A Research Side Street Uncovers A New Perspective on The Puritans.

A blog by Tom Gale. A new LGBTQ+ writer. Salford, England Aug 2022

On a research break recently I was checking my twitter feed. There were comments from trolls. Whom I’m reliably informed live under the sparkly bridge leading to twitter lovely land. That aside, the trolls target was Andrew Doyle who if you remember came joint first in my New Year Heroes list https://tomgalewriter.com/2022/01/27/my-awards-for-heroes-of-2021/

He has written a new book. The New Puritans. How The Religion of Social Justice Captured The Western World. It is on pre-order from a publishers house. Special signed copies are on offer with the reminder that nothing will be sent out prior to the 8th of September 2022. Yet the trolls are already doing that thing where they try to put words into someone’s mouth or thoughts into their heads by use of the phrase ‘So what you’re saying is___’

Now of course Andrew is far too media savvy to pay any attention to trolls, as he is a presenter on the brand new GBTV, where he has his own spot. Talking amongst other things, about the preposterous madness of wokeness and social justice. I’m sure he pays no attention whatsoever to the opinions of people who matter not a jot to him. However his rhetoric and sharp wit is IMHO, others are available, great TV.

The mention of the word Puritans rang a feint bell in my head. So I made a cup of tea and thought about it. Then two words popped like the anomatpaic clouds in the old Adam West Batman TV series. ZAAAPP! or POOOOWW! but the words that came were BOOOOKK! and BURNING!! something I suspect came from my religious seminary days when I was with the Mormon Church. (All the really juicy stuff is in the memoir due soon.)

That the Puritans who in a book called The Great Apostasy by a mormon writer James E Talmage, considered a world class scholar, mentions in great detail. A breakaway group from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th who believed that the ceremony and ritual synonymous with the Roman Catholic Church was not rooted in biblical text and that they had a direct covenant to enact their reforms. This put them at odds with both church and crown. Henry VIII on becoming Supreme Head of The Church of England set about dissolving the monasteries and confiscating their assets. So you can see how that might piss him off a bit.

It was certain groups under siege who migrated to the Northern Colonies in The New World circa 1620-30. Where they would lay the foundations for religious, intellectual and social order germinating in New England but now permeates much of what is termed the American Way right to the present day. As some favoured Presbyterianism and others Episcopalian. Both groups now identify as Protestants.

They lived in a time when this green and pleasant land was in fact riddled with scavengers, highwaymen and vagabonds who not only strained the charity coffers but challenged the commitment of the new order. Smaller factions in remote villages were targeted and one group in the Yorkshire village of the great name of Scrooby, feared for their safety and in 1608 moved to Holland. Then in 1620 moved to Plymouth in New England. Which American history refer to as the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock.

In addition they have the dubious reputation of being the first ‘book burners’ Well possibly the first on the New America perhaps. However in Christianity James E Talmage supports the idea that in The Acts of The Apostles. The fifth book of the new testament. Paul, the evangelist and traveller around the known world outside of Israel, gives an account of an exorcism and burning of books containing the strange works of the men of Ephesus. Perhaps books on Alchemy, Teachings of Other Gods such as Egyptians, maybe books stolen from other libraries that perhaps spoke of other scriptures, hidden things. I’m just surmising as the biblical account is pretty sparse.

Later in circa 325 CE The First Council of Nices. Of as Talmage refers to as the great schism. Constantine The Great emperor at the time sent out an edict against nontrinitarian arians. Arians preached their belief in the Trinity and that Jesus Christ is the son of God. Non Trinitarians taught the opposite. Arians who had lost their faith created another splinter in the great apostasy. The edict by Constantine included the burning of their books.

So the Puritan book burning was many centuries after that. The book they burned was a book that had been commissioned by James I of Scotland James IV of England after the translation of the bible into English making the sacred text available to all and not just the select few.

As mentioned earlier Puritans lived in Lancashire and Yorkshire during that time. Where they were at the centre of a dispute around Sunday recreations between them and the gentry of the area. Who before the Puritans showed up enjoyed the activities of what was termed ‘The May Games’ so dancing, vaulting, maypole shenanigans, archery and hunting no doubt too. The Puritans predicted that the trappings and activities of the world should be put aside and the silks and ermine trimmed gowns of the women be plain and they should. carry rushes and berries from their land to decorate the churches.

You can imagine the earache their husbands got after that particular meeting. The husbands mainly Catholic had the ear of the King and in response James commissioned the Book of Sports. In a way that hearkened back to Old Testament Laws and Strict Obedience rules that go on an on in great detail yet in the New Testament big events such as mentioned earlier barely got a verse. He went for a middle ground to banish blood sports and raucous activities. However suggested that Sunday activities be sport oriented. Which of course the Puritans didn’t accept.c

Point to note, throughout the 16th and 17th centuries in Britain, book burning started as a rare thing had gained a momentum to reach a point of almost being a moment of celebration. Like a carnival. So I could see the Puritans creating a case of what’s good for the goose is surely good for the gander. So to say that the Puritans were the first Christian book burners is simply not true.

The mormon church had many faults but to have attracted a mind such as that of James E Talmage was a puzzle to me for many years. What a mind. What a book.

First published in 1909 but when I joined in the late 1970s and into the 1990s was not superseded. it was the knowledge from that book that allowed me to stand in the midst of an angry mob of Seventh Day Adventists who used bible references like weapons that they hoped would see me off their parish but after 5 very long and gruelling hours only me and one of their number was left standing. We declared that we had both done enough and showed great courage and scriptural knowledge I had gained their respect. We shook hands as Christians and parted amicably. I think I was about 27 or 28 at the time. They were all at least 20 years my senior.

I’m assuming Andrew Doyle refers to the New Puritans in comparison to the Puritans who are responsible for much of the ideologies of the far right Christian Fundamentalist whos messages are to someone who was a Chirstian is as far removed from the gospel message of love, peace, acceptance, humility, grace, as you are likely to find. So look at the influence of the Puritans in America. Compare to the New Puritans of modern Europe if a way isn’t found to quiet these awful, horrible, hate filled messages then the danger is it could happen again. This time on the continent of Europe. After all the fires of hate need oxygen from new fuel to burn. If ways can be found to cut off that supply then it will in all likelihood save many lives. We see the tree of hate and evil stretching its tendrils out attacking the young and vulnerable. We need to chop that fucker down for the sake of those children and your children.

I shall look forward to finding out in September.

So until our paths cross again. Peace.

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