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Religion: Awakings
Mr. Temple's US History

The First Great Awakening (often referred by historians as the Great Awakening) is the name sometimes given to a period of heightened religious activity, primarily in Great Britain and her North American colonies in the 1730s, 1740s, 1750s. In New England, the Great Awakening was influential among many Congregationalists; while in the Middle and Southern colonies (especially in the "Backcountry" regions of those colonies) the Awakening was influential among Presbyterians and other dissenting Protestants. Although the idea of a "great awakening" is contested, it is clear that the period was, particularly in New England, a time of increased religious activity. The revival began with Jonathan Edwards, a well-educated theologian and Congregationalist minister from Northampton, Massachusetts, who came from Puritan and Calvinist roots, but emphasized the importance and power of immediate, personal religious experience. Edwards was said to be "solemn, with a distinct and careful enunciation, and a slow cadence." Nevertheless, his sermons were powerful and attracted a large following. "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," is his most famous sermon. The Methodist preacher George Whitefield, visiting from England, continued the movement, traveling across the colonies and preaching in a more dramatic and emotional style, accepting everyone into his audiences.











Those caught up in the movement likely experienced new forms of religiosity. They became passionately and emotionally involved in their religion, rather than passively listening to intellectual discourse in a detached manner. Ministers who used this new style of preaching were sometimes called "new lights," while the preachers who remained unemotional were referred to as "old lights." People affected by the revival began to study the Bible at home. This effectively decentralized the means of informing the public on religious manners and was akin to the individualistic trends present in Europe during the Protestant Reformation.

Historians have debated whether the Awakening had a political impact on the American Revolution, which took place soon after. Heimert (1966) argues that Calvinism and Jonathan Edwards provided pre-Revolutionary America with a radical and democratic social and political ideology and that evangelical religion embodied and inspired a thrust toward American nationalism. Colonial Calvinism was the basis for the American Great Awakening and that in turn lay at the basis of the American Revolution. Heimert thus sees a major impact as the Great Awakening provided the radical American nationalism that prompted the Revolution. Awakening preachers sought to review God's covenant with America and to repudiate the materialistic, acquisitive, corrupt world of an affluent colonial society. The source of this corruption lay in England, and a severance of the ties with the mother country would result in a rededication of America to the making of God's Kingdom. However, Heimert has been criticized for not recognizing the differences between educated and uneducated evangelists, and for not recognizing the significance of Separate-Baptists and Methodists.







The First Great Awakening resulted from powerful preaching that aimed to convince listeners of their personal guilt and of their need of salvation through decisive action that included public repentance. The Great Awakening led people to "experience God in their own way" and taught that they were responsible for their own actions.[citation needed]

Pulling away from ritual and ceremony, the Great Awakening made religion intensely personal to the average person by creating a deep sense of spiritual guilt and redemption, along with introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.[citation needed] Historian Sydney E. Ahlstrom sees it as part of a "great international Protestant upheaval" that also created Pietism in Germany, the Evangelical Revival and Methodism in England.

This brief period of revivalism brought Christianity to the slaves, even though many of their masters were nervous of the implications that becoming baptised as Christian would give the slaves. For the right to universal brotherhood among the masters and themselves was not the highest truth per slave owners, and that mentality. It was not until the Second Great Awakening that Africans first began to convert fully to Christianity. Prior to doing so the Africans had their own Spiritual Practices which included decorating the graves of the deceased with shells and pottery. In turn , it was held at night in order to keep it from their masters so as not to be ridiculed for their differences. In spite of the attmpt to convert the Africans to Christianity, during this time it was inevitable that the white man was also influenced by the music and dance rituals of the African culture. The Africans were particularly adept at string instruments and the drums, not to mention the African style of cooking, such as with black eyed peas and collard greens. Lastly, African basket weaving and certain vocabulary like "goober, yam, banjo, okay, tote, and buddy," were introduced as well. All in all, even though there was a kind of bullied conversion of religious practice among the African Americans by the white man, there was still an imprint of the African culture upon the culture of the American South as a whole, which now has extended much farther into the web of the human species.

The attempt at conversion brought about an apocalyptic event in New England that challenged established authority.[citation needed] It incited rancor and division between the old traditionalists who insisted on ritual and doctrine, and the new revivalists.[citation needed] It had a major impact in reshaping the Congregational, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed and German Reformed denominations, and strengthened the small Baptist and Methodist denominations. It had little impact on Anglicans and Quakers.



Unlike the Second Great Awakening, which began about 1800 and reached out to the unchurched, the First Great Awakening focused on people who were already church members. It may have contributed to changes in some followers' ritual behavior, piety, and sense of self.


The First Great Awakening is a name sometimes given to a period of time when religious revitalization movements were highly active the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s. Some scholars have disputed the idea of a "Great Awakening." Jon Butler has suggested that both the name and the concept of the "Great Awakening" first arose in the work of nineteenth-century religious historians such as Joseph Tracy. Joseph Conforti has argued that ardent promoters of the eighteenth-century revivalists concocted the Great Awakening tradition. Frank Lambert lay the roots of the term not at the feet of secondary promoters, but upon the revival preachers themselves. He contended that the terminology and concept were indeed as old as the eighteenth-century events themselves, but that they existed more as press release than news report—more as an expression of what the preachers hoped would happen than as a realistic description of what did happen.[8]







On the other hand, scholars such as William G. McGloughlin have argued that the Great Awakening was "the key which unlocked the door to the new household of the [American] republic." Students of Christian revival movements and historians of the church have continued to write scholarly tomes analyzing Great Awakening.







The historicity of Edwards, Frelinghuysen, Tennent, and Whitefield is not disputed. The realignment of existing Christian denominations into pro-revival and anti-revival factions during the period is well attested, as is the emergence of new denominational bodies connected to the revival movement. Something happened to the American religious landscape between 1740 and 1776 to explain these phenomena. The nature of the debate goes less to the nature of the events themselves and more to the manner of their interpretation.

The Second Great Awakening (1800–1830s) was the second great religious revival in United States history and consisted of renewed personal salvation experienced in revival meetings. Major leaders included Charles Grandison Finney, Lyman Beecher, Barton Stone, Peter Cartwright, and James B. Finley. It also encouraged an eager evangelical attitude that later reappeared in American life in causes dealing with prison reform, temperance, women's suffrage, and the crusade to abolish slavery.



n New England, the renewed interest in religion inspired a wave of social activism. In western New York, the spirit of revival encouraged the emergence of new Restorationist and other denominations, especially the Mormons and the Holiness movement. In the West especially—at Cane Ridge, Kentucky and in Tennessee—the revival strengthened the Methodists and the Baptists and introduced into America a new form of religious expression—the Scottish camp meeting.[1]







The Congregationalists in Florida, Kansas, and Hawaii set up missionary societies, to evangelize the West. Members of these societies acted as apostles for the faith and as educators, exponents of Eastern urban culture. Publication and education societies promoted Christian education; most notable among them was the American Bible Society, founded in 1816. Social activism inspired by the revival gave rise to abolition groups as well as the Society for the Promotion of Temperance, and began efforts to reform prisons and care for the handicapped and mentally ill. They believed in the perfectibility of people and were highly moralistic in their endeavors.

1839 Methodist camp meeting

The Methodists and Baptists made enormous gains; to a lesser extent the Presbyterians gained members. Among the new denominations that were formed, and which in the 21st century still proclaim their roots in the Second Great Awakening are the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Latter Day Saint movement, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This cultural phenomenon also contributed to growth in non-denominational churches such as the Churches of Christ, as many sought the concepts of New Testament Christianity in preference to the later doctrines and practices developed in Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and various Protestant traditions.



In the Appalachian region, the revival used and promoted the camp meeting, and took on characteristics similar to the First Great Awakening of the previous century. The camp meeting was a religious service of several days' length with multiple preachers. Settlers in thinly populated areas looked to the camp meeting as a refuge from the lonely life on the frontier. The sheer exhilaration of participating in a religious revival with hundreds and perhaps thousands of people inspired the dancing, shouting, and singing associated with these events. More important than the social life was the profound impact on the individual's self esteem — shattered by a sense of guilt, then restored by a sense of personal salvation. Most of the converts joined small local churches, which thereby grew rapidly.



One of the early camp meetings took place in July 1800 at Creedance Clearwater Church in southwestern Kentucky. A much larger gathering was held at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in 1801, attracting perhaps as many as 20,000 people. Numerous Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist ministers participated in the services. This event helped stamp the revival as a major mode of church expansion for denominations such as the Methodists and Baptists. Cane Ridge was also instrumental in fostering what became known as the Restoration Movement and the non-denominational type churches that were committed to the original Christianity of the New Testament (particularly the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and the Church of Christ).







Long (2002) notes that since the 1980s, scholars have connected American religious camp meetings, formerly thought to have their roots only in the American frontier experience, to Scottish holy fairs of the 17th-18th centuries. Long examines the sacramental theology in the communion sermons of James McGready given in Kentucky during the first decade of the 19th century. McGready's sermons demonstrate adherence to reformed theology, a Calvinist understanding of salvation, and a sacramental emphasis. A central theme of McGready's sermons stressed the believer meeting Christ at the communion table.

The Third Great Awakening was a period of religious activism in American history from the late 1850s to the 1900s. It affected pietistic Protestant denominations and had a strong sense of social activism. It gathered strength from the postmillennial theology that the Second Coming of Christ would come after mankind had reformed the entire earth. The Social Gospel Movement gained its force from the Awakening, as did the worldwide missionary movement. New groupings emerged, such as the Holiness movement and Nazarene movements, and Christian Science.



The awakening in numerous cities in 1858 was interrupted by the American Civil War. In the South, on the other hand, the Civil War stimulated revivals, especially in General Robert E. Lee's army. After the war, Dwight L. Moody made revivalism the centerpiece of his activities in Chicago by founding the Moody Bible Institute. The hymns of Ira Sankey were especially influential.

The Gilded Age plutocracy came under harsh attack from the Social Gospel preachers and with reformers in the Progressive Era. Historian Robert Fogel identifies numerous reforms, especially the battles involving child labor, compulsory elementary education and the protection of women from exploitation in factories. [2] In addition there was a major crusade for the prohibition of alcohol. The major pietistic Protestant denominations all sponsored growing missionary activities inside the United States and around the world. Colleges associated with denominations rapidly expanded in number, size and quality of curriculum. The YMCA became a force in many cities, as did denominational youth groups such as the Epworth League (Methodist) and the Walther League (Lutheran)

Mary Baker Eddy introduced Christian Science, which gained a national following. In 1880, the Salvation Army denomination arrived in America. Although its theology was based on ideals expressed during the Second Great Awakening, its focus on poverty was of the Third. The Society for Ethical Culture was established in New York in 1876 by Felix Adler attracted a Reform Jewish clientèle. Charles Taze Russell Founded a Bible Student Institude that we know know as The Jehovah's Witnesses







With Jane Addams's Hull House in Chicago as its center, the settlement house movement and the vocation of social work were deeply influenced by the Tolstoyan reworking of Christian idealism.

The Fourth Great Awakening was a Christian religious awakening that some scholars - most notably, economic historian Robert Fogel - say took place in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The terminology is controversial, with many historians believing the religious changes that took place in the USA during these years were not equivalent to those of the first three great awakenings. Thus, the idea of a Fourth Great Awakening itself has not been generally accepted. [1]







Whether or not they constitute an awakening, changes did take place. The "mainstream" Protestant churches weakened sharply in both membership and influence while the most traditional religious denominations (such as the Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans) grew rapidly in numbers, spread across the United States, had grave internal theological battles and schisms, and became politically powerful. Other evangelical and fundamentalist denominations also expanded rapidly. At the same time, secularism grew dramatically, and the more conservative churches saw themselves battling secularism in terms of issues such as gay rights, abortion and creationism.



Concomitant to the power shift was a change in evangelicalism itself, with new groups arising and extant ones switching their focus. There was a new emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus from newly styled 'non-denominational' churches and 'community faith centers'. This period also saw the rise of non-traditional churches and megachurches with conservative theologies and a growth in parachurch organizations while mainline Protestantism lost many members.

Some have argued that a charismatic awakening occurred between 1961 and 1982. This stemmed from a Pentecostal movement that placed emphasis on experiencing what they saw as the gifts of the spirit, including speaking in tongues, healing and prophecy. It also focused on strengthening spiritual convictions through these gifts and through signs taken to be from God or the Holy Spirit. Although a Protestant movement, its influence spread to some in the Roman Catholic Church at a time when Catholic leaders were opening up to more ecumenical beliefs, to a reduced emphasis on institutional structures and an increased emphasis on lay spirituality.



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