Prompt: “Was Bradford’s account a morality tale for future generations?”
Bradford wrote his account on the emigration and settling of the Plymouth Plantation. The Puritans emigrated to America looking for religious freedom. The Anglican church was quite hostile towards them, and they had trouble finding a home in Europe. Bradford states the simplicity of the new testament should be highly valued, and that the public worship of the catholic church was not what God really wanted. On their way to the plantation the settlers faced many hardships, but Bradford was adamant that it was all part of Gods will. He described it as destiny in a way, which is one of the only parts of this account that can be taken as motivational.
The account is a Jeremiad, which is a Puritan preaching method made up of four main points. The first is that God judges our sins harshly, stepping out of religious line will absolutely lead to your soul sizzling on a lake of lava for all eternity. Secondly, God delivers us from our sins through the threat of punishment. Again, step out of line and mild torture is gonna be your only relief from the endless suffering you’ll experience in the afterlife. Thirdly, now that the settlers have landed and have access to extremely basic sustenance they will undoubtedly be seduced by greed and gluttony. They may indulge in several more raspberries than their share for instance, an unforgivable crime by any account. Fourthly, because of our sinful nature God will soon intervene and create a tragedy so horrendous everyone will realize how helpless they are. Humility will be attained through trauma. One will only make it to heaven if one has lived an entirely sin free life; repentance, shame, and and admission of guilt seem to be the only way to divine salvation
This is a morality tale, though the strictness of the morality these early Puritans were preaching is rather unhealthy for an individuals mental health. The basis of their beliefs is God created you flawed, hates you for being flawed, will continuously create tragedy and violence against you because he hates you for being flawed, and then will torture you obscenely for all eternity because you had the audacity to be flawed in the first place. Life is pain, death is pain, and its all your fault.
Its interesting to take a look back at peoples beliefs hundreds of years ago, if only to establish how far we’ve come as a culture. Settlers of the Americas were in a really difficult situation, and it seems this was their way to cling to determination. If God wasn’t malicious in their eyes they’d have much less motivation to work backbreaking labor every day. If death wasn’t seen as absolute fear and torment they’d have less reason to make it through the strife of their everyday lives. Its a very sad scene, but one our country had to go through to mature.
So, was this account a morality tale for future generations? Although I admire some of the tactics these early settlers used to promote their take on moral conduct, many of their views were quite extreme. Its a definite contrast to the modern view of ecclesiastical morality. We don’t have to feel like a God of hatred and punishment is constantly judging us, our minds don’t have to be religious prisons. We’re free to believe in a God who actually values our existence, a God of love, mercy, and justice.
In today’s society we learn from our mistakes and do our best to not repeat them. In yesterday’s society there was much less forgiveness, much less tolerance. One had to learn morality the hard way, from getting it forced into you. After reading Bradford’s account I feel extremely lucky to live in a world where love and acceptance are valued higher than fear based moral.