Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform

Parts of William G. McLoughlin's book, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform: An Essay on Religion and Social Change in America, 1607-1977 (University of Chicago Press, 1978), have helped me to understand the nature of Algonkian church history and the broader movement of frontier Calvinism. In a previous post, I mentioned that a focus on Old Testament law encouraged a sense of guilt. Furthermore, that background of guilt and anxiety enhanced the conversion experience which Calvinists (Puritans, Congregationalists, Presbyterians) understood to be an outward sign that one was predestined for salvation. In fact, McLoughlin wrote that it was not unusual for a conversion experience to be "overwhelming in its power, transforming in its result, and ecstatic in the sense of relief it provided"(43, 63-65).

Well, if conversion experiences were really "all that" (and they certainly were for some people), there were people that felt so special for having their conversion experience that they didn't want to belong to a church which included those who might not be predestined for salvation. Those people became known as Separatists.

Anyway, you may be saying to yourself, "what does McLoughlin's book have to do with Algonkian church history? " A lot. McLoughlin explains that those who suffered more tensions and repressed rage against society were more deeply relieved by their conversion experiences and as a result, emotional conversions made frontier Calvinism popular among the poor, Black slaves, women, children, and Indians (page 75).

No comments :