Great Awakening Rationalism

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To those living in British America in the 1700’s, religion was a central fixture of everyday life. One’s denomination was intrinsically tied up in one’s ethnic and social identity, and local churches in the mid-Atlantic depended upon the participation and donations of their parishioners to survive. However, as the 18th century progressed, poorer farmers and ministers across the diverse sects of colonial America came to resent the domination of church life by the upper class. In a parallel development, a split had grown between the rationalists, who were typically wealthy, educated and influential men who represented the status quo, and the evangelicals, who disdained the impersonal pretention of the rationalists and promoted a spiritual and …show more content…

Evangelical preachers, in keeping with their social doctrine that targeted the disadvantaged in society, attempted to convert slaves and Native Americans. Prior to the Awakening no one had made a serious effort at their conversion for fear that Christianity was “a step towards freedom” (357). Slaves attended evangelical sermons en masse, wary of the Anglican ministers who supported their masters. Evangelical Christianity offered moments of release and equality from the perpetual suffering of a slave’s life. This did not mean, however, that the evangelists actively opposed slavery. Excluding the Quakers, none said a word against it. Indeed, many evangelists owned slaves. Instead of promoting emancipation in the current life, they promised equality to the slaves in the afterlife, so long as they would adopt Christianity. So too did Preachers make a renewed effort to preach to Native Americans, the first in many decades. Unreceptive to the regimented orthodox methods of preaching, a series of northern tribes “suddenly warmed to the new… mode of preaching” (359). Part of the appeal of Evangelical Christianity was the degree of personalization the Native Americans were allowed, in contrast to the strictly controlled dogma of other Christian sects. While before conversion had seemed “cultural

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