212) 2nd Awakening Sets Up Civil War

Second Great Awakening Mid-1700’s to Mid-1800’s

The Second Great Awakening (sometimes known simply as “the Great Awakening”)…it moved beyond the educated elite of New England to those who were less wealthy and less educated. The center of revivalism was the so-called Burned-over district in western New York. Named for its overabundance of hellfire-and-damnation preaching, the region produced dozens of new denominations, communal societies, and reform.[15]

Among these dozens of new denominations were free black churches, run independently of existing congregations that were predominantly of white attendance…with participation becoming almost non-existent by the 1840s–1850s; some scholars argue that this was largely due to racial discrimination within the church.[16] This discrimination came in the form of segregated seating and the forbiddance of African Americans from voting in church matters or holding leadership positions in many white churches…[16]

The temperance movement encouraged people to abstain from consuming alcoholic drinks in order to preserve family order. The abolition movement fought to abolish slavery in the United States. The women’s rights movement grew from female abolitionists who realized that they too could fight for their own political rights…reforms touched nearly every aspect of daily life, such as restricting the use of tobacco and dietary and dress reforms. The abolition movement emerged in the North from the wider Second Great Awakening 1800–1840.[18]

editorial_cartoon_depicting_charles_darwin_as_an_ape_28187129Problem: Darwinism in both individual and social “survival of the fittest” in opposition to Postmillennialist belief that Christ will return to earth after either a literal 1,000 years or a figurative “long period” of peace and happiness which Christians had a duty to bring about.

Reaction: Centered in a region of western New York by Charles Finney, a leading revivalist active in the area. The religious events in Western New York had a unique and lasting impact upon the religious and social life of the entire nation. New religious movements sprang up.

[Joseph] Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement…in the late 1820s as he was dictating the Book of Mormon, which he said was a translation of words found on a set of golden plates that had been buried near his home in Upstate New York by an indigenous American prophet…After the translation was complete, Smith said that he returned the plates to the angel Moroni; thus they could never be examined. Latter Day Saints believe the account of the golden plates as a matter of faith, 

William Miller was an American Baptist preacher[in the same time frame and geographical area as Joseph Smith]. Basing his calculations principally on Daniel 8:14: “Unto 2,300 days then shall the sanctuary be cleansed”, Miller assumed that the cleansing of the sanctuary represented the Earth’s purification by fire…at Christ’s Second Coming. Then…Miller (and others) interpreted a day in prophecy to read… as a calendar year…Simple calculation then revealed that this period would end in 1843…“From first to last the power of the press, in this particular form, was one of the foremost factors in the success of this now vigorous, expanding movement.”…Millerite papers were published in numerous cities…March 21, 1844 passed without incident…resulted in the brief adoption of a new date—April 18, 1844….Again…date was determined to be October 22, 1844…ended like any other day to the disappointment of the Millerites…In the confusion that followed the Great Disappointment it seemed that almost every Millerite had an opinion—all of them different…Much of the responsibility for this proliferation of viewpoints must be shouldered by Miller, whose Rules of Biblical Interpretation outlined a method of biblical study that encouraged each person to read the Bible and to “do theology” for themselves…By mid-1845, doctrinal lines amongst the various Millerite groups began to solidify, emphasizing…sect building.”

  • The first major division of the Millerite groups who had not completely given up their belief in Christ’s Second Advent were those who accepted a shut-door theologyto October 22, 1844, teaching that…Christ came spiritually as the Bridegroom, the wise virgins had entered into the wedding feast, and the door was then shut on all others.This first group is commonly known as… “spiritualizer” group.
  • the second post-‘Great Disappointment’ group…the Advent Christian Church…its narrowing of beliefs was unacceptable to many. Millerism had been founded on Miller’s open, non-restrictive approach to Bible study–“It was the freedom to discover new truths that had drawn so many Christians and Freewill Baptists to the movement. The new restrictive definitions…was unacceptable to many who had joined the movement.”
  • The third major post-disappointment Millerite group also claimed…that the October 22 date was correct. Rather than Christ returning invisibly however, they came to view the event that took place on October 22, 1844 as having been quite different…the day after the Great Disappointment“Heaven seemed open to my view, and I saw distinctly and clearly that instead of our High Priest coming…to come to this earth…at the end of the 2300 days, that He…had a work to perform in the Most Holy before coming to this earth in His Second Coming “the sanctuary to be cleansed in Daniel 8:14 was not the earth or the church, but the sanctuary in heaven.”…This is the basis for the later Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the Investigative Judgement. It is out of this third Millerite group that the Seventh-day Adventist Church [was birthed].
  • Charles Taze Russell…founder of what is now known as the Bible Student movement…co-founded Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society…From 1886 to 1904, he published a six-volume Bible study series…Studies in the Scripturesstressing the imminence of the rapture…When 1878 arrived, failure of the expected rapture brought great disappointment [and proof that he was a false prophet, nonetheless]…In 1881, Russell founded Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Societyby 1909, Russell’s writings had become the most widely distributed, privately produced English-language works in the United States…the entire corpus of his works were the third most circulated on earth, after the Bible and the Chinese Almanacin North America Russell’s writings had achieved a greater circulation “than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America.“… Russell agreed with other Protestants on the primacy of the Bible, and justification by faith alone, but thought that errors had been introduced in interpretation. 
    • Russell…taught that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but the manifestation of God’s power.
    • Russell believed that Christ had returned invisibly in October 1874,
    • After the outbreak of World War I, Russell reinterpreted 1914 as the beginning of Armageddon.
    • Russell believed that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built by the Hebrews…to be understood only in our day…Calculations were made using the pattern of an inch per year…1874, 1914, and 1918 were purported to have been found through the study of this monument.
    • Christian Zionism…God’s favor had been restored to Jews…in 1878…teaching that Jews should not convert to Christianity. 

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the largest of several Adventist groups which arose from the Millerite movement….Among its most prominent figures…Ellen G. Whitecame to occupy a particularly central role; her many visions and spiritual leadership convinced her fellow Adventists that she possessed the gift of prophecy…The church was formally established in 1863…turned to evangelism through missionary work and revivals…the teachings and writings of White, ultimately proved influential…Christianity Today recognized the Seventh-day Adventist church as ” the fifth-largest Christian communion worldwide” in its January 22, 2015 issue.

Jehovah’s Witnesses…emerged from the Bible Student movement founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell…Jehovah’s Witnesses…prefer to use their own Bible translation, the New World Translation of the Holy ScripturesThe organization has received criticism regarding biblical translation, doctrines, and alleged coercion of its members. The Watch Tower Society has made various unfulfilled predictions about major biblical events such as Christ’s Second Coming, the advent of God’s Kingdom, and Armageddon.

Spiritualism was also popular in Western New York during this period, with the Lily Dale community and the Fox Sisters playing a defining role in the movement’s development.

Solution: The Civil War supported by churches. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Evangelists often directly addressed issues such as slavery, greed, and poverty, laying the groundwork for abolition of slavery,  prohibition of alcohol, women’s rights and a multitude of other social issues. The common understanding of reform as being a part of God’s plan led to local churches seeing their role as purifying the world by participating in politics to effect changes in the law and the creaton of institutions, further increasing the role religion played in American politics.

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