Today we moved into the early 19th century and discussed the rise of what might be called "evangelical America." I showed the way in which the disestablishment clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution created what historians call a "marketplace of religion" that was dominated by various evangelical denominations. We then explored the history of the Second Great Awakening--from the Yale revival under Timothy Dwight to the Cane Ridge Revival to Finney's "New Measures" to the so-called "businessman's revival" of 1857. I tried to focus on the ways in which the Second Great Awakening was similar and different (more American) than the "First Great Awakening" (Jon Butler scare quotes added for effect). Finally, we looked at the way this new form of American evangelicalism converged very well with the individualism inherent in the early national rise of consumer capitalism (manufacturing) and democracy.
I hope those in attendance took a few things away from class this week:
1. That evangelicals have always used communications networks, charismatic personalities, and consumer tactics to spread the gospel.
2. That the Second Great Awakening and the evangelicalism it cultivated accommodated (assimilated?) in many ways to some of the dominant culture trends in American culture.
3. That the revival and evangelism legacy of American evangelicalism started with Finney and continued (as we will see in coming weeks) in the ministries of D.L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham.
Next week will focus on American fundamentalism.
I am really enjoying teaching this class. I hope the people in the Lifebuilders Sunday school class and the various visitors feel the same way.
After sitting through today's class my friend Bob sent this photo to me via Facebook with the caption: "Finney=>Moody=>Steelers?"