Religious Rhetoric

1221 Words5 Pages
Most commonly used to justify the actions of an individual or group, religion is imbedded in most modern day society through the use of religious rhetoric. This is also true of 17th century Puritan colonies, who justified the peaceful construction of their community, in 1630, and its episode of mass hysteria and violence, which occurred in 1692, with religion through religious rhetoric (Wintrhop, 1630; Hall, 1988; LeBeau, 1998; Robinson, 1991). Both cases had themes of brotherhood, Godly intervention, and Puritan acceptable behavior. By comparing the rhetoric used in the creation of the “City Upon a Hill” and the Salem Witch Trials, we can observe that even though events used religious rhetoric and had similar themes, their diction and tone…show more content…
In John Winthrop’s speech about the city upon a hill, he makes an appeal towards the unity of the group by mentioning that they needed to, “Entertain each other in brotherly affection,” in order to walk humbly with God (Winthrop, 1630, pp.1). By doing so, Winthrop told the other Puritans aboard the Arbella, they would keep the, “Unity of the spirit in the bond of peace,” and God would walk with them, showering them with blessings and wisdom (Winthrop, 1630, pp.1). While this community was built upon the idea of peace, brotherhood, and helping each other in the name of God, the Salem Witch trials were almost the opposite. Coming from the mouth of Deodat Lawson, he told the people of Salem to come to arms, to be, “faithful unto death in spiritual warfare,” and spare none to rid themselves of the satanic fury afflicting them (LeBeau, 1998, p.89). In mentioning that people should follow their faith until death, the tone is vengeful and full of blood lust, even though it is assumed that the original purpose of the sermon, at the time, was to restore faith in the magistrate who had condemned five women to be executed on spectral evidence, which Cotton Mather abhorred as legal evidence (Mather, 1971; LeBeau, 1998). While both of the cases had rhetoric that focused…show more content…
Curiously, the rhetoric and actions of the Puritan people seems to be parallel with whichever presence they believed to be active in their community. During the creation of the community, the rhetoric of John Wintrhop’s speech practically made the whole being-peaceful a religious act, as long as they were at peace the presence of God was assured (Winthrop, 1630). This is reiterated nearly 27 years later when, Richard Mather, father of Increase Mather, father of Cotton Mather, told his community in 1657, “Husbands and wives must live in peace so that their prayers for their children would not be hindered,” once again reaffirming this peace as an religious requirement for the spiritual standing of their family and community (Hall, 1988, p.22). However, when it came to the Salem Witch Trials, the people of Salem believed that their community was being invaded by Satan and their rhetoric and actions mimicked the cold, tormenting, and cruel characteristics of his presence (Boyer, 1972). Cotton Mather told John Cotton that God has been working miracles by executing five witches, the tone almost turns sadistic and overzealous because he is happy that these people were killed, but it did not at the time due to Puritans belief that the execution of convicted witches was the correct way to purify their community and rid themselves of the afflictions that their community supposedly suffered under
Open Document