Saturday, June 11, 2011

From Calvinist Puritans to Unitarian Universalists?

Shameless Popery asks: How Did the Puritans Become Unitarians?

One of the strangest religious transitions in American history is that the Puritan congregations in New England became Unitarian Universalists. It would be hard to find a religious group who cared more about getting doctrine exactly right than the Puritans, yet within the span of only a few generations, they'd devolved into something unrecognizable as either Puritan or even Christian.

Read the rest of the post to understand how anti-Catholicism, Calvinism, and sola-scriptura-ism leads to not believing in the Trinity or in Hell.

(Remember, even Scarlett O'Hara believed in Hell--she told Rhett Butler she was raised on it! [book or movie? I can't remember].) A Unitarian Universalist church in Wichita exhorts passers-by -- via a sign on their property -- to look inside themselves if they want to find God.

(Image: Cotton Mather.)


  1. This recommended blog post seems to be driven more by an a priora theology than an a posteriori historical investigation. Puritanism (a very difficult word to define!) didn't do this at other times and in other places, and so one must dig deeper into the reasons why things happened at this particular time and in this particular place. There were huge idealogical and sociological changes occurring as modernity was being born. Hence all kinds of religious movements morphed and shifted in ways they hadn't hitherto, yes, including Catholics. The author shows a degree of ignorance about Puritan theology (and it's uniqueness in North America) as well as sola scriptura (if only Catholics would pay more attention on this particular point and resist simplistic straw men). It's best to listen to other traditions charitably before passing such strong and general judgements historically. One could look at all kinds of occurences in the Catholic tradition (like the burning of Jan Hus etc.) that could then be construed as showing how Catholic theology produced this. But it is simplistic to do so.

  2. Marty,

    How did Catholicism "morph and shift" in any remotely similar way to the Puritan communities described in the post?

  3. Marty, I don't know what the burning of Jan Hus, etc has to do with the topic at all! The theological debate can rage over on the Shameless Popery blog, but I thought the original historic narrative held together--using the example of the Mathers we can see the shift from Calvinist Puritanism to Unitarian Universalism within a few generations.
    And I agree with Rich's question: how did Catholic teaching change in such a radical way in the same time period? There was the debate between the Jansenists and the Jesuits in the 17th century, for example, but the Catholic Church, having a magisterial authority, preserved orthodox Catholic teaching. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Stephanie,

    Great blog! I also enjoy listening to your interviews on Catholic Radio. It's great to see Kansans defend the Faith with such knowledge and zeal! Have a blessed Pentecost.

    In Christ,

    Fr. Andrew Strobl (seldom contributor to Shameless Popery)

  5. Father Strobl, thank you very much for your kind words! Happy Pentecost to you, too!