Perhaps no American community is as polemic as the Puritans. One of its biggest personalities was Cotton Mather, a New England minister whose life is largely remembered in connection with the Salem Witch Trials. But another key part of his legacy are his scientific interests, specifically Mather’s response to a smallpox outbreak in his community, one inspired by his slave Onesimus’s life story.

On this episode of Prayer amid Pandemic, Jan Stievermann professor the history of Christianity in the US at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies and faculty of theology, joined Prayer amid Pandemic to discuss how Mather tied the smallpox outbreak with God’s judgment, the nature of Onesimus and Mather’s relationship, and the larger societal tensions that Mather’s disease-fighting actions revealed.

Eva Sarsa, a ministry leader in Finland, offers this episode’s prayer.

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Music by Urban Nerd Beats, Prod. Riddiman, and Oliver Dúvel

Prayer amid Pandemic is produced by Morgan Lee, Mike Cosper, and Erik Petrik