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Re: A puritanical sense of purpose

Posted by R. Berg on March 08, 2008 at 17:35:

In Reply to: Re: A puritanical sense of purpose posted by Smokey Stover on March 08, 2008 at 15:30:

: : : In a text dating back to 2007 I came across the phrase "a puritanical sense of purpose" and I have no clue what it means... To give a little context, here is the paragraph in which it occurs (the text is an essay on protestantism in the UK)

: : : "Today, when politicians glibly talk of our national identity, the Protestant inheritance is usually glided over out of obeisance to today's multifaith society. But that puritanical sense of purpose, which underpinned civic life from abolitionism to the Labour party, is an essential part of our national memory."

: : I have heard the "Protestant work ethic" in the United States, but not the "Puritan work ethic." (I've only Puritan refer to morals.) I did a search and here are both terms:

: The "Protestant work ethic" in the U.S. can probably be linked to the fact that the original British colonies on what is now American soil were mostly established by English Puritans looking for freedom of religion, by which they mostly meant freedom for their religion. Their intent was to establish self-sustaining colonies based on their own labor.

: In the popular version of history the Virginia colony, on the contrary, was established by Englishmen hoping to make a fortune off the bounty of the New World without necessarily a lot of hard work. I don't know that this view is necessarily correct, but it has gained a strong foothold.

: But in any case the common culture of the northern Colonies tended toward the culture of the Puritans of New England. We know, of course, that there was an underlying conflict ready to take violent shape between the self-reliant Protestants of the northern states and the slave=reliant culture of the South, regardless of religious adherence.

: In England, however, the Puritans referred to are those who tried to decapitate the monarchy (as well as the monarch, Charles I). Working-class Protestants since then have lined up with Protestant sects other than the Church of England, not just the Calvinists (or Presbyterians), but also the Methodists in a later century. For all their differences, the Methodists and Baptists and Presbyterians were religions of a somewhat puritanical cast for working class people, and whether the old guard affiliated with the Church of England were layabouts or not really didn't matter in the culture of those congregations.

: But what do I know, I'm not even British.
: SS

In the context of the essay the original poster is reading, "a puritanical sense of purpose" suggests single-minded dedication, a drive to do all the hard work necessary to fulfill a mission. If you read a few sermons by Cotton Mather, you see that the settlers in New England believed they were establishing the next-best thing to heaven, or at least Cotton Mather did. ~rb