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Caetano Silveira 10/24/11

City Upon a Hill Paper


The community John Winthrop is addressing in his City Upon a Hill sermon is called upon to form the most perfect religious community. This community was to be built socially around their religion, economically based on their religious ideals, and politically guided by religion. Their Puritan faith forced them from the Church of England, that they felt was corrupt, and connected their society. Their inflated value of themselves was as if they were on a mission from God. Winthrop even compares himself with Moses in Exodus. Winthrop states, we shall finde that the God of Israell is among us, when tenn of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies... Their firm religious beliefs lead them to believe that this new land would be a model for the entire worldwatched by the entire international community, wherein they must prove the purity of their beliefs; the perfection of their society. In our modern society, we hold an ideal of American Exceptionalism. It is believed by many Americans that we have a divine providence to be the leader in the world. This idea of American Exceptionalism guides our country economically and socially echos in a minority of our Pluralist nation and there are a number of American leaders who believe America has a divine providence.

The politics of the Congregationalist community had religion in the forefront. The first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, was a church leader. Henry William Elson, author of History of the United States, wrote that The State was founded on religion, and religion was its life. The entire political, social, and industrial fabric was built on religion. Even if not a church member, one would need to attend church services, and every community needed a Puritan church. Kay Kizer wrote that since the church elders were also political leaders, any church infraction was also a social

one. While the mindset towards a religious government is still in our modern society, our constitution established us as a secular nation (contrary to the puritanical system) to avoid religious intolerance of the Puritan system. Many of our religious leaders, though, believe that we are part of a divine mission. Ronald Reagan was quoted as saying If you take away the belief in a greater future, you cannot explain America-that we're a people who believed there was a promised land; we were a people who believed we were chosen by God to create a greater world (Madeleine Albright, The Mighty and Almighty). The social force of the religious beliefs of the Puritans is evident throughout the speech. Winthrop specifically states that The Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us... He also says that if they fail in this divine precedent that wee shall shame the faces of God's many worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into cursses upon us until wee be consumed of the good land whether we are going... He also says that the lord our God may blesse us in the Land whether we go to possese it: but if our hearts shall turn away soe thate wee will not obey... wee shall surely perishe out of the good Land whether we are going over this vast sea to possese it;. This means that they must build the perfect ecclesiastical societyno room for error. He compares this mission to the Exodus story of the Bible. This type of divine mission mind set carries over into our modern society,

Economically the Puritans were bound by a strong work ethic, based in the Calvinistic belief that the necessity for hard work as a component of a person's calling and worldly success [a]s a visible sign or result (not a cause) of personal salvation. (Wikipedia, Puritan Work Ethic). The belief in a predetermined destiny gave the puritans extra reason to worksuccess and good deeds might mean you had been chosen for heaven. The doctrine of predestination kept all Puritans constantly working to do good in this life to be chosen for the next eternal one says Kay Kizer. Winthrop says wee must be willing to abridge our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities...; to not live for worldly pleasures, but to create goods for the massesto do so with a pride in the effort to completion. This

sort of attitude allowed America to surpass England in economic power in less than 100 years, and help make America a superpower. The work ethic that we describe as American Ingenuity was a source of pride in 20th Century America and we continue to hold onto that ideal. Lastly, the society of Winthrop's speech was meant to be a model of the perfect societya Utopia, or rather Eden, an ecclesiastical paradise. Upon a Hill means that their society will be built in a new holy site. We call them the Pilgrims because they saw America as a new Holy Land, a new Jerusalem. Winthrop told the congregation to consider that wee shall be a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; announcing the metaphor and its meaning. He tells the congregation to keepe his Commaundments and his Ordinance...; to follow the religion in all aspects of life, including social, economical and political. Modern America has a nostalgic view of these Puritanical values even though they don't directly guide our modern social or political life.. . . there is no more admirable character in history than the New England Puritan of the seventeenth century. His unswerving devotion to duty, his unlimited courage based on the fear of God, his love of liberty and hatred of tyrannythese are the qualities that have enthroned him in the memory of the American people. ~Henry William Elson.

Bibliography
Henry William Elson, History of the United States

Madeleine Albright, The Mighty & the Almighty

Wikipedia, The Puritan Work Ethic

Kay Kizer, www.nd.edu/~rbarger/www7/puritans.html

John Winthrop, City upon a Hill sermon