“Religion, taking every mortal form
But that pure and Christian faith makes warm,
Where not to vile fanatic passion urged,
Or not in vague philosophies submerged,
Repulsive with all Pharisaic leaven,
And making laws to stay the laws of Heaven!”
— From “Ethnogenesis,” by Henry Timrod
South Carolinian Henry Timrod penned these words in February 1861 at the meeting of the First Confederate Congress at Montgomery, Alabama. Many regarded Timrod as the “poet laureate” of the Confederacy because his evocative works potently blended lyrical composition with patriotism for his nation, the South.
In “Ethnogenesis,” this teacher, tutor, and devout Anglican boldly describes a people who self-proclaim superior sanctity and feel divinely ordained to impose their will by force, drawing the comparison of the ancient Pharisees to Yankees. But just exactly how did they get there? I began heading down this historical rabbit hole in “A City Upon a Hill,” so let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
“The Hebrew Republic”
Just as the Pharisees were once “separated ones,” New England Pilgrims originally cloistered themselves in an effort to promote and protect their stringent definitions of piety. The Pharisees were preservers of pure Mosaic law, the Puritans too were steeped in strict rules and draconian enforcement thereof. In fact, instead of embracing the New Covenant of Jesus fulfilling the Law, the Pilgrims were steeped in legalism while trying to institute a “Christian Israel” in Massachusetts.
According to Jewish scholar Dr. David Ariel, “the early New England Puritans saw … King Charles I as Pharaoh, the Atlantic Ocean as the Red Sea, America as the Promised Land, and Boston as the new Jerusalem.” With its…