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Why did Salem need a theocracy?

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yougocurt | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 9, 2008 at 11:05 AM via web

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Why did Salem need a theocracy?

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 10, 2008 at 6:01 AM (Answer #1)

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The Puritans came to America because of their religion, so therefore, they established their colony in Massachusetts under a theocratic system of governing, which is all they knew.

Puritanism is not just a religion, but a lifestyle.  Therefore, it is natural that the governing body of the community would be the church.  Under church officials leadership the Puritans struggled to establish their community in the harsh conditions of the northeast.

The colony established in America encountered almost intolerable hardship, cold, brutal winters, attacks by Indians, Pirates, a lack of food, shelter, death of loved ones.  Their ability to survive was challenged and their faith, which propelled them to travel to America sustained them.

"Their religion required them to act honorably towards their fellow men and to help each other. They were expected to meet regularly at the Meeting House."

"A strong work ethic was also part of their theology. All of these things contributed to their survival."

The theocracy that the Puritans formed in Salem actually sustained them because of the unity and care of neighbor that their religious beliefs require them to practice. 

Sources:

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kukufa | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 15, 2008 at 2:44 AM (Answer #2)

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PART 1) The existence of a theocracy was functional for the survival of the community, the cohesion of the group of settlers. The first settlers in Salem were mostly Puritans. They were trying to find a place were they could worship and take positions in the government of their community, as their were not allowed to do so in England. In England the King was the head of both government and church, thus a theocracy was not a revolutionary idea for them.

The implementation of a theocracy was effective to keep social order and foster the notion of hard work necessary for the community to thrive. The Puritans had a Calvinist perception of human nature and God. Humans were conceived as naturally evil and could only be "encouraged" to be good by constant penitence and surveillance of their peers. Because every member of the community kept and eye on each other’s business few dared to break the rules of the community or show anti-social behaviour. And as the leaders of the community were in charge of ruling over both civil and religious matters, there seemed to be no clear difference between offences and sins. As a consequence the difference between public and private matters was also blurry, and most members of the community chose to be on the safe side and obey all the rules. When there were non-Puritans in the community, these were not considered citizens, but were left alone to live in the outskirts of the community were they had their farms.

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kukufa | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 15, 2008 at 2:47 AM (Answer #3)

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 PART 2)  As a consequence of the social comformity there was also economic prosperity. Some of the English settlers that had arrived before had not been successful in creating the living conditions for families of towns to grow, most had been too concerned with getting quick returns for the Companies that had paid for their expedition.  Puritans didn’t expect more blessings than a place to live and worship, without religious prosecution. They expected hardship and their stern discipline ( praying, helping each other, not drinking, etc) proved fruitful to prevent rioting and violence during times of economic hardship. When things started to change for the better, they felt that God was rewarding their behaviour and it was a positive reinforcement for the to maintain a disciplined lifestyle.

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