The word “religion” can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the specific individual’s beliefs. However, “religion” is officially defined as the belief and worship of a superhuman power, especially a personal god or gods (Merriam-Webster). Many people in today’s society rely on their religion to carry them through their everyday lives and guide them in making important decisions.
In The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Mary Rowlandson sheds light on her personal spiritual experience while being held captive by a group of Native Americans. In the novel, the Puritan Society places an emphasis on the importance of understanding one’s predestination, leading citizens to develop a superficial sense of superiority over other worshippers. Rowlandson’s devotion to the Puritan church influences her to believe that she is being tested by God through her captivity and therefore has a special connection with him, which is portrayed through the use of biblical references to create comparisons between her level of reverence and others’.
Mary Rowlandson frequently refers to the bible for guidance and support throughout her captivity, which suggests her high level of dedication to God. In the beginning of her novel, Rowlandson describes the brutal attack on Lancaster, England by the Indians. During this dreadful time Rowlandson alludes to her religious knowledge to illustrate her own perspective on the situation and proclaims that “It was a solemn sight to see so many Christians lying in their blood, some here and some there, like a company of sheep torn by wolves”. In this battle, Rowlandson decides to create a comparison between the values of the Puritans and the Indians through the use of a simile. By correlating Christians to a flock of sheep, she is establishing a connection to the Bible due to it stating that Jesus was a shepherd, and his followers were sheep. In the bible sheep were often seen as innocent and pure, which is how Rowlandson is trying to portray the Christians. On the contrary, she refers to the Native Americans as wolves, connoting a predatory and savage behavior that renders them inferior. The simile sets an example for the rest of her publication, which paints the Puritans as God-chosen, and the Indians as an agonizing test laid out by God to bring the colonists back to the rightful ways of the Lord. In addition to Rowlandson contrasting Puritan and Native American superiority, she establishes divine dominance over her own people as well. For example, after finishing her petite dinner portion one evening she was still very hungry, but instead of taking food from an Indian, she decides to steal from a little English boy. Then, for justification of such an action, Rowlandson quotes Job Chap. 6. 7. of the Bible and states, “The things that my soul refused to touch… the Lord made that refreshingly pleasant”. Through these sinister and unkind actions it is clear that Rowlandson is simply using her special connection with God as an excuse to get away with whatever she wants. Because she truly believes that she is the chosen one, she is under the false pretense that she will remain pure under God’s eyes even if she assimilates with the Indian culture by enjoying their food. Puritan’s undying belief in predestination encourages them to perform unholy acts and justify them by relying on the fact that God has specifically chosen them to save their entire community.
Rowlandson’s actions contradict her portrayal of the Indians as ruthless and barbaric due to her increasingly adapting similar characteristic traits as her enemies. In fact, it is mentioned in her narrative that the English are exceedingly more cruel to their captives. This aids in developing the idea that Rowlandson portrays a sense of supremacy throughout confinement because of her superficial belief that she maintains a religious high-ground that other worshippers of the same faith do not. Along with Rowlandson justifying her actions through God’s assigned fate to demonstrate her prestige, she furthermore makes a distinction between herself and other English worshippers by comparing the level of religious reverence given to the church. Near the end of her publication, Rowlandson describes how her captive experience has shaped her unique connection with God through her faith in Calvinism. While illustrating the tough moments she has undergone, Rowlandson relates to David in Psal. 6. 6 and remarks, “I watered my couch with my tears… when others are sleeping mine are weeping”. Her connection to David in the novel thus solidifies that she acts in similar ways to a young shepherd who was chosen by God for his pure heart. Rowlandson thinks that she is above everyone else because she is under the impression that God is only speaking to her, therefore making her the chosen one.
By fulfilling her 11 weeks in captivity, Rowlandson has completed the challenging predestination that the Lord has planned for her, which gives her a better understanding of the unique bond they share. This uniqueness is illustrated through her everlasting devotion to praying and loving God even after her strenuous captivity experience, whereas others are sleeping and not portraying their faithfulness. Her dedication then turns into an ignorant sense of superiority that affects her view on her imprisonment by concluding that her actions will lead God to salvage the English colonists. Rowlandson’s need to achieve this goal guides her to view the Native Americans as lesser and savage because she believes they are trying to stop her from completing God’s select mission for her. Rowlandson’s affliction and stance on predestination pushed her to be fully dependent on God, and allowed for a superficial view towards her confinement.
All in all, Rowlandson’s dedication to the church, as well as to her predestination, influences her to believe that she is being tested by God through her captivity and therefore has a unique connection with him, which is demonstrated through the use of biblical references to create comparisons between her level of reverence and others’. Puritan Societies place an emphasis on the importance of carrying out one’s predestination, leading citizens to portray a superficial sense of superiority over other worshippers. As a Puritan, Rowlandson believes that God is testing her faith through her experience with the Native Americans. Due to this specific interpretation, Rowlandson thinks that the way she handles her captivity is reliant on whether the universe will be positively or negatively affected by God. Similarly, many citizens’ actions and thoughts are dependent upon their religion on a day to day basis. Although the word may have varying connotations, religion nevertheless enables society to have an undying trust in God and an exclusive perspective on many aspects of life.