Propaganda, a talented spoken word artist and Christian rapper in his latest album (which was free) released a song titled 'Precious Puritans', in it he points out some problematic points of history concerning Puritans and slavery!
However though there are some very valid POINTS being made, the first being that no men deserve pedestals, that we should not ignore flaws when we see them, that we should not whitewash history in order to protect truth etc, there is YET a spin, a direction that simply isn't going to help a lot of people. When it comes to racism and especially in AMERICA there's a WAY to point out the issues which only stirs up more controversy, which only unleashes deep rooted bitterness.
Take movies for example, Spike Lee was always good at that, he made valid points, presented some real gritty scenarios and yet for many of 'us' it left us angry, bitter, and feeling quite justified in our sinful responses and outlooks (which goes beyond 'telling it like it is' and rather finds racism EVERYWHERE and in EVERYONE which also breeds a stronger stance for separation while still complaining about such separation)...o yes I know about racism, I've felt it, i know what it's like to be in a school as the only minority, I also know well the anger, the rage that came with that from within, despite being 'only' half-black.....and for such reasons and more Christians especially should address and critique such issues in a way and in a spirit that is DRASTICALLY different from the way lost men do.
Before we dive further and before I lose you, let me first say this:
We should still read, enjoy and quote the Puritans NOT because they were the epitome of Christ followers (and issues revolving around slavery would not be the only flaws we could find among them), rather we as believers are called to judge TRUTH according to the word of God, and if TAUGHT truth lines up with scripture then we can profit from it, yes if truths on family, on preaching, on Christ, on the gospel, on holiness etc LINE UP with scripture then we have no need to dismiss them, for we understand that such TRUTH originates from God!
Since scripture is our guide, our standard, we can model what is good with discernment, now as concerns DOCTRINE and specifically FALSE DOCTRINE we find an altogether different response in scripture, we are to avoid such, to mark such, to defend against it, and as we look back in history we must be careful to differentiate between error and heresy, between bad teaching and false teaching, between apostasy and compromise.
One major problem is that this song generalizes 'PURITANS' and this is extremely careless, for the Puritans (which would start with England, not America) are a wide bunch, a large group of believers varying on a grand number of things, not some league of men who teamed together under one statement of faith. Furthermore it is commonplace to find among 'puritan-era' books/sermons calls for examination even for those WITHIN the church AND ministry, so it is clear that some were simply not saved.
This would be why such lines like 'You know they were the chaplains on slaves ships, right' don't help bring any clarity or fruitful thinking, just a reaction, did they then not offer the gospel to such men? Also we should bear in mind that there are many times even now where 'chaplains' are serving in situations that they don't necessarily agree with.
Second, is that when it comes to slavery, there are a myriad of factors to keep in mind (not blanket excuses, but things which help us understand) like,
1. Did all have knowledge of the evils and origins of the trade? (Knowledge is important, and Wilberforce understood that as he attempted to learn and teach others of the gory details of the slave trade......as do pro-lifers concerning abortions etc).
2. The scriptures are not void of references to slavery/servanthood and that's not to say that the scriptures condone the slave trade and the scriptures CERTAINLY don't condone the abuses, violence, and hatred of the slave trade, YET.....what we don't find is the example of the early church to correct all problems of the day by political action, the gospel is the heart of Christianity, with that said considering that they like all men were 'men of their time' (which NEVER excuses evil) but it does in the case of servants/slaves present a grand dilemma theologically, and to ignore it completely is quite careless.
"I should be content in this stage, right? Isn’t that Paul taught? According to your precious puritans."
Which depending on the context could be monstrously harsh (which appears to be the only option he cares to suggest)....OR as we have seen in the New Testament such language being spoken to slaves, spoken to the oppressed, spoken to the persecuted and yet in those cases such 'contentment' doesn't mean there isn't sin, that there isn't a problem, that there isn't suffering, so such a statement only brings forth an emotional knee jerk reaction w/out pause, for in such cases the call for contentment is not a surrender to the whims of men but to present sovereignty of God.
The attitude and spirit of the song implies perhaps unintentionally, the worst scenario possible: that such men not only worked from how things were, but were supporting it, helping it, being premeditated promoters of it, and that ALL without exception despised such people, demonized such people, abused such people, and for those reasons and more it's clear that such are absolutely LOST MEN. Now the end of the song supposedly clarifies that the point is that God uses 'crooked sticks' and that nobody is 'inerrant' but if that was the ultimate 'lesson' then why add so many lines about not quoting them at all, about how wrong it is to quote them, UNLESS you're saying quoting anybody would be forbidden. This is a confusing contradiction, for it gives the impression that those who quote Puritans (just about all leaders, past and present...Spurgeon loved them, certainly read more about them and from them then anyone, and while Spurgeon spoke clearly and loudly against such abuses as slavery, he wasn't wrong to quote and admire a number of them) are either ignorant white-man worshippers or mean-spirited racists at heart, and any such pictures EVEN CLOSE to that analysis would be detrimental to the body of Christ.
I'm not attempting to defend them, and I certainly would not defend the more obvious and clearly forbidden atrocities done or commended and where we find sin we should call it sin plain and simple, YET I find this song in particular to be found wanting, and for those who understand the balance and are quite healthy it will not do any damage, but for those not as strong, not as balanced, not to mention struggling to walk in grace, to submit to leadership, to learn good theology, this has the potential to drive them away from fruitfulness and to disregard truth from any man UNLESS that man 'is coming from where I'm coming from'. In other words this will only work against true unity within the reformed community OR it will be a whipping tool for especially young people to use against older reformed men and especially white men. Such critiques are often bully-like rants which push white people into a corner demanding they apologize for all the atrocities committed by humans with the same skin shade, and that my brethren is unchristian. I agree with the assessment of one of my African brothers (yes actually FROM Africa) "One of the problems with the song is this: He is seemingly coming at the issue from a black (Christian) point of view. Instead of a Christian's point of view. As a result, I find the song to be black-man/culture-centered than God-centered"
http://www.joethorn.net/2012/09/24/precious-puritans-pt-1/ (read pt 2 as well)
grace and peace