Mention the Puritans in any American church, and you’re sure to elicit a few responses.
For some, the religious devotion of the Puritans serves as an ideal worth striving for. Whether in the form of reciting a Puritan prayer to begin a church worship service, telling the story of the Pilgrims at Thanksgiving or reading John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the Puritans and their works captivate the hearts and minds of many American Christians.
For others, the Puritans embody legalism and bigotry. Images of sullen, dark-clothed, heartless ministers from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter come to mind, or perhaps their intolerance shown in the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. 20th century satirist H.L. Mencken summarized, at least for him, the essence of Puritanism: “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
Amidst the debate over Puritanism’s American legacy, what often gets lost is the Puritans themselves. Where did they come from? Why are they called Puritans?
To understand their origins, and thus the Puritans themselves, we need to talk about clothes.Read More