Another View of Puritans
by Revilo P. Oliver
I HAVE frequently mentioned the Puritans with asperity and commented on their baneful influence on our history. It is only fair, therefore, to notice a little periodical, The Pilgrim, published by the Reverend Mr. Louis F. deBoer in Collingswood, New Jersey. In his issue No. 2-1, which has just come to me, he notes that the pernicious activity of the Puritans and hence of New England in American politics coincided with abandonment of their religion.
“The faith of the Pilgrim,” he says, “was all too soon extinguished in apostasy. Within a few short generations, the sons of the Pilgrims turned apostate, adopting Unitarianism, denying that Jesus is the Christ… By the time of the Revolutionary War the historic Calvinism of New England was already starting to give way to a more fashionable Arminianism [i.e., rejection of Calvin’s determinism and doctrine of predestination; insistence on the idea that the incarnate god, Jesus, had himself crucified to atone for the sins of “all” mankind] to pave the way for the slide into Unitarianism…. New England became the fountainhead of apostasy after the Revolutionary War, producing not only rampant Unitarianism but Universalism.”
Mr. deBoer is essentially right. Thomas Jefferson, who hoped that all young men of his day would reject every form of religion except the Unitarian, regarded Unitarianism as both a convenient exit from established Christianity and a convenient shelter for Deists who thought it would be imprudent for them to avow publicly their rejection of the whole doctrine of Christianity. It can be said that if we define Christianity in Jefferson’s time as what was common to the doctrines of the Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Calvinists, the Unitarians were not Christians at all. They had certainly lost faith in all the cardinal beliefs of Christianity.
The consequences are historically instructive, and make Mr. deBoer’s essay one that we must perpend, whether or not we approve of convenient exits from Christianity.
Jefferson wrote, “I confidently expect that the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States,”(1) with the result that the majority of our people would believe only in an ethical system that retained the better part of the ethical doctrines of Christianity (and many other religions) together with a Deism that was derived from Roman Stoicism and was, in Jefferson’s time, a plausible theory that he himself embraced but did not regard as indispensable.(2) All the organized Christian cults, from Catholicism to Calvinism, with their churches and clergy would disappear or become mere local clubs that enlisted some individuals here and there, but were entirely without political or social power; and the nation would be delivered from the ranting exhortations of evangelists whose ambitions or hallucinations had shown them what God demanded of their credulous audiences.
Jefferson was, of course, totally deceived in his confident expectations. The Unitarians themselves did what he hoped they would not do; they drew up a creed, set up churches with a clergy, and merely added another to the wild variety of competing sects that purported to be Christian. And the rising generation in Jefferson’s time lived to see a veritable plague of holy rabble-rousers excite the emotionalism of the ignorant masses and vend a dozen brands of salvation in heaven and folly on earth.
Mr. deBoer makes the extremely important point that when faith in an accepted religious doctrine is lost, the result is the counterfeit religion of “social gospel,” an euphemism for politically and socially subversive agitation. That, of course, is painfully obvious in our own time when the overwhelming majority of clergymen, including the rabble-rousers who pose as “fundamentalists,” are probably secret atheists, and most of the pulpits in every community are occupied by sleazy shysters who peddle, more or less openly, the gospel of Marx and can be called Christian only because they are doing business under that name and their gospel can be traced back to the Jewish elements of primitive Christianity(3) that were rejected by the religion of the West so long as it was a faith widely held.
Mr. deBoer draws a cogent parallel between what is so obvious today and what happened a century and a half ago. The Unitarians, having become apostates from traditional Christianity, and having rejected the only basis for belief in the religion, should have logically and honestly admitted that they were not Christians at all, but instead they dishonestly clung to the name and tried to justify that imposture by sophisticated quibbling.(4) It is unlikely that the more intelligent Unitarians deceived themselves, and in any case, having lost their religious faith but not their itch to exhort and agitate to show themselves holier than their neighbors, they turned to political subversion and destruction, as their modern counterparts are doing. As Mr. deBoer justly observes, “Then as now a ‘social gospel’ was the logical alternative to denying the gospel of Jesus Christ… Salvation became temporal, worked out by man himself in the sphere of social action and reform. As with all such movements of social reform, it sought to seize and use the sword of civil government to hack society into the desired shape…. Having whetted their appetite, the radicals turned from temperance meetings to the abolition of negro servitude.” Thus was born the “cult of ‘Abolitionism,’ which was “one of the most radical and destructive of the historical fruits of New England apostasy,” and eventually led to the overthrow of the American Constitution and the effective end of the Republic that had been hopefully formed by that document.
The foregoing strictures on Unitarians from an historical standpoint are applicable, of course, only to those who promoted subversion in the nineteenth century or promote it today.
It was the Abolitionists who, by their hysterical ranting to ignorant and impressionable masses, propagated in the Northern states a suicidal hatred of White men, much as during the Middle Ages rats propagated the Black Plague. The venomous creatures disguised the hatred festering in their little skulls by calling themselves Christians and brazenly lying to conceal from their credulous audiences the fact that slavery is explicitly and emphatically endorsed in the “New Testament”(5) and must therefore be accepted and endorsed by any religion based upon the belief in the authenticity of that collection of gospels. That fact alone is sufficient to establish the accuracy of the Reverend Mr. deBoer’s characterization of the Unitarians in general, and the Abolitionists in particular, as apostates from Christianity and anti-Christian agitators. To call the Abolitionists Christian is as much of a misnomer as it would be to apply the same adjective to Thomas Paine or Joseph McCabe, and it is highly probable that, in the long run, covert apostates did more to destroy Christianity as a viable religion than did all the Deists and atheists who openly attacked it.
The article in The Pilgrim courageously and correctly describes the consequences of the calamity that the foul sedition of the Abolitionists brought upon the American people, fatal consequences that are afflicting us today. After Lincoln and the filthy gang of madmen and thieves whose instrument he was tore up the Federal Constitution to launch the most unjustified and criminal war of aggression in human history up to that time, a dishonest pretense that the document had been restored by piecing together selected shreds of it could only end in ultimate disaster to the nation that had been effectively dismembered by the crime that was disguised by a mendacious claim that it had been a “civil” war, a claim that is an arrant lie, although it is repeated in a thousand textbooks, written by venal scribblers who pose as historians.
The ultimate consequence of the unconstitutional and partly hypocritical effort to “save the Union” will be the dissolution of the Union that was so bloodily created, which is planned to begin with the expulsion of White men from the southwestern states and to continue with their expulsion from Florida.
My point in this note, however, is to acknowledge the justice of the claim in The Pilgrim that the calamities brought upon the American people in the past and at present under the guise of Christianity by revolutionists who spread the social disease called the “social gospel” are the work of agitators who, strictly speaking, are apostates from the traditional religion, and that in the United States Western Christianity cannot be justly blamed for the depredations of the rats who swarm over its ruins.
(1) Jefferson’s voluminous writings have been condensed into what amounts to a formal treatise by Jefferson in the logically classified excerpts in Dr. Martin Larson’s Jefferson, Magnificent Populist. My quotation comes from p. 339.
(2) Jefferson called himself an Epicurean (p. 335). He knew the philosophy of Epicurus, as did all educated men, from the great and beautiful poem by Lucretius and the dialogues of Cicero. He knew, therefore, the Epicurean view that if there are gods, they are irrelevant to human life, since they must have been produced by the same accretion of atoms that formed the physical world and eventually the organic life in it, and the gods, if they exist in some remote part of the universe, can have no concern with human life, let alone with individuals who may try to attract their attention. The usual Epicurean view was that the gods, if they existed, must dwell in the intermundia, the interstellar spaces that lie between the many worlds that must have been produced by the same physical causes that produced our own.
(3) See especially the booklet by Dietrich Eckart that is available in both the German original and an English translation (Bolshevism from Moses to Lenin) from Cosmotheist Books. Typically Jewish revolutionary agitation forms part of the doctrine attributed to Jesus in the “New Testament,” but was suppressed in Western Christianity (except for a few outbreaks by petty hierarchs who were themselves quickly suppressed) until it was revived in the nineteenth century as a substitute for Protestant doctrines that had become incredible.
(4) The Unitarians could have continued to call themselves Christian, as Jefferson hoped, by a prudent dissimulation to avoid persecution, but they forfeited a right to that apology when they began to promulgate their own pernicious and malicious doctrines in the name of the Christianity they had in fact rejected. One cardinal principle of the Unitarians was, as Mr. deBoer says, denial of the divinity of Jesus, although that was attested in all the texts of the “New Testament” that they had before them. That meant, by an inescapable logic, that the “New Testament” was either (a) an accurate report of what that Jesus had claimed, in which case he was either a liar or insane, so that nothing that he said can be taken as truth, or (b) at least in part fiction and a hoax, whence it follows that since the “New Testament” is the only evidence for the existence of the Jesus described in its pages, he may be only a fictitious character, like Sherlock Holmes, and there is no valid reason whatsoever for believing that he actually existed. That simply abolishes the whole of the Christian religion, including the “Old Testament” with which it had been burdened on the strength of statements made in the “New.” The Unitarian agitators’ refusal to admit the logically inescapable conclusion shows that they were either irrational and mentally deficient or consciously engaged in a swindle. Some of them, especially among the “Abolitionist” conspirators, gave proof of an egomania that was virtually a virulent form of insanity. Consider, for example, that odious Unitarian minister, the Reverend Dr. Theodore Parker, whose gospel is well summarized by J.C.G. Furnas in The Road to Harper’s Ferry: “‘There is no supreme law but that made by God… How may one learn the law of God?…’ Though never quite explicit, the reply is always clear: Apply to the one-man, hieratic supreme court that, through God’s inscrutable choice, consists of the Rev. Theodore Parker.”
(5) The only Abolitionists who can be acquitted of calculated deceit are the very few who did not claim to be Christian and any who can be shown to have been so ignorant that they could read their Scriptures only in the English version, had only an imperfect acquaintance with the English language, and did not think of consulting legitimate clergymen or other educated persons. It is true that the King James version uses the ambiguous word ‘servant’ to translate the Greek word that means ‘slave’ and only ‘slave’ (and the correct use of that word is made indubitable by passages in which it is explicitly contrasted with the word that means ‘hired servant’). The reason for the potentially deceptive translation in the King James version is not known, since the notes on conferences between the translators, kept (in Latin) by John Bois, have been lost for the portions of the text in question here. The part of Bois’s notes that was found and published by Ward Allen, Translating for King James (Vanderbilt University Press, 1969), begins with the pseudo-Pauline Epistle to the Romans. The translation of “doulos”in the King James version must have been settled, doubtless after bitter argument, long before that point was reached. The translators may have wished to keep the word used by Wyclif and Tyndale in their versions, but they must have known they were risking misunderstanding by the ignorant, although they may have salved their consciences by telling themselves that ‘servant’ was not infrequently used by their contemporaries to mean ‘slave.’ A friend of mine suggests that since there were few slaves in England in the early seventeenth century, but a very large number of hired servants, the majority of the translators may have thought that it was more important to ensure the obedience of the latter as a practical matter.
* * *
Source: Liberty Bell magazine, April 1985