Religion is a critical issue in human’s daily life and is marred with great controversies, conspiracies and inconsistencies. The world at large has many religions that one care to count. A few of these religions have been documented and take a global outlook while some are barely noticeable. The development of religion has gone through various stages of alongside the changing society
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The changes in religion, the need to worship and the existence of numerous religions had been widely documented by many writers world wide. A good example of this documentation is Nathan Hatch’s,”The Democratization of American Culture.” The book provides an interesting account of what Christian was like in the post revolution era. As such Hatch exhibits through the use of persuasive details the manifestation and the contents of the principles that make up religious freedom that the United States of America has claimed to provide since its beginning. He tries to prove that religious populism, which is characterized by fervent displeasure with class and organization, was the underlying force that encouraged the rise and development of American Protestantism. The American Protestantism was a great movement lead by highly unlikely people and later split mutating into several factions.
The story presented by Hatch also touches in a number of undertones that contributed to the movement. For example, he speaks of an upside-down change in the religious power as a result of the commoner’s distrust of their leaders of talent and genius, as well as the protection of the right to “ nature their own faith and being answerable leaders of their own choice. The other undertone included the role of religion in shaping the country into what can be perceived as a liberal, market-driven and competitive society (Hatch, 1991).
In this assessment of the post-revolutionary Christianity, Hatch tries to examine and compare the five major factions of Christianity in the 19th century American society. The groups being discussed here include the Christian movement, the Mormons, the Baptists, the black churches and the Methodists. The groups were in most cases lead by charismatic leaders who were uneducated on had very minimal education but struck chords either culture in the rural areas during their days the managing to put together massive followings. The leaders cane up with the language for the establishment of creeds and confessions, the spoke in the vernacular which was clearly understood by the Americans in the rural areas. An example of such leaders is discussed by Hatch.
He clearly describes the Baptist leader John Legend’s style stating how he relished an ordinary audience, and prepared his writings as well as speeches using blunt common sense and humor that can be considered earthly humors (Hatch, 1991). Such trends were new and were given an everlasting vice-like grip in the society by the increase of printed materials within the society. The ideas of the religious leaders that had access to the printing press could be carried around, and be read even in the absence of such leaders. As a result the ideas and believe could recruit numerous like-minded people to become folowers in the areas they reached. One of the charismatic leaders who benefited from the printing press is Alexander Campbell. As a religious leader, he aimed to transform the American society religiously from the West Virginia Mountains while making use of his vast printing resources (Hatch, 1991).
In the creation of the religious culture these leaders sought to create, gospel music played a very powerful role. In most cases the music was responsible for the creation of the culture and subcultures. The gospel music mainly involved placing ones ideas and spiritual convictions into a form that was singable through pairing texts with catch and rousing melodies which etched the Christian massages into the minds of people during camp meetings or any other Christian conglomerations.
The printing and music together formed a very formidable tool for the spread of the Christian massage and conversion of people to Christianity. The words to the songs were written and printed in song bocks in mass. They were made available to believers and other people who wanted them. The possession of printing press and hymns was sufficient to mobilize a great religious populism movement with very strong roots within the hearts of the ordinary Americans.
It seems Hatch chose to talk about these five groups due the influence the groups had on the Americans society of the time. The existence of the groups in relation to the age old established traditions certainly provide astounding proof of the amazingly striking diversity and ugly disunity that characterizes the second Great Awakening, despite the fact that the groups were a product of the same force shared numerous traits and were guided by the same fundamental social values in addition to the underlying spiritual convictions.
After the examination and analysis of the five case studies, the conclusion the Hatch makes is not surprising at all. Despite the fact that this distinct and unique American religious culture was a product of revivalism, it is worthwhile noting that the revivalism was anything but united. The formation if these five factions alongside other less notable group in the 19th century clearly encouraged the developed of religious individuality, a culture that runs deep and is further rampant in the American society today. Individuals can choose any of the numerous flavor provided by the abundance of religious groups. Individual thus chose the flavor that best meets their carvings or desire that one wish to have on his or her plate. Also, despite the fact that some of these developments occurred over a century ago, Hatch note that religious populism has remained part of the American society to dat. The religious movements keep on recurring (Hatch, 1991). The society has at large adopted a steeped-tradition and hierarchy every where, whether in social settings or church setting. However, the believers are free to think for themselves and make their own choices concerning their spiritual needs.
These sentiments by Hatch are indeed shared by many, who consider America as a religiously plural country. Despite the pluralism present with Christianity as a religion and Protestantism in particular, there are also numerous religiious groups within the American society that certainly serve to widen the range of religious choice. Church organization as such can be classified into various organizations. This includes cults that are organized around psych power, sect, denomination and church. Bing the center of human daily life, religion has entangled with politics and to an extent is a political tool that greatly benefits those who can harness its potential. Through the course of human history the dark ages, the Middle Ages and present day religion has changes mutated to bring about various political changes or adapt to political changes.
Various doctrines were adopted during this changes that were in line with dedicates of the moment. Certainly, these developments are similar to those that happened in the American society. The formation of groups such as those discussed by Hatch was a product of the dictates of the moment. Economic and geographical factor also influence the development of such group. People being separated with great geographical distances and economic circumstance come up with groups that suite their needs. Indeed, Hatch is not wrong to claim that religious pluralism provides a wide range of choice to the Christian community. People try or test various churches or denomination and subscribe to what the feel suitable for them selves. As such, this can be considered to be adaptation of religion to human need, contrary to what religion was in the dark ages and middle Ages where it entirely shaped the humans lives.
Despite the existence of such groups within Christianity, it is evident that Christianity just like other religions shape how human lives within their society. Religion is responsible for teaching people ethics and morals. In fact, religion has provided the foundation for various laws governing America as well as its constitution. Despite the religious groups having been formed on ethnical basis, ethnicity in America decreases with every generation that come by and the American begin to look at each other on their religious basis rather than ethnical basis. Hatch who based his argument on five protestant groups, Herberg (1995) based his on there categories of religion in America. These are the Catholics, Protestants and the Jews. However, the existence of Hatchs five groups and Herbergs three melting point is becoming entirely irrelevant since people are intermarrying regardless of their origin. This has further been worsened by the immigration of Asians, Hindus, Muslims, Budhists and people of other different faiths into America. As such this has served to increase variety and confusion to the people.
In sum, America is indeed a religious pluralistic society. All major religions are represented in the country and there are numerous subdivisions within this groups that are also present. The earliest source of pluralism was revivalism the lead to emergent of numerous Protestantism groups characterized be ethnical distribution within the country. This must have developed as a product of the American constitution which does not provide for a state religion. New religions have also emerged in the country as a product of immigration of Muslims, Asian, Indian, Buddhists and other into the country.
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