July 06, 2012

"As a city upon a hill"

We're reading The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell, a light-hearted history of the Puritans who founded Boston.

Early in the book, she puzzles over the fact that John Winthrop's sermon, A Model of Christian Charity (famous for "a city upon a hill") was forgotten immediately after it was first delivered, and only became famous when it was first published over 200 years later, in 1838.
Reading Cotton's "God's Promise to His Plantation" alone hints that dissenting English Protestants had plenty of we're-God's-special-chosen-people talk to go around. So maybe Winthrop co-opting the image of a city on a hill from the Gospel of Matthew was just one more metaphor for the pile. Maybe that was the hill the city would be build on -- a teetering stack of self-congratulatory biblical comparisons.


Blogger The Other Front said...

If I'm founding a colony on Mars you can bet your ass my first speech will be about Martian exceptionalism and our duty to a Higher Power.

July 6, 2012 at 10:10 PM  

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