10 April 2009

More From Russell Kirk

". . . New England's intellectual pattern was perplexed by an enduring streak of tinkering. Rather as Cotton Mather could not resist whittling behind the church door, so New England was incessantly tempted to improve and purify--particularly to improve and purify other people. A Puritanical legacy, this; and prodigiously diluted though the heritage of Puritanism had become in Transcendentalism and Unitarianism, that optimistic meddling-urge remained in full strength. The impulse was responsible in appreciable measure for the outbreak of the Civil War and the fiasco of Reconstruction." ~ Russell Kirk in The Conservative Mind - From Burke to Eliot

13 comments:

Greg Rowe said...

Richard:

I will be teaching a Bible in History elective course in the public school I teach in next year. It will include a segment on how the Bible specifically influenced the founders and leaders throughout American history. In light of that, why do you believe we hear so much about the general Puritan influence on religious thought in America, yet so few evangelical Chritians actually claim to adhere to any portion of the Puritain doctrine?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I would disagree with your premise:

"that so few evangelical Christians actually claim to adhere to any portion of the Puritan doctrine?"

"Any" portion? I don't believe that's true Greg. Could you be more specific?

By the way, I highly recommend John Eidsmoe's "Christianity and The Constitution" as supplemental reading to prepare for the class. Eidsmoe is himself an evangelical and, of course, his view is colored by that fact. The book is, nonetheless, very informative and you will gain great insight into the subject. I'll lend you my copy if you don't want to buy one.

I'd also recommend this website:

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/

Best,
RW

James F. Epperson said...

The Puritans get a lot of ink because they were very devout and strident in their beliefs, and did have a large effect on the course of American history, in many ways.

Mr. Rowe, I have to ask: Where did you go to elementary school?

Greg Rowe said...

Richard:

Point taken, but most have strayed from that strict of path that Puritans led. Perhaps that is a change in the mindset from legalism to a more relaxed adherence to the Gospel as it is understood. However, I do not hear too many evangelicals touting their Puritain roots. This seems to be something historians do more often than theologians.

Thanks for the book and website recommendations.

Mr. Epperson:

They did indeed have a "large effect on the course of American history." We can thank Puritains for the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, a colonial influence on the US Constitution.

I attended public schools in Joaquin and Center, Texas through the seventh grade, then I attended a private school from eighth through twelfth.

Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. said...

Sir,

Speaking of Russell Kirk. I was wondering whether you were aware that Randolph Of Roanoke : A Study In Conservative Thought (1951 ed.) was available for perusal at Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org/details/randolphofroanok008621mbp)

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Greg:

Sadly, most evangelicals today are more knowledgeable about "praise music" and Joel Olsteen than they are about any part of their theological roots. Very "milk toast" like.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Dear Mild Colonial Boy:

Aware of Randolph?! Why, sir, I am a 9th generation Virginian, of course I'm aware of Mr. Randolph - my favorite aristocrat! And he uttered one of my all-time favorite quotes, to wit:

"When I speak of my Country, I mean the Commonwealth of Virginia."

Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. said...

No Sir, what I intended was to draw your attention to the book, Russell Kirk's first, and that it was freely available on the Aethernet. I did assume that a Virginian historian would know who John Randolph was.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, thank you MCB. I am familiar with that book, but do not own a copy and have never read it. The gentleman who wrote the wonderful biography of Douglas Southall Freeman (David Johnson) is currently working on a new biography on Randolph. Are you familiar with Randolph's relationship with Francis Scott Key and Key's efforts in attempting to win Randolph to Christ?

James F. Epperson said...

Mr. Rowe: You are not who I thought you might be :-( No big deal.

Greg Rowe said...

Richard:

Sadly, many are with religion like many are about history. You and I may not see eye to eye, but you have studied both enough to be well-versed in each. I'll get there someday, but right now, I'm still studying. :)

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you Greg. I'm sure, as an educator and one who is passionate about history, you're as well-versed as I am. We sometimes come to different interpretations, but share similar passions regarding the truth.

Best,
RW

Greg Rowe said...

Thank you, sir.