27).

The scrict laws that gave meaning and comfort to that culture also, of course, brought a sense of guilt to its members. This vague guilt was one of the key ingredients in the conversion experience, the outward sign that God had chosen an individual for salvation. More on that in future posts.

Schneider's comments clue us in also on the motivation of missions. This is not to say that missionaries and their supporters were not concerned about saving individual Native souls, nor to say that they didn't care about the Indians' temporal needs, but there was also something else. The conviction that God chose them for "a great work," came from Biblical passages related to the coming of the Millenium. Some thought the second coming of Christ would be brought about by the conversion of Native nations.

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