Are you a Puritan?

Even if your familiarity with this historic religious movement – Puritanism – is limited to images from popular culture – I suspect a picture pops into your head when you hear that question.

It’s the image of a very stern looking fellow, perhaps with a white beard, clad from head to toe in black. From his odd looking hat, to his robe held in place with a stiff leather belt, down to his pointed, black, buckled boots – black, black, black. Only a starched, a VERY starched, white collar provides a little contrast.

Then there is his expression, as he stares at you with a pious glare, his hand cupping a well-worn Bible, or perhaps a bony finger pointing to some oddly worded bit of Scripture that begins, “Thou shalt not….”

His expression is anything but warm and welcoming. It is stern, angry, almost a sneer, that just SCREAMS, “You are a sinner!! Get right with Almighty God!!!”

Whew. Are you a Puritan? If that harsh caricature is only partially accurate – I hope not. In fact, I can hear your protestations – “No, not me, no way! I try to love others, live out of a place of humility, grace!”

Good – I try to do that too. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but I try – I try.

Hold on though, let me challenge us both, just a bit, before we send old snarl face Brother Puritan off to bother someone else.

Let’s lift up something that is worth lifting up, defending – purity.

I don’t mean to suggest that we can all be “pure as the driven snow,” in all of our comings and goings. No, we are a mixed bag of higher motives and lower instincts; saintly aspirations and sinful behavior. That’s why we need, so desperately, the God who loves us, accepts us, warts and all, embracing us as Jesus once did a poor woman who was about to be stoned for her transgressions. We need to hear those words of love, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.”

With that as a given – our inability to always be pure – let’s put in a good word for at least seeking purity, defending it, championing it, celebrating it.

We live in a dirty, dark world. Pornography, racism, bigotry, fear-based hatred of all kinds – a world where “dog eat dog” is the catch-phrase used to justify all sorts of nasty, oh, let’s just call it as it is, evil, activity.

We live in a world where we need purity. Where good hearted men and women defend each other’s honor. Where our kids are shielded from the dark stuff that is out there. Where we are not afraid to say we will pray for one another, without fearing that we will be labeled as “some kind of religious nut.” We need to help provide, in a broken and confused world, a place of refuge that is – well – pure. At least we ought to try and provide such a space, when everybody else is trying to pull us down into the mud with them.

We need to be willing to turn off the harsh music, TV, internet nonsense, as needed – all the stuff that we might feel like we need a shower after being hit by it. We need to do that for our society, our families, and ourselves.

So, I ask again, “Are you a Puritan?”

If that means you don’t think “purity” is a dirty word – I hope you are.

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. Elpis is the Greek word meaning “expectant hope.” He also serves on the associate clinical staff of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, Richmond, Virginia, both as a pastoral counselor and a ministerial assessment specialist, specializing in executive, clergy and relationship coaching. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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