Even though the Puritans ceased to function as an intact religious body around 1700, their rules of conduct and value judgments remain alive and well to this very day.
Laziness – nothing offended a Puritan more. Man was sent here to work. Lazy bums drove him up a wall. Poor Richard, Ben Franklin’s secular Puritan, warned, “Laziness travels so slowly that poverty soon overtakes him.” He pointed out to those sitting on their duff, “None preaches better than the ant, and she says nothing.”
Of course, there is the outrageous fact that lazy bums pay no attention to these warnings and instructions. They expect others to do the work. “Let those busy ants pick up the slack.” There is never a shortage of these useless creatures. They keep on coming. Sometimes they show up as Welfare Queens, grandly touring the neighborhood in a Cadillac, a clunker made possible by government assistance. Puritan George Herbert Bush outed them. Some find themselves the nearest hammock, rocking back and forth the livelong day. 30% of the population opts for the hammock every time. It’s their nature. Go ask Puritan Paul Ryan. Then there’s the problem of food stamps. Puritan Jeff Sessions hollered on the Senate floor that food stamps are a slippery slope. “Next thing you know,” he thundered, “the government will be expected to buy ‘their’ clothes and shoes.” As for unemployment insurance, “Please, there has to be a cut off date. Keeping folks on the dole corrupts character. They’d rather collect a smaller check for doing nothing than putting in a hard days work for a few bucks more.” Check out unemployment insurance with the Republican Senators, a moral posse of enough Puritans to overbook the Mayflower.
Virtue – Puritans didn’t work for nothing. They worked to accumulate goodies. Yankee toughness. Yankee ingenuity. The Protestant work ethic. Puritans went full-steam after the material things of the world, provided they obtained them without becoming worldly. How to traffic in the hustle and bustle of commerce while remaining virtuous, that was the problem. “He is ill-clothed who is bare of virtue.” A virtuous man exercised diligence, counseled patience, and, above all, valued thrift. Nothing pleases the Lord more than saving one’s money. “Remember, that money is the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on.”
House Republicans, thrifty Puritans all, cry out with one voice, “Stop the spending! “Never mind that austerity worsens the plight of nations suffering an economic depression. As Bruce Bartlett discovered with his Republican cohorts, ideology trumps facts. “Stop the spending. We don’t care what a rag like the New York Times says, the debt and the deficit are the problem, not impoverished kids. No, not the infrastructure, not education, not science, not clean energy. For heaven’s sake – for the sake of heaven, we will stop the spending if it means shutting down the entire government.”
“But virtue, as it never will be moved,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven…..
“I have a question for you, Ghost of Hamlet. What happens when virtue shows itself as a shape of heaven? What shape does lewdness now assume?”