Religion originated from polytheism, monotheism, and pantheism which is the belief in many gods, all is God and one God respectively. Socio-cultural context suitable for religion flourishing includes societal support for religious groups such as Christian right and the “new” evangelicals. Religious movements create revivals, for instance, the First and Second Great Awakening that helped the spread of religion to various regions (Fitzgerald 2017). Such revivals separated the church and state and a conducive market place where religious ideas could flourish. The major functions of religion are to offer social cohesion among individuals who share beliefs and also control the society through enforcing religious norms and it also acts as a source of information to existential questions.
In the 19th century, religion greatly influenced American politics until the mid-20th century where secularism rose and Christians lost their right (Fitzgerald 2017). However, religion played a role during the election of George Bush where the Republicans came up with a coalition to attract Christians. Since religion has power in politics, the 2016 elections Donald Trump won with the highest number of supporters ever received by earlier evangelists George Bush and Ronald Reagan and his win is attributed to the loyalty of religious conservatives (Gerson 2018). From historical events, religion and politics have a strong relationship as it draws the distinction between Republicans and Democrats. The Catholics make up the majority of the Democratic party while the Republicans are made up of Methodists, Presbyterians and Lutherans are associated with Republicans.
The First Awakening helped to build the nation from colonies hence evangelizing from North to South causing the separation of the church and state a federal law that allowed the group to spread good news freely even though there were established churches (Fitzgerald 2017). It also made America a religious nation. The Second Awakening lead to a populist movement where preachers started reform movements into diverse sectors such as education and health and even so campaigned against slavery (Fitzgerald 2017). During these times, there was no distinction between religion and politics. Pentecostalism is still popular 30-40 years later since it spread widely while integrating both Blacks and white even though the majority were the poor working on marginal jobs later, they become middle class (Fitzgerald 2017). It also waivered social sin of the use of make-up and sports and so drawing more followers and support from the modernists. On the other hand, religious fundamentalism falls because of conflict such as the fundamentalist-modernist conflict and even so it rose again after Billy Graham attracted many followers most who were separated from their denominations. Even after its spread, the rise in Pentecostalism and inclusion of White Southern evangelicals into the life of the nation led to the imbalance of evangelism hence causing its fall again. Pentecostalism listed the varieties of religious experiences as gifts of the holy spirit experienced by believers as it were to the apostles during the Pentecost (Fitzgerald 2017). These experiences are maintained through baptism in the spirit which gives them direct connections to speaking in tongues, healing, prophecy among others.
In the 16th century, Protestants and Catholics engaged in violence to destroy the opposing church. FitzGerald (2017) explains that Schaefer approved religious violence on a legitimate basis. Contemporary, religion and violence are linked to political violence. For instance, terrorism, may be used by a certain religious group to instill fear and so achieving a political goal or also as a way of attacking the ruling regime. Religious violence is justified with scriptural significance as Christians believe that Biblical prophecies have to be fulfilled (Fitzgerald 2017). In 1917, protestant leaders in the US were against the country from intervening the Europe battles as they stated it was Biblical with Russia withdrawing from the alliance in the war against Germany and the separation of Austro-Hungarian Empire showed a similar event to that of the Roman Empire revolution and Russia heading the Northern confederacy (Fitzgerald 2017). Religion also justifies violence through obedience to those in authority. During the “Holy War” protestant ministers affirmed that it was the God’s calling for them to engage in war and the Crusade conflict was thought of as the holiest and since Christians are patriots then they should engage in the war too.
Exceptionalism refers to the unique traits of a country that makes it respect democracy and individual liberty. Religion has played a significant role in American society as the likes of Jimmy Carter and the Christ right group that arose to fight against secular humanism (Fitzgerald 2017). In America, historical evolutions of evangelists have been propelling social change from the anti-slavery movements to the fight for social justice issues such as poverty. Even so, the subsequent generation after the baby boomers was more concerned about the environment (Fitzgerald 2017). Issues such as same-sex marriages, gender equality, and abortion were greatly influenced by religious views. For example, during Obama’s rule, Catholic heads and other Christian right leaders were against the use of contraception and abortion while the new evangelic leaders pushed for the formation of new policies regarding these social issues. Religion was also used by African Americans to create self-help groups that marked the beginning of social movements that led contributed to the events that led to the Civil Rights Movements (Fitzgerald 2017). The Second Awakening that was led by preachers who were after intellectual evangelism and in the North the abolitionist that fought against slavery indirectly led to the first feminist movement hence causing social change for the freedom of the African Americans and gender equality.
FitzGerald, F. (2017). The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America. Simon and Schuster.
Gerson, Michael, 2018, “The Last Temptation.” The Atlantic, Apr: 43-52
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