England’s Culture Wars

I mentioned in a previous post my favorite quote by H. L. Mencken: “Puritanism—The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” If you want to see what happened when Puritans gained influence over and control of the government, then I highly recommend England’s Culture Wars: Puritan Reformation and its Enemies in the Interregnum, 1649-1660 (Oxford, 2012), by Bernard Capp. Part II is the meat of the book, with chapters on:

  • Sins against God: Swearing and the Sabbath
  • The Puritan Parish
  • Puritans and Sex
  • Drink and Disorder
  • Worldly Pleasures: Dress, Music, Dancing, Art
  • Worldly Pleasures: Plays, Shows, Sports

Capp documents how Puritan magistrates and ministers “drew up a harsh penal code against blasphemers, sexual offenders, and other deviants.” They “enforced church attendance, suppressed unlawful sports and disorderly alehouses, whipped fornicators, ducked scolds, and fined blasphemers.” If you are in favor of laws like this, then you have no concept of the nature of New Testament Christianity. My forthcoming article “Puritanism Then and Now” goes into more detail on Capp’s book and shows that Puritanism is alive and well in the twenty-first century.