Did you miss me yesterday? A friend and I were in Boston taking a trolley tour. As you can probably guess, it wasn’t my first trolley tour. In addition to other trolley and Duck Boat tours, I’ve also taken multiple Freedom Trail walking tours and a literary walking tour.
The tour yesterday differed from most of the other tours I’ve taken in that the guide didn’t gleefully mention all the hypocritical actions of the Puritans who first settled Boston. Having been on so many tours, I knew exactly where the derogatory comments usually pop up, so I braced myself each time. I figured they world be worse than ever since Trump’s presidency seems to have emboldened anti-Christian sentiment.
I was relieved. And pleasantly surprised.
Obviously, the Puritans did some terrible things in the name of Christ. Denying historical fact, even when it would be advantageous to deny it, doesn’t really do much good. I do understand that principle. And possibly Christians need to say yes, some of what happened in 17th Century Boston dishonored the very Lord those Puritans claimed to follow.
But if a tour guide decides to point out the sins of the Puritans, he or she should also point out their virtues. Not once have I heard, for example, a tour guide mention the January 15, 1697 Day of Fasting and Repentance for the Salem Witch Trials. Presumably, doing so would weaken their anti-Christian narrative.
However, doing so would also demonstrate an intellectual honesty that few people in our postmodern culture care to possess. Although one tour guide admitted to me that he purposefully included Puritan bashing in his walking tour for entertainment value (to which I replied that I find it less than entertaining), he forgot that most of his customers probably will never crack open a history book. If he gave them the only view of the Puritans they’d ever get, he needed to offer positive as well as negative comments.
American history is a messy business, no matter what political and religious beliefs you have. Intellectual integrity simply doesn’t allow me to ignore things like the Salem Witch Trials, but neither does it allow non-Christians to characterize all Puritans as hypocrites (or worse). Yesterday I enjoyed history that avoided both extremes.