Monday, December 8, 2008

Piety at Home

Caleb Stetson, 1793–1870, was a Unitarian minister, mainly in Medford, Mass. and also in Scituate (Norwell) A early member of what is most commonly called The Transcendental Club, Stetson was a friend of Emerson and spoke at a meeting against slavery on the step of Thoreau's hut at Walden Pond.
Known for his sense of humor, Stetson could make even Emerson laugh (see comments on earlier post:

I am thinking about Stetson today because I am thinking about one of my favorite words, piety, and, especially, the idea of teaching or inculcating a healthy piety in children. As a DRE and (esp) as a parent of three children, the issue is deeply important to me.
Children have, I firmly believe, a natural piety or capacity for wonder that often deepens my own personal piety. I worry, though, that just about every signal they get in society, in much of daily life, and in just "growing up" work to slowly deaden that natural gift and, for the most part, I feel I don't do nearly enough to counter that.
So back to Stetson. Following are excerpts from Stetson's "Piety at Home", published as an AUA Tract in 1832:
"ST. PAUL, in his epistle to Timothy, charges him to exhort the younger members of families, ' to learn to show piety at home,' as their first duty...I fear it is the tendency of this age, to underrate that kind of piety, which consists in doing right in a natural and quiet way. There is an inordinate appetite for strong sensations and startling effects...When religion is understood to consist in a burning excitement, or an eagerness to exert influence at the greatest possible distance, the commonplace pursuits of daily life do not seem to have dignity enough to be taken under its 'direction. Yet what can Christianity do for a man, better than to make him good in those very relations, which demand his chief care and duty ? In what possible way can it minister to human virtue and happiness more largely, than by rendering us kind, gentle, and faithful in our domestic connections ?...Common virtues are more frequently wanted, and therefore more valuable, than extraordinary ones. If religion has any power in our hearts, it must be manifested chiefly in our doing little things well. When a man separates his religion from his morality, making the former one thing, and the latter another and a different thing, there is great danger that neither will be very good...All duties are religious ones.There may be but little glory, but there is a great deal of merit, and of happiness too, in ' showing piety at home' — in that narrow circle of duty, which God has made the principal sphere of our action."
Tomorrow, more from Stetson's sermon. What are your views on this question? Are all duties religious? Should we be fostering piety in our children? If so, how best? If not, why not?


PeaceBang said...

MAN, does that look like Tim Jensen!

The Eclectic Cleric said...

Yikes! I hope not! (but I guess people can judge for themselves). I like the part about being able to make Emerson laugh though.