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The Rise Of The Second Great Awakening

Info: 2308 words (9 pages) Essay
Published: 18th Apr 2017 in History

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Revival history is an interesting topic and one that can be explored at great depths. Revivals of the past, if looked at through the right lens, can awaken hope and desire for God to move again, even in the darkest times. Revivals show us that God is still very much active and interested in His people. Below, I will go over the Great Awakening in detail discussing its major contributors, its effects, scope of impact, controversial aspects, principles learned, and our application for today.

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American economics, politics, and intellectual culture develop their similarity in a metamorphism of American religion during the Second Great Awakening (1820-1830). During this time, the United States underwent a extensive flowering of religious sects and unprecedented expansion of church memberships. Many preachers had emphasized sin and damnation, while other preachers emphasized God’s love and devotion to save souls from hell. Just as the First Great Awakening (1730-1740) had a religious movement in America, the Second Great Awakening followed in the same footsteps. The religious excitement that was the Second Great Awakening created a positive impact in the United States, emphasizing the democratization of American Protestantism as well as removing barriers of race, class, gender, and age. The Second Great Awakening leveled church hierarchies, provided African slaves with a theology of liberation, and created public space for women to serve and promote social reforms.

The Second Great Awakening became an urban phenomenon with the leveling of church hierarchies. What began as the leveling of hierarchies altered into several revivals. Starting in the rural west in the beginning of the 1830’s, cities became active centers of American Protestantism. Protestantism became the leading church and conversions were quick. A problem that arose out of this new religious grounds was that countless Americans had raised concern over the future of the republic and how it rested largely on the power of religious institutions (such as Catholicism) to continue their hierarchal approach.

A man by the name of Charles G. Finney, however, challenged this problem and came out as one of the most influential individuals in the Second Great Awakening. Charles G. Finney believed in the idea that a person “has the power and liberty of choice.” In Finney’s history of thinking, ALL people had the ability to choose God, want to make that decision and be bolstered by revivals. The church hierarchy should be leveled out to none and everyone should be welcomed. In 1868, Charles G. Finney created Lectures on Revivals, that of which biographers call “one of the most controversial pieces in religious history.” Within this lecture, Finney proclaimed that a revival is “the purely philosophical result of the right use of constituted means… A revival of religion is not a miracle.” What came out of this was a level playing field for all people who believed in God. The individual choice that people had according to Finney created a exceptionally Americanized and new wave example of how the Second Great Awakening changed the face of religion. Simple life became the moral picture that Finney showed among Christians, having to do with commitment and responsibility, giving up material possessions and being freed from peer influence. With peer influence, this started a new freedom for African American slaves in the United States.

Another significant event in American history during this time was the conversion of African American slaves to Christianity. While this process of transformation had begun in the First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening had accelerated it. African Americans became one of the most closely Christianized ethnic groups in America. The experience of the African Americans was different from that of other groups for two main reasons. The first reason was they were brought to American against their choice and secondly, they were not Christian when they had arrived. They belonged to their own religion before arriving to American, much unlike all European groups except the Jews. The diversity of African cultural factors, religious practices and traditions with Christian faith had produced a different set of Protestant Christianity. Most of this had been developed within the Second Great Awakening. The most significant aspects of the mass conversions of slaves were the way they had combined American heritage, common experience as slaves and elements of biblical teaching to forge an “Americanized brand of Protestant Christianity.” Just like during the First Great Awakening, in the second, white Christians had feared that the evangelization of slaves would make them to become independent. These fears contradicted Charles Finney’s belief that all men under one religion are equal. Later on during the Second Great Awakening, these fears were made reality for the white Christians to experience.

The mass conversion made the probability of white Christians a reality. As African culture had merged with Protestant theology within the context of slavery, the central theme of African American religion emerged a significant liberation. In a original document written by a slave himself, Theodore Dwight Weld attested the ill treatment of the slaves in the South during this liberation. As documented in Introduction to American Slavery as It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, Weld questions that is “slavery, as a condition for human beings, good, bad, or indifferent?” He continues later on to answer “we submit a question without argument. You have common sense, and conscience, and human heart; pronounce upon it. You have a wife, or a husband, a child, a father, a mother, a brother or a sister; make your case your own, make it theirs, and bring in your verdict but human nature is true to herself. She has uttered testimony against slavery with a shriek ever since the monster was begotten”. Through Weld’s documentation, although freedom was being sought out, so was the price that African Americans were paying. The impact of these revivals during the Second Great Awakening for African Americans was necessary and has helped immensely today with liberation. African American’s were Christianized and developed a distinctive belief that had equality as its central theme. All slave revolts had been crushed, religion thrived with a context of democracy and the black community became an institution that they had controlled. Historically, the slave movement during the Second Great Awakening carried on through churches for example during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s, where a famous man by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. created revivals in the example of those during the Second Great Awakening. Along with race, an abolishment of sediment for women also occurred during this religious fever.

The woman’s rights movement of the nineteenth century was closely associated with the abolition movement and was influenced by revivals of the Second Great Awakening. As feminist scholar, Nancy Hardesty has written, “The nineteenth century American woman’s rights movement was deeply rooted in evangelical revivalism. Its theology and practice motivated and equipped women and men to adopt a feminist ideology, to reject stereotyped sex roles, and to work for positive changes in marriage, church, society and politics.” Women during this time followed the reasoning of the Golden Rule, do unto others that you would like done unto you. In a primary document by Angelina Grimke, a slave activist quoted this to a slaveholder in Charleston, South Carolina in 1825. This was then translated rhetorically with men, asking them if they would like to be ruled over by women. “I claim that this movement is preeminently a great Christian movement, it is founded in the Christian doctrine, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God supremely, and thy neighbor as Thyself,’, and the Golden Rule of the new gospel.” During this movement, it was showed that all brothers and sisters in Christ are all equal. Regardless of gender, people are equal in God’s perspective and should be treated the same by law and society. Women also believed that they should labor self-righteousness to the earth; like the nation itself, women were shaped by revivals of the Second Great Awakening with significance of freedom and equality.

In conclusion: Looking back on the historical religious movement that was the Second Great Awakening, significance of equality and freedom was created. Race, gender, and church hierarchies were leveled on a level playing field and the real purpose of religion came to surface; and that was God. Coming together as a nation under one religion, with gender and race apart, a creation of justice was shown. Still to this day, there is a significant impact on religion in the United States and can be seen in modern day churches. In this spiritual movement, emphasis was put on the good of human beings and their natural capacity to understanding the world through the use of compassion and reason.

The Great awakening in my prospective is considered a war; because it has made a significant impact on how we see life religions to this day. The religious Movement was established to strengthen Mankind’s beliefs. Not only did it change England, but it had changed thousands of religious people around the whole world. A wise man has realized that their life styles were not exceptionally well controlled , and he was the only one that was going to change it all. He had noticed that many people were not taking religious beliefs seriously; also they had been Sinning a lot more than expected.

I believe that the Great Awakenings greatest effect was a uprising of the religious authority which ended up being incorporated into politics. The way of thinking in life was changed by certain people like George Whitfield spreading their message of religious freedom. Such way of thinking mainly caused the groups who dominated early in the colonies to diminish in popularity.

The effect of Great Awakening consensus was an attitude that went against the humble thinking that consumed English politics and religion. Rather than believing that God’s intent was certainly interpreted by the sovereign of his bishops, the colonists viewed themselves as more capable of performing the task. The children of revivalism later echoed this radicalism and popular self-righteousness in the American Revolution, when self-assertion turned against the tyrannical ways of George III. It was not to any church that the signers of the Declaration of Independence appealed to, but directly to the “Supreme Judge of the World”. It was through the revivalism of the first half of the Eighteenth Century, that the colonists were finally able to move out from under the protectorate of the established Christian churches and establish religious control over their own country’s future.

On the other hand, I do believe that a revolution would eventually have begun even without these two events. People had felt like as if they were wrongly treated by the English government with taxes and rights. They were being forced to pay and did not have the privilege of English citizens. Eventually, these people would have rebelled for freedom and formed a government of their own.

Even without the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening, we still would have had a Revolutionary War. I say this because freedom was pushed by the use of religion in politics; But if these two events did not happen, the people would have found another way of searching for freedom. There was such a diverse group of people in the colonies that eventually, their belief in freedom would have pushed the colonies into a war. People felt that with their own country new rules and laws could make life easier. The rising opposition to the Awakening had a significant impact on the direction of American Christianity. The Awakening reinterpreted the meaning of the covenant between God and his creature.


[ 1 ]. Hankins, Barry. The Second Great Awakening and the Transcendentalists. (Westport: Greenwood, 2004), 52.

[ 2 ]. Ibid. Barry, 54.

[ 3 ]. Charles F. Finney Lectures on Revivals, 1868, (New York: Leavitt, Lord and CO., 1835), 12.

[ 4 ]. Bilhartz, Terry, Urban Religion and the Second Great Awakening (Mississauga, Associated University Presses) , 75.

[ 5 ]. Weld, Theodore, Introduction to American Slavery as It Is: Testimony of A Thousand Witnesses, 1839, (South, American Anti-Slavery Society), 7.

[ 6 ]. Hankins, Barry. The Second Great Awakening and the Transcendentalists. (Westport: Greenwood, 2004), 117.

[ 7 ]. Grimke, Angelina, The Lesser Work, 1837, (South: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1837), 110 in The Second Great Awakening and the Transcendentalists. Edited by Barry Hankins, (Westport, Greenwood, 2004), 167.

The First Great Awakening

Revival history is an interesting topic and one that can be explored at great depths. Revivals of the past, if looked at through the right lens, can awaken hope and desire for God to move again, even in the darkest times. Revivals show us that God is still very much active and interested in His people. Below, I will go over the Great Awakening in detail discussing its major contributors, its effects, scope of impact, controversial aspects, principles learned, and our application for today.


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