The Puritan Dilemma

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The Puritan Dilemma portrays a group of people from England who wish to purify the Anglican Church. This group, commonly referred to as Puritans, settles in New England in the year 1630. This settlement, governed by John Winthrop, becomes a community based on God. Those of the Puritan religion are expected to live in the spirit and not in the flesh. In other words, individuals are expected to live in this world without being of it. The Puritans of New England had to establish a government, maintain families, work hard, and allot time to “being human” all while developing a healthy spiritual life to counteract their worldly actions. This paradox ultimately creates a dilemma for the Puritans. The “Puritan dilemma” is the problem of trying to live a religious or spiritual life in a secular world. For John Winthrop it meant “the problem of living in this world without taking his mind off God” (Morgan 6). Thus Winthrop encounters struggles throughout the establishment of the new settlement for himself and his fellow Puritans. These struggles serve as an example of what it meant to be a Puritan in colonial America.

John Winthrop’s title as Governor was a hassle within itself. King Charles I granted the members of the Massachusetts Bay Company authority to establish laws and long as they did not contradict the laws of England. He also allowed the Company to organize a government of their choosing and allowed them to appoint others to government positions (Morgan 77). This was essentially a grant of unlimited authority. After agreeing to be live by God’s laws, Puritans had to establish a government to enforce those laws (Morgan 85). Winthrop had to fight the temptation of power as governor. He was given unlimited power and he could not let it consume him. If he did, he would not be acting on God’s will. He would have been acting as part of the world; as a Puritan was not allowed. It was just his job to recreate the world “in the image of God’s holy kingdom”, but...
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