Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Second Great Awakening [Last Assignment!]

After the fervor of the Great Awakening, religion seemed to take a back seat. Religion was becoming less and less of an important aspect in an ever changing society. Aside from that fact, there were many congregations that looked forward to another revival similar to the magnitude previously experienced. They prayed, hoped, and looked forward to this time.

This new period of revival resulted in some very interesting new religious denominations.

The Oneida Community in New York had fairly open sexual practices; however they limited who could have children together. Children were raised communally and property was shared.

The Shakers were strictly celibate and believed that Ann Lee was the Christ at his second coming. They tried to preserve their community through adopting orphans.

These two examples alone show how many different directions the religions of the United States went in. Most of these new factions were tolerated, if not accepted. (As a Latter-day Saint, I primarily recognize the LDS pioneers as a great example of those who were not accepted. I have not personally learned about any new religions that were rejected and forced to migrate the ways the pioneers were, but I would not be surprised if there were others.)

Kentucky was an area of much revivalism. Largely starting when the McGee brothers visited the McGready churches in 1800, the fervor in this area involved many camps. As the revivalist atmosphere built, common aspects of participating in weekends in sermons included frequent outbursts from congregation members feeling the Spirit. Exercises were a recognizable aspect of Kentucky revivals. These included jerks, dancing, and barking.

Restorationism was a product of the Second Great Awakening. Followers of this belief wished to return to the organization of the church from New Testament times. They preferred to be known only as Christians, rather than selecting a denominational name. They followed a very practical approach to the Bible. It was even called legalistic.

Essentially, the Second Great Awakening seemingly resulted in more religious variation than before, with wide acceptance of many religious groups. It differed from the first Great Awakening because of the magnitude in Kentucky as well as in the Northern states. It also was started in the United States, rather than largely being influenced by England.

The Second Great Awakening came at a time when religion was disappearing from the forefront of society in the United States, the revival and evangelical practices of these religions lead to a new interest in religion. The ability of the common man to participate in religion, as had been noticed in the First Great Awakening allowed for wide variation in the beliefs of the new Christian denominations. Few actual denominations have been preserved on the scale that the Latter-day Saints have, however their influences can be seen throughout evangelical Christendom.

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