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Puritanism through its origin in the church of England, both brought forward and reformed the American culture. Puritanism through bringing in new ideas to the Americas lead to a profound influence and change in the ethical, theological, social, and political ideals and measures that were put forward at the time (Bercovitch, 12). American values were the most affected. Even though many individuals understand puritanism as only a religious belief, this is not the case. Puritanism is a system that incorporates different philosophies, lifestyles, and values that individuals face every day.
In the United States, Puritanism brought in a system of social individualism. In the past, the American lived life as a collection or as a community. However, puritanism changed the core values that made the American society to be unique, through bringing ideas of individualism. Even today, it is evident that the concept of individualism is still rooted deeply into American culture (Crunden, 56). Individualism lays claim that it is more important to be self-reliant through mutual respect and privacy. The puritan effect here is evident in that before the values kicked in, there was not a lot of self-awareness or a more traditional method of authority.
Puritanism contributed to the American national culture through the introduction of methods of acquiring wealth not only through luck but also through thrift and perseverance. Puritans were made to believe that it pleased God to work hard and create more wealth. The American population was made to think that to be an elect of God; one had to show that they could work hard not only for one's self but also through doing good to others. It is through the ideals of the Puritans that American society began improving and becoming more affluent. It is through being rich that one would gain the respect of the community.
Through history, it is understood that after the civil war, the puritan values enabled the Americans to not only survive it but also become thrift and simulative in the development of capitalism (Jones, 25). It was through the values bestowed to the Americans through puritanism that they were able to fast reconstruct after the war and also conquer and own more frontiers. The American's are even today known to be risk takers and have a nature of pursuit without ending.
Regarding politics and democracy, American through its democracy sets an example to other western countries. The Puritans have a strong belief that there was a covenant that was established during the formation of America's fundamental democratic institution. During the old times, a town meeting was set forward after church hours so that people would have a right to express their thoughts and the community would in one voice make a majority ruling. It is through this Puritan idea that there arose the principle of Autonomy which through religion and churches led to the formation of the American Democracy (Jones, 30). Democracy, as it is today, ensures that each person has a representation, a say, and authority over his or her property. There isn't oppression of a particular type of community or individuals as it is commemorated, "All men are created equal" (Jones, 35) Even though Puritans believed that no single person should be given power or authority to run the government, it is at times seen as if our present and past governments were being run by a president who had a lot of power.
Regarding education, the Puritan system ensured the development of an American Schooling system where almost everyone was to be educated. Puritans had a strong wish for understanding things that they did not know. Education mainly started with the Bible. They wanted everyone together with their children to be enlightened about Christian education. A strong connection was developed with the ordinary people who were instructed and educated that reading the Bible was of uttermost importance to living a pious life (Ruland and Malcolm, 78). The same thoughts were shared by Martin Luther as he noted that it is essential for everyone if in university and schools to understand the Holy Scriptures. Once the Puritan's reached the New World, they were motivated to develop colleges and public schools. In their minds, education was vital to understanding the Christian way and growth through nurturing (Simon, 167). For the first time in American history, the Puritans offered free education for children and communities were encouraged to support the elementary schools and grammar schools that were formed around their communities.
Even though Puritanism started in England, it still has its influence on the modern American culture and values. Even though some other influences come and go, Puritanism has stayed in the society and survived over time. Its theological effect has given birth to more advanced and recent ethical, social, and political thoughts that shape the present American population (Bercovitch, 12). There is no denying that there is a change in the American Ideals in their living, lifestyle, and politics than what was being developed in England. However, the fundamental American values still conform to the essence of puritanism making it an essential element of the American Society and culture.
Bercovitch, Sacvan. The rites of assent: Transformations in the symbolic construction of America. Routledge, 2014.
Crunden, Robert M. A brief history of American culture. Routledge, 2015.
Jones, Mary Gwladys. The charity school movement: A study of eighteenth-century Puritanism in action. Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Ruland, Richard, and Malcolm Bradbury. From Puritanism to postmodernism: a history of American literature. Routledge, 2016.
Simon, Edward. "Cotton Mather, Heterodox Puritanism, and the Construction of America." Puritans and Catholics in the Trans-Atlantic World 1600–1800. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2015. 164-174.
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