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5.12.2007    |    Form over Function
I admit it -- I'm a Yankee. Born and bred in New York, so at least in the Civil War sense I'm a Yankee, as opposed to a Southerner. But I'm a Yankee in the earlier, and broader sense: an American who is a spiritual and political descendant of the Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The Puritans of Massachusetts could not have been more different than the bulk of the founders of Jamestown, whose 400th anniversary we celebrate this weekend. Not that Jamestown is not worthy of our greatest admiration and respect. Rather, to believe, or, worse, proclaim loudly, that "Jamestown is America" is to lapse into an all-too-common modern malady: that of Form over Function.

Jamestown was a settlement of, by, and for the Establishment of early 17th century England. High Church of England; landed gentry; men of position and leisure. Again, not that they did not suffer and die, in great numbers, after they founded Jamestown in 1607 and discovered that the natives were restless...and armed to the teeth.

Jamestown ultimately prevailed, and those who survived quickly learned to adapt to a harsh new land. But these were, in a word, Cavaliers (almost 40 years ahead of the English Civil War of 1642-51, but of that party). The Puritans of Massachusetts, by contrast, were, at least, spiritual antecedents of the pro-parliament Roundheads who would form the true spirit of what would become the United States of America.

Function? Freedom of conscience, independence from a royal, hierarchical Catholic-in-all-but-name church, all working for the common good while retaining their basic sense of self. Discipline, and a simpler life, freed of much of what passed for Form in the 17th century.

Form? the pompous frippery that the Virginia gentlemen would have shown had they had the luxury of not being killed by Indians and disease.

In the end, both the hierarchical, high-church Virginia, and the Protestants of Massachusetts were both essential for the successful creation of the United States some 150 years after the landing at Plymouth. But our national character is best reflected in the Puritan ethic of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Not the class-bound founders of Jamestown.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous storbakken said...

I've read several of your posts and have been encouraged and challenged by what I've read. I was wondering if it'd be ok if I added you to my blogroll.

God bless.
Jason
www.morefire.wordpress.com

7:18 PM, May 12, 2007  
Anonymous Johnh Luke said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:21 PM, May 16, 2007  
Anonymous John Luke said...

Jason, I'd be honored.

4:44 PM, May 16, 2007  

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.