- A version of US History is that Puritans carried the Christian faith to the Americas in the hopes of creating a theocracy. From this seed, we get this idea that the colonies were set up for religious freedom. So why is sex important to the story?
The Puritans traveled and settled in the Americas in order to establish and enjoy their religious freedom during the 16th and 17th Centuries. They were the Church of England Protestants who thought that the Roman Catholic influence affected the correct protestant doctrine. To them, the protestant Church of England inherited some influence that affected their Christian practice. Sex is one of the major issues that defined Puritanism at the time. These people esteemed marriage relationship and according to them, sex was to be enjoyed between the married couples. Such a religious standpoint was different from what the Roman Catholic taught; that sex was sinful. Catholics highly esteemed virginity, and they only allowed sex within the marriage setup because it was an ‘unavoidable evil’ for the sake of procreation (Godbeer 55). However, the Puritans believed that sex was good and was to be enjoyed by a married couple. The religious belief on sex formed part of the distinction between the Puritan way of life and the other members of the Church of England. Sexual attitude influenced the manner in which society defined morality during the time. According to the Puritans, any form of sexual activity outside of marriage was sinful and punishable. They made laws to ensure their members abided with the laws.
- The bible says you can only have sex to procreate not for fun. The question stands why have we stuck so hard in believing that the Puritans were strict and ultra-fundamentalist instead of a faith struggling to remain relevant in a changing world?
People believe that the Puritans were strict and ultra-fundamentalists towards sexual matters. Interestingly, people failed to appreciate the fact that they acknowledged that sex was good and required enjoyment, something that the Roman Catholic did not support (Godbeer 23). They had clear moral laws on how their members were to conduct themselves morally. For instance, fornication, getting a child before marriage, adultery, homosexuality and bestiality were strictly punished. In fact, offenders were whipped and their clothes tagged with the word initials of their offenses. All members were to maintain strict sexual behavior as a Christian requirement. Serious offenders were excommunicated from the fellowship of the brethren. Despite recognizing the sanctity of sex and the ability to be enjoyed, breaking the sexual rules led to dire consequences. The above reasons explain the resentments towards the Puritans. According to the critics, the world was quickly changing, and people could have been allowed to make their own sexual choices. Instead of coming up with punitive rules and punishments, they could have modeled themselves to align with the changes in society.
- How does focusing on sex show the cracks in Puritan society and why after you have all this proof, will still see the Puritans as strict and dull?
Focusing on sex shows lots of cracks in Puritan society because the historical documents indicate that all the sexual rules were broken each day, even by the faithful members. On one side, sex was sacred and was to be enjoyed by the married couples; however, breaking any of the rules landed the people in trouble. During the period, many teenagers got babies out of wedlock, showing that fornication and adultery existed. The sexual rules and punishments made people term the Puritans as strict and dull. As much as the Puritan society stood for certain doctrines, reality showed that the changing world came with more challenges their strict rules could not solve. Therefore, as much as the religion was good and helped people connect with God. The enjoyment part of sexual activities became a challenge. The divide came from the fact the older Puritan generation advanced the use of punitive methods to deal with sexual offenders. On the other hand, the younger generation might have seen the need for lenient rules on sexual matters. Sex was majorly for procreation while enjoying; however, the punitive aspects did not capture the need to work on companionship and incorporating other functions of sex.
Godbeer, Richard. Sexual Revolution in Early America, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University