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The Second Great Awakening

  1. Revivalism

    1. The SGA was a series of revivals, 1800-1837

    2. Spearheaded by Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians (relatively new groups at the time)

    3. Church membership doubled

    4. Old theology weakens

      1. Calvinist pre-destination fades away

      2. Less importance of idea of original sin

    5. Replaced with newer theology

      1. Emphasis on free will and ability to change

        1. Belief that humans could turn away from sin

        2. Humans could embrace moral action

      2. Conversion, acceptance of Christ key to salvation

      3. Increasing belief in possibility of universal salvation - universalism

      4. Greater emphasis on Second Coming

      5. Conversion preceded by intense emotional experience rather than Biblical study

      6. Charles Finney, preaching at Yale 1824-1837, developed the "invitation" and many other rituals common to modern revivals

    6. The SGA arrives early in rural areas, frontier; later in the cities

      1. These frontier revivals were loud, emotional affairs

      2. Often criticized by more conservative Eastern preachers

    7. Common for whole family to convert 

    8. Greatest impact on upper and middle classes

  2. Causes and Origins

    1. Established beliefs out of sync with present experience

      1. Pre-destination had fit better with hierarchical colonial world

      2. Universalism fit better with the more free-wheeling market economy

    2. General weakening of old forms of social control opened up possibility for religious change

    3. Growing unrest in face of social changes meant many people were searching for answers

    4. Helped elites justify their position - they could claim to be more moral

  3. The Second Great Awakening and the society of the Market Economy

    1. Impact of emphasis on personal moral reform 

      1. Helps reduce class animosity

      2. Helps to control worker behavior

      3. Gives continuity to lives in which work and home are separated

      4. Makes people better consumers

        1. directs people away from alcohol and gambling, more money to spend on products

        2. directs them towards personal improvement (will buy goods and services to achieve that)

    2. Personal moral reform and alcohol

      1. Alcoholism had been increasing

      2. New theology argues that alcohol leads to corruption

      3. New theology does not blame market economy for social ills (domestic abuse, prostitution, etc.), but alcohol

      4. Alcohol consumption drops by 3/4 from 1830 to 1845

  4. Moral reform and politics

    1. Democrats become the anti-reform party

      1. Their constituents most affected

      2. Also those least likely to be converted

    2. Whigs become the moral reform party - attract evangelicals of all classes

  5. Moral reform and sectionalism

    1. Early on, SGA appeared in North and South

    2. Later, emphasis moves north

    3. Slavery

      1. Perfectionism, the call for creating a perfect Christian society, helped divide North and South

      2. Finney and others against slavery, argued it was impossible in a prefect Christian society

      3. Many northern SGA preachers believed slavery interfered with ability to freely choose salvation

      4. By 1838, 1350 anti-slavery societies had appeared in the North, mostly inspired by SGA


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