The Foundations of a Timeless City

John Winthrop’s “A Modell of Christian Charity” describes a moral and beneficial type of community which the colonies should follow in order to produce the healthiest environment for progress.

While Winthrop develops his ideal for community with his roots in Christianity, many of the core reasons surrounding his ideology have the potential to be universal. For example, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you” is a simple yet fundamental pillar to society and community. Simply treating others in a way you would like to be treated has grown to be very normal in the 21st century. In regards to being an example of “a city upon the hill,” this American colony will be the precursors to a large and vast country of freedom and unity. Winthrop’s vision for the future and the potential of man is what truly stands out in the text; not without differences compared to Raegan and Obama. It is not entirely that American exceptionalism is the focus of the piece, but that the individuals and social guidelines that create such a community is what truly matters. Furthermore, the city he so highly thinks of has been chosen through divine right, subject also to scrutiny from the church as well as the New World. While the rhetoric revolves around charity and Christian values,  the deeper social ramifications of being a highly visible city is one of uncertainty.

As Obama once said in his farewell address, “I learn from each and every one of you every day;” suggesting that the human relationship built between both government and the people fosters an environment of progress. This progression towards a better America partly constitutes the “city upon a hill” concept that Winthrop preached about. While the language of the message has changed with the years, the central idea of morality has not. Although, the political message of Winthrop’s scrutiny versus Reagan’s self-proclaimed greatness is the dividing difference. Winthrop stresses the importance of “proving” oneself while Reagan pridefully claims that America is already great.

And so, much of Winthrop’s optimism for a better future is kept alive by the American people in a way that emphasizes human connection and charity above political or economic progression. Without the support and inter-dependency between people and government, such a “city upon a hill” would never have lasted beyond Winthrop’s time.


-Daniel Corral


One thought on “The Foundations of a Timeless City

  1. I think the most original part of this post was its focus on Christian moralism and how that sets a standard. I think as an improvement I would like to see a closer focus on what Winthrop was optimistic about. Was it just the city or the US as a whole?


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