Sunday, January 09, 2005

Did Puritanism evolve into Americanism?

I was hoping to join the quarterly symposium at The Evangelical Outpost, but it ended up being a much busier weekend than I had anticipated. The subject is David Gerlernter's essay in Commentary: Americanism -- and Its Enemies. In the essay Gerlernter argues that Puritanism did not just disappear in the late 1700s or early 1800s, but rather it continued to evolve into a modern-day "ism" that Gerlernter calls "Americanism."

The trifold creed of Americanism, he writes, is the belief in and support for freedom, equality, and democracy. These three ideals are embraced by those of many (or no) religious beliefs, but have a specifically Judeo-Christian foundation. It is by this thread that Gerlernter draws the connection between Americanism and Puritanism.

If there is a failing in the essay it's that Gerlernter spends so much time examining American history to prove his thesis that he never goes very far in addressing where Americanism/neo-Puritanism will take us in the future. I may eventually try to tackle the subject this week, which is past the deadline for submissions, but I think it's an interesting topic.

The list of submissions that actually did meet the deadline may be found here.


At 10:10 PM, Blogger Jon said...

I would say that the Americanism thesis is fairly accurate, but I would add that, like most peoples/tribes, we have made god into a god that is "our" god and is on "our" side against "them". Every people/country in history has adopted that view and we seem to be no different.

Also, anytime someone uses the phrase "judeo-christian" they are betraying their ignorance. This term was invented in the 20th century to make christianity seem less hostile to judaism. People have forgotten that until after WWII it was difficult for jews to buy homes in wasp neighborhoods in the US. In reality jewish moral codes and christian moral codes are very different and there is no "judeo-christian" tradition. google the phrase and you will see many links pertaining to this.

At 10:17 PM, Blogger Drew said...

Except in this case, Gerlernter really means it. Read the essay and you'll see what I mean. It wasn't just that the Puritans were Christians, it's that they spoke of themselves in terms very specific to the Jewish people. (Seeing America as a "promised land" and all that.)


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