Whether God is in your life or not, you know you are going to die here on Earth. Mortality is as common and constant as sunrise and sunset. But we, the folks who gave you Stonehenge, rage against the fading light. Duh.

There are options. You can choose to live for you. You can be grateful for the things you have been given, especially life itself, and be “mindful”. Or you think there is a much Greater Truth, that you are part of it, and that there is a transaction it offers—more than just a gift. For some of those that means judging, converting and defining the rules of what you know and applying them and “saving” others.

Historically most of us are in the swirl of knowing God in our lives, and there have been some fairly dramatic manifestations of that devotion. Whether pyramids, cathedrals or The Bill of Rights, humans do not play well with the ultimate term limit. The gods we manifest are different from each other, but our beliefs are equally fervent.

Some believe that we all must have a “Safe Space”—or now, a “Brave Space”. Or we must follow Trump—or end Trump. We must not eat anything that breathes. We must not eat anything that’s made by things that breathe. Perhaps the example I relate to best, here in Connecticut are the Puritans. I have spent a few years writing a book on the culture of New England before and after their presence here, but now, I live in an era of New Puritans. In the 21st century the arena of human fervor has trended culturally political.

Think about life 400 years ago. The extreme hypocrisy of Papal oligarchy made life a raging anger by those who could see the dishonesty of humans using God for themselves. So there was Martin Luther. Then there was the Church of England. And then there were those who saw that even a break from a break from the crushing corruption of the dominant church was simply not enough. So there were Puritans.

They wanted their rules, completely. At least in their lives. They were so convinced even the presence of their lives in the space of fellow rule-breakers was a huge buzz-kill.

So they left. They went, effectively, to Mars.

And New England was born. This radical, rejectionist, my-way-or-the-highway group felt the crush of God’s Gift so much that they devoted the best land in their places to Him (The Green found at every ancient New England town’s heart). In their first century, the Canon of Puritanism controlled their families, governed their communities. They spent one day a week in a full fugue of worship. In New England, that radical rejection changed everything since.

Those who are not passive find ways to extend their insight beyond themselves. The Puritan ethic lived out its radical rejection of established patterns and values, but by the end of the seventeenth century, Puritanism proved to be unsustainable in its original intensity. Things morphed. The Congregational Church became New England’s state religion even after the Revolutionary War and Constitution for a generation. But the Great Awakening(s), Industrial Revolution, Transcendentalism, Abolition, Women’s Suffrage and, yes, Prohibition had a fundamental link to those religious refugees, even if just in a desperate spirit.

Now that spirit has vectored, but still offers an ethic of being Correct. The Masters (or whatever they are called now) of a Yale residential college were finally, effectively, driven out of Yale this year, because they poo-poo-ed Halloween costumes seen as heinous. The extreme accelerants of the Information Age—Facebook, blogs, cable TV—have enflamed the basic human desire to have meaning, meaning beyond our own lives. This last two years of political screaming have given full air to the base human desire to defeat the limits of our life here on Earth.

The Revenge of The Puritans has seen ideas and articles of faith become facts. “Fake News” is the calling-out of facts that disagree with your faith. It matters not what you believe; the Puritan intensity that led them to fly away to the 17th century version of Mars—the New World—lived out their rejection.

My take is that all those Puritans, then and now, are rejecting the meaninglessness of so many parts of our lives. 200 years ago it meant that some humans are not chattel. A hundred years ago, it meant being female meant you were fully human. Then, well, booze was bad, and should be outlawed. If it really was “All Good,” we would be drunk or stoned and in the sack 24/7. We are not.

Many, probably most, of us, are Puritans—we want to live devotionally, sometimes prescriptively, but definitely significantly. We want our lives to Mean Something. We want our years here to have a legacy, impact, change.

Today, for some, “privilege” is disdained to the point where any “entitlement” should be pre-empted by action or law. Alternatively, anything that ended the time when America was Great must be ended. Or, for others, if you do not worship my God you are living in soulless Hell—no matter how you feel.

Into my seventh decade I know that I have been given everything, but I cannot give people any sense of their worth beyond living out my life as having no greater value than anyone else’s. I know God is with me, now—and then. But that connection—direct, unreasoned, personal—voids the human armature of human extension that the Puritans fled from. Of course, the Canons they followed were extreme and unrelenting, but in rejecting a rejectionist religious hierarchy, the Puritans manifest the misfit of so much we make with what so many of us are even today. Maybe especially today.

The anger of the Yale students overthrowing an extremely inclusive culture, a place to live during college, as not being protective enough, manifests the essential need to have greater impact than just being in the Ivy League. Somehow we need more than to just be part of God’s Gift. I have devoted part of my life to the Episcopal Church, parish and diocese, and any number of places that need my skills as an architect.

But it’s not me striving for import or impact, or even defeating mortality. God gave me the gifts I am giving. I am sure God was a passenger on the Mayflower, too. It’s hard to see, accept, let alone understand, but God is at the center of who we are. We, I, just do not know it until we know it.

The gap between what we feel and what we know is, I think, why we have politics, philosophy, even my profession of architecture. In the place where God lives, where Jesus lives in me, the human constructs of religion tries to define the most essential truth we can have. Not surprisingly, religion often fails the religious: the Puritans left the Church of England (who left the Catholic Church). 

At least the reality of Faith, despite my clumsy incoherence at understanding it, is clearer now than anytime since I needed most, when I was 5 or 6. Ask a child why they love their parent. I have no idea why I still love my long dead (and often dysfunctionally out-of-it) parents. But I do.

Life has moments of connection. We connect to others, to a place, even to ideas. But, despite Jesus, I struggle, every day, to connect to God.