Archive for: November, 2010
NARRATOR: Hutchinson’s story electrified her listeners. They gathered at her house to hear about her revelation from God, just yards from where the governor lived.
JOHN WINTHROP: She keeps open house for all comers, three score, four score people. She comments upon the doctrines, interprets all passages at her pleasure and expounds dark passages of Scripture.
NARRATOR: As much as Winthrop disliked her talk of messages from God, Hutchinson was a good Puritan and had broken no law.
STEPHEN PROTHERO: This is what makes her so dangerous is because she is speaking the language of Puritanism itself- “The drama is happening inside each of us. God is speaking to each of us. We need to listen to that voice of God inside us.”
NARRATOR: And as Hutchinson’s popularity grew, Winthrop feared for the future of his colony.
JOHN WINTHROP: Her doctrine appeals to many profane people because it is a very easy and an acceptable way to Heaven, to see nothing, to have to do nothing but wait for Christ to do all.
NARRATOR: Hutchinson’s easy path to heaven undermined Winthrop’s orderly society. He needed his people to struggle with their salvation.
STEPHEN MARINI, Historian of Religion, Wellesley College: It is relentless, difficult, arduous on the individual level. But it is fantastic social glue if everyone is doing this. Everyone notices everything. Everyone has an opinion and a moral judgment on everybody else, on the criteria of what God’s law says. It will hold together church, family, state.
NARRATOR: Hutchinson’s challenge to official doctrine threatened to destroy Winthrop’s fledgling colony.
STEPHEN PROTHERO: What happens if you start to lose control of your society and you’re John Winthrop, right? You need to be able to say, “No, no no, that’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says such and so. This is how we should run our society.”
NARRATOR: Anxious ministers visited Winthrop. John Eliot from Roxbury, and from Salem, Hugh Peters, reported that some members of their congregations preferred to listen to Hutchinson’s biblical interpretations to theirs.
STEPHEN PROTHERO: Why listen to the black-coated minister read a dry, boring sermon when you can go to Anne Hutchinson’s house and hear this heartfelt, real thing?
NARRATOR: And Hutchinson was gaining powerful allies who were attracted to her message- the minister John Wheelwright and Henry Vane, a fierce political adversary of John Winthrop’s.
JOHN WINTHROP: I observe first her success. She had in a short time insinuated herself into the hearts of much of the people, who grew into so reverent an esteem of her godliness and spiritual gifts, as look at her as a prophetess.
Hmmmm, most of the same issues concerning church dynamics and protocols then are still very much under discussion today.
And no, I don’t endorse everything in this fascinating PBS documentary.