I am currently reading a book entitled “Religion and American Politics from the Colonial Period to the Present,” edited by Mark A. Noll and Luke E. Harlow. It is an update of an academic level book written in the 1990′s. Chapters on various topics, or more likely historical periods, are written by experts in the specifics. It is a fascinating, if effortful read. I am currently reading the chapter “Ethnoreligious Political Behavior in the Min-Nineteenth Century” by Robert P. Swierenga who is a professor of history emeritus at Kent State and the A.C. Van Raalte Research Professor at the Van Raalte Institute of Hope College. The chapter contained this fascinating paragraph:
Not only for the Dutch Calvinists but for all ethnoreligious groups, revivalism was the “engine” of political agitation. Evangelist Charles G. Finney began preaching revival in the mid-1820s throughout New England and its Yankee colonies in western New York. By 1831, religious enthusiasm had reached a fever pitch in the area, and mass conversions swept town after town. Church membership doubled and tripled, and large portions of the populace were reclaimed for Protestantism. Finney challenged his followers to pursue “entire sanctification” or perfectionism and to become Christian social activists. The converts first entered politics in the anti-Masonic movement in New York in 1826-1827. By the mid-1830s, the evangelicals entered national politics by opposing slavery, alcohol, and other social ills that they believed the Jackson administration condoned. Converts such as Theodore Dwight Weld became leaders in the antislavery movement. And in the 1840s and 1850s, revivalist regions of the country developed strong antislavery societies and voted Liberty, Whig, and later Republican. Ultimately, the allegiance of pietists (ed. note: “evangalicals”) to the Whig party led to its demise because the pietists put ethical goals, such as abolition of slavery, above party loyalty. The idea of a party system built on patronage and discipline was much stronger in Democrat than in Whig ranks. Evangelicals had a disproportionate share of antiparty men. In their estimation, popery, Masonry, and party were all threats to freedom of conscience and Christian principles. [emphasis added]
Did we see a similar phenomena in the last election? Are things getting worse or better along these lines for Republicans? Moderation is off until the next post – have at it.