Benjamin Franklin personified the first awakenings of the power of the press, the power of science, and the power of technology in America.
Religion was not the only realm in which colonial America experienced great awakenings. Benjamin Franklin personified the first awakenings of the power of the press, the power of science, and the power of technology in America.
Franklin rose to fame as the author of Poor Richard’s Almanack. Using the power of the press, he popularized many sayings that captured the hardy spirit of those times, such as: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” and “God helps them that help themselves.”
His most famous scientific experiment was putting a key on a kite during a lightning storm in order to prove that lightning was electricity. He could easily have been electrocuted.
In short, Americans were still as bold and reckless in their search for new knowledge as when Christopher Columbus sailed across uncharted waters in search of India.
Benjamin Franklin (with his practical frame of mind) was not content writing clever words, and discovering bits and pieces of scientific truth. With an engineer’s passion for technology, he used science to help people. He helped people keep warm with his potbellied stove. And he helped people see better with his bifocals.
Benjamin Franklin’s inquiring, questioning mind did not stop with science and technology. He also doubted and questioned the scientific and historical underpinnings of 18th Century Christianity. Moreover, his numerous flings and affairs with women flaunted his disregard for puritanical morality.
And so, even from these earliest times, the press, the scientists, and the engineers created zest and controversy along with their new ideas, new discoveries, and new inventions. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. And you can’t “boldly go where no one has gone before” without changing the way people think and changing the way people behave.
As Jesus once said: “You can’t pour new wine into old wineskins. If you do, the old wineskins will burst, ruining both the wineskins and the wine.” (Matthew 9:17).
A New World is the ultimate “new wine skin.” Americans such as Benjamin Franklin eagerly (if irreverently) set about filling their New World with the “new wine” of America—new ideas, new technologies, and new behaviors that transformed Humanity!
This blog is based on pages 21-23 of my book Visions of America, Visions of the Church.