Harvard and the Puritans

Last Monday I met Ko Tjeli in Boon Lay MRT for my surveillance report. I shared with him some brochures that I got from various theological schools. He was surprised to see that Harvard was founded by the Puritans, especially as now its Divinity School has transformed to a sort of school of comparative religious studies. I replied back to him that indeed only Puritans could do that. Puritans were known for their anti-establishment stand against the Church of England, and there is no way stopping them from questioning other doctrines aside from the doctrine of the church, as soon as they had settled in New England (duh).

Thus what matters most is not what the Puritans believed, but how they construed their beliefs. Again, it is the matter of method and content, and usually the method will rule out the content eventually. That’s why unitarianism, i.e., reconfiguration of the doctrine of Christ, in America started in New England, a hotbed of Puritanism. That’s why Massachusetts is the first state to legalize gay marriage. And that’s why New England is the least churched region in the United States today. It makes perfect sense. The descendants of the Puritans would never stop questioning the status quo, as their forefathers had done centuries ago. I remembered a story where a Protestant delegate went to an Eastern Orthodox priest hoping for a cooperation based on their similar hatred against the Catholics, and the good priest replied that the Protestants were “heretics of heretics.” Well, you could say that the Puritans are heretics of heretics of heretics — triply heretics.

Moral of the story? Dig deeper on your beliefs. Ask not what you believe, but how you come to believe it.

(This is my 2000th post! I should retire soon. Regards, a doubly heretic.)


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