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VARIOUS TEXTS: NEW ENGLAND AND ANGLICANISM

American religious culture originated in Calvinist New England. Even today the nation's moral standards and criminal codes largely reflect the Puritan values of the seventeenth and eighteenth cetury Calvinism. Some of the major aspects of Calvinist dogma and church structure relevant to our consideration of competition among religious cultures in the market place of public issues are the following:
1. The wickedness of man. Orthodox Calvinism was obsessed with the dogman of original sin. Men were inherently evil and, with the exception of a few whom God selected to save, were doomed to damnation. This obsession with the inherent fallibility of all men did imply a concept of egalitarianism which was an important part of New England's heritage to American democracy.
2. Compulsion and election. It follows from this that the idea that men should be free in matters of faith and morals was alien and repugnant to New England Calvinism. If man were free to choose, he would invariably choose error and evil. Election exclusively belongs to God:; the obligation of man is to obey the words of God as communicated through the church. It is well known that the Puritans came to America not to establish religious liberty but to secure freedom of worship for themselves alone.They had no hesitation in imposing upon articulate dissenters the same persecution that they had suffered at the hands of the Anglican Church.
3. Church and state. For the same reasons, the concept of separation of church and state was alien and repugnant to New England Calvinism. The Congregationalist Church of Massachusetts was the last of all American churches to become disestablished, and when separation was finally achieved in 1833 it was against the desires of the church. 4. Man's purpose in life. Man's sole purpose in life was the glorification of God. Whatever detracted from man's efforts and activities in the pursuit of this end was necessarily evil. Happiness, as the term is generally understood, if not intrinsically evil was certainly not the aim of life.
5. Ausierily andsimplicity. The Puritan mind abhorred pomp, pageantry, and ornateness. Puritan church services centered on the sermon and eschewed all rites and ritual.
6. The moral standards. Puritan moral standards were the strictest of all among the tributaries to American culture. The principal evils were lewdness, covetousness, anger, untruthfulness, Sabbath-breaking, vanity, gossiping, and idleness.
As Congregational Calvinism was the established church in New England, so Anglicanism was the established church in Virginia and the Southern Colonies. However, while Calvinism played a tremendous role in shaping American cultural patterns, the contributions of Anglicanism were comparatively insignificant. The religion and culture of Anglicanism after the disappearance of early Calvinist influence, fitted well the needs of the Southern plantation aristocracy (as they had fitted the needs of the Tudor and Stuart aristocracies), and whatever influence Anglicanism might have on American culture vanished along with the disappearance of the plantation aristocracy.

Source: Britain and America, pp. 210/211, Cornelsen Verlag, 4. Auflage 1982




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