I’ve heard now more than once how the Puritans were so good and/or such good Christians or how good they were to the native peoples of America. How they were so much better to and for my people than elsewhere on the continent. I figure we can educate about these people called Christian Puritans. Shall I begin? Too bad here goes anyway.
The Puritans believed that they were carrying to America “true Christianity as decreed, ordained and blessed by God himself!” They believed as well that they were on a divine mission to America, a place specially appointed by God and the bible to be the “New Israel,” a theocratic “city upon a hill” if you will.
John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts Bay and a Puritan. Old Testament law was directly, if not exclusively, incorporated into the legal systems of New England. The Massachusetts “Body of Liberties” of 1641 stated that “if any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the lord god, he shall be put to death.” Death was also prescribed for witchcraft, blasphemy, murder, sodomy, homosexuality, adultery, and kidnapping. Old Testament texts were even copied directly into the New England law books and often word for word.
The Puritans viewed themselves as “God’s” special people, and there by replacing the nation of Israel. Nowhere do the dangers of this assumption become clearer than in the Puritans’ treatment of the native Americans. Since the Puritans considered themselves God’s chosen people, they concluded that they had the right to take the land from the “heathen Indians.” The “new Canaanites” in America’s “Promised Land” if you will.
The fruit of Puritan theology was brutality. They saw their mission as convert these “Canaanites” these “heathens” to Christianity; failing that, it was acceptable to slaughter them wholesale in the name of the lord and savior Jesus Christ.
For example, the Puritan massacres of the Pequot Indian tribe on May 26, 1637. They hadn’t killed them all so just days later on July 14, 1637 they went back and finished the job. The Pequot were perhaps the most peaceful of all the new England tribes.
This is a misconception as all tribes were peaceful at the time. But other tribes were witness to the slaughter of the Pequot and decided maybe they need to fight back rather than be slaughtered. Wouldn’t you fight back? The Puritans choose this time to slaughter the natives because all the able men were out hunting many miles away. So the village was full of the elderly, of women and of children. All of which were unarmed.
I say such cowardice of these “brave” Puritans who fought unarmed people with an army of guns and able bodied men. They did after all have God’s blessing to kill the heathen devil worshiping Pequot natives. They were so brave they even outnumbered this small tribe nearly 2 to 1. Armed with rifles and while the men were away they burned and murdered every woman and child and the elderly now too old to hunt.
Say some people came and simply took Boston and wanting peace we said umm ok you can have it we don’t want death here so let’s be peaceful. But then they raided revere and slaughtered every man, woman and child. Would you then sit and say oh well it won’t happen to me or would you get your gun and organize? That is why future tribes fought because they’d seen the honor of the Puritans up close and personal.
The Puritans believed themselves to be directed by God himself — Captain John Mason declared, “God laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to Scorn, making them as a fiery Oven … Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling the Place with dead Bodies” (Segal and Stinenback, Puritans, Indians, and Manifest Destiny, pp. 111-112, 134-135).
The big problem here is the native Americans didn’t fight back. They thought if they demonstrated peace they could have peace. Boy were the Pequot wrong and they paid with their lives. Converting “pagans” for God was acceptable to the Puritans including forced conversions. Also acceptable was killing the pagans for the Lord and God!
Defenders of the Puritans claim that it was the hostility of the Pequots that led to their unfortunate demise. But the Pequots were one of the most tranquil tribes in New England. History reveals the truth that their “hostility” did not manifest itself until they were hunted like animals.
Does this justify hunting them down, slaughtering the men, women, and children in their sleep, and then doing it again six weeks later to finish the job!? (Not exactly “battlefield” victories!) Moreover, the Puritans claimed it was in obedience to God that these pagans were slaughtered!
Here the reasoning of the Puritans defies logic and any sense of common human decency. Captain John Underhill also wrote of the Pequot slaughter: “Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents … We have sufficient light from the Word of God for our proceedings.” What an incredible testimony for one claiming to be a Christian!
This entire nation used “God” as a reason to take what it wanted, murder what it wanted and the Puritans were no different.
There is a book titled NEW ENGLAND FRONTIER: Puritans and Indians 1620-1675 by Alden T. Vaughan. It was originally published in 1965 (Little Brown & Company, Boston/Toronto), and revised as recently as 1995.
Vaughan, an admitted friend of the Puritan colony, makes a well documented case for the efforts of the Pilgrims (Separatists) and early Puritans to “win the Indians to Christ through conversion.”
Vaughan’s book also reveals just how brutal the Puritans were in their dealings with the Indians – specifically in, Chapter V, “The Pequot War, 1637.” What is amazing about the account in this chapter is the frankness with which the author recounts the events and the Puritans part in them. The carnage and the Puritan justification for it. Self-defense is one thing, but outright purposeful slaughter of peaceful people in their sleep is another. The Christian Puritans justified it as biblical and holy to kill the “heathens’ because they would not convert to Jesus Christ.
(from the 1965 edition):
(1) pp. 127-128 — The so-called Christian response of “merciless revenge” was carried out “vigorously” by Captain John Endicott — “Dissatisfied by the paucity of Indian casualties, the English soldiers heartlessly ‘destroyed some of their dogs instead of men.'”;
(2) pp. 132, 141 — The Puritans demanded and accepted, as signs of loyalty and sincerity from allied Indian tribes, the body parts of their common enemies (see also p. 142, where the Puritans viewed these indications of loyalty as a sign from God and an answer to prayer);
(3) p. 143 — When embarking on an expedition of Indian hunting, the Puritans entreated the Lord to direct them in their pillage and slaughter;
(4) p. 136 — Concerning the Indians, the Puritans viewed themselves as the enforcers of “law and order” due to their view of themselves as God’s “New World Zion,” a reconstructionist view of history, to say the least (see also p. 138, where the Indians are viewed as “Satan’s horde,” thus justifying their slaughter);
(5) p. 141 — The Puritans were not content to merely kill their perceived enemies; they saw fit to murder and savagely mutilate them — they literally “tore him [a captured Pequot] limb from limb. Captain Underhill ended the victim’s agony with a pistol shot. The body was then roasted and eaten by the Mohegans.”;
(6) pp. 144-145 — In one of the Pequot massaquers of 1637, not only was the Indian village set on fire, those men, women, and children not fortunate enough to be burned to death were gunned down as they tried to escape the flames. Captain Mason “gave full credit to God” for the slaughter, while Captain Underhill claimed the Pequots had sinned against God and man, and thus, “We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings”!
(7) p. 148 — Not content to take prisoners, the Puritans “exterminate[d] the remnant”; those they were unable to capture themselves, they delegated the killing to civilians, requiring the heads of the targeted Indians as evidence of their deaths (see also p. 149);
(8) p. 150 — Pequots not slaughtered were taken captive and sold into slavery to friendly Indian tribes.
Some say that you can’t know the motives of the Puritans or judge their hearts. But the Puritan’s own words and actions are all the proof I need. There Puritans practiced “Biblical Christianity.” This we sir can judge.
It is difficult to imagine what could be going on in the hearts of a professing Christian people that would drive them to murder other human beings, and then claim that God directed them to do it! Unfortunately Christianity is littered with just this stench. It isn’t a single isolated case, it’s history and historically significant as it’s been documented around the world from India to America.
The actions of the Puritans toward the Indians are an excellent indication of and proof of how Christianity has been used to justify unspeakable things. What happens when you call out the truth like this? People rush to say “You can’t know what they thought”, “The natives were hostile first”, “You can’t judge them”, or my favorite “They weren’t acting as Christians.”
Believe it or not we have history from the time period. People have tried to bury it because it’s ugly, much of it was destroyed or rewritten but some factual history remains. History from the time of the events, with quotes by the actual people who lead at the time.
That sir we can judge. We can attempt to deny history or we can embrace it and never let it be repeated.
The “small pox” epidemic didn’t just hit the native Americans. They were given blankets infected with it by the settlers as “gifts of peace”. These same puritans later said God did it so the heathens would give up the land to the just. Oh I can go on but I’ll stop there. The Puritans were far from pure and even farther from good and greater still farther from God (even the God they professed and believed in).
Other things we can see by Puritan love for the natives was this. “The principall ende of this plantacion is to wynn and incite the natives of the country to the knowledge & obedience of the onlie true God & Savior of mankinde, and the Christian fayth.”
Funny no natives were allowed in Puritan settlements. Active ministry to the natives waited 13 years until after small pox and after several slaughters of the native peoples. Interesting conversion technique don’t you think? Slaughter and germ/biological warfare. Doesn’t sound loving or wishing them any love in the least to me.
Here is how the Puritans wrote about the slaughter of unarmed women, elderly and children. “It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyer, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stinck and sente ther of; but the victory seemed a sweete sacrific and they (the Purts) gave the prauers therof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemise in their hands and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enime.”
See the men were out gathering meat as they did during this time each year. So swift a victory with guns vs empty hands. Soldiers vs unarmed women and children shot in the backs while fleeing their burning village. Good and just Puritans indeed.
A TRUE GOD GIVEN VICTORY DON’T YOU THINK?
Remember Eugenics in America was started by a Christian dominated congress, senate and Christian President. It was supported by 8 Christians in the supreme court. It was used to exterminate “undesirable” genetic elements. AKA non-white non-Christians.
Sorry this is solid examples of the use, misuse and abuse of Christianity. The examples are many and should be front and center in the minds of Christians seeking to actually “redefine” Christian influence of the past, present and future. As of now I see very little to suggest change in this has begun in earnest or in mass within Christians and Christianity. But I remain hopeful.
The real problem is peoples need to feel special and most can’t feel special just by who they are so the latch onto labels to make them special. Doing so blinds them to the injustice of their own side. Examples of this are everywhere.
One last thing. Is this problem uniquely Christian? NO. Is it uniquely religious? NO. It is a human thing not requiring religion at all. But it is important to tell history and remind people just how a faith has been used in such horrible ways. How faith in this case Christianity was used over and over to exterminate the native peoples of America and elsewhere in the world. The idea that the “one true God” has been used for such murderous and evil things. Reminding people of history helps us prevent repeating it. At least this is my hope.