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Cultural Core of America Through the Course of Great Awakenings Essay

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Updated: Jul 18th, 2022

The Great Awakenings are definitive for American history and the understanding of the modern world. These religious revivals happened periodically from the first emergence of Europeans on the territory. McLoughlin (1980, xiii) defines them as “periods of cultural revitalization… during which time a profound reorientation in beliefs and values takes place.” While the cultural core of the US has been the belief that God chose Americans, it was the panacea during social and economic crises and strengthened after every Awakening.

The cultural core of the United States was laid by the Puritan people. The English population that traveled to Northern America through the ocean and consequently composed the majority of the future state professed Puritanism (McLoughlin 1980). According to Hall (2019), this Christian movement emerged in the Age of Discoveries and was distinct from existing Anglicanism by emphasizing God’s laws and freedom from the state and church. In addition, the Puritans valued order, rationality and saw themselves as the newly chosen people. Religion determined the customs and mindset of these individuals; thus, the English settlers of America produced the cultural core of the nation. As McLoughlin (1980, 25) explicitly puts it, Puritanism delivered to the Americans a “sense of being a differently constituted people, covenanted with God on a special errand into the wilderness.” Thus, the North American cultural core comprises selectedness, reason, practicality, and rigid belief in law and freedom.

The rapid economic growth in the United States and stable societal structure provided the First Great Awakening that reserved the nation’s cultural core. The cheapness of land and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Americans caused the prosperity of the colony in the middle of the 18th century (McLoughlin 1980, 97). As the population grew, more people felt the need to become wealthy, while the piousness reduced. The intellectuals under the impact of the Enlightenment discontinued visiting the church fragmented into numerous movements. In response to this, preachers produced sermons and new postulates: God’s will is for all people, and everyone should practice religion at least personally. Subsequently, faith was somewhat renovated, although the cultural core remained the same. As a result, Americans removed the English imperial power and established their own rule to resist being not loyal to the authorities (McLoughlin 1980). Therefore, the devotedness to God and legislative zeal were endangered but preserved during the Revival.

The Second Great Awakening was determined by political shifts, too, reforming the traditional societal norms. The Revolution demonstrated the abundance of perspectives of the newly born Republic and strengthened the belief in God’s favor of Americans. At the end of the 18th century, the existence of different views on the governmental rule of the United States resulted in doubt in the future of the American nation (McLoughlin 1980, 98). The unity of the state was threatened, and the cultural core in the form of belief in God’s approval of the people. However, religious renewal, spiritual upheaval yet again preserved the national pride and glory. The elite and ordinary people participated in restructuring their society, abolishing slavery, adultery, and changing the state of women’s rights (Faulkner, 2019). Finally, the crisis was overcome, and evangelical beliefs were restored (McLoughlin 1980). Hence, the Americans transformed the multiple aspects of their lives to improve the state and convert the nation’s unique role in the world’s salvation.

The precursors of the Third Great Awakenings are slavery issues and the sudden instability of the economic situation. As always, spirituality rises in the time of crises in America. However, McLoughlin (1980, 141) states that the significant impact on the renewal was made by “imponant changes taking place in technology and mass communications.” Moreover, the desperate businessmen turned to faith, bringing the traditionally non-religious segment of the citizens to the shared cultural core of America. This wealthy and powerful population lead the United States into world politics, nurturing the view of the soon becoming widespread American culture (McLoughlin 1980). In brief, the revivals animated the importance of faith for all population parts and saturated the belief in the special global mission of the country.

The last Awakening occurred after a series of catastrophic historical events that completely changed the Western civilization. Firstly, World War II gave Americans a pessimistic impression of Europe losing religious vigor and letting the inhumane actions begin. Next, the Christian foundation of the cultural core was shaken by the imported and popularized Eastern beliefs. Social Darwinism and eugenics were condemned and abandoned; the rationalistic worldview that did not include religion was criticized as well. Later, the Vietnamese war met numerous protests and caused distrust in governmental decisions, but the spiritual attitudes were conserved. Consequently, the religious essence during this time suffered a thread but survived the generational misfortunes.

In conclusion, the cultural core of the United States is the firm belief in God’s will, adherence to the laws, and the mission of global redemption that is carried by the nation. Nowadays, the country attempts to influence Eastern countries politically and economically to accept its culture, arguing that it approximates the world to peace. Thus, Americans continue to view themselves as chosen defenders of humanity, a people that God wills to assist.

References

Faulkner, Carol. 2019. Unfaithful: Love, Adultery, and Marriage Reform in Nineteenth-Century America. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Hall, David. 2019. The Puritans: A Transatlantic History. Princeton, New Jersey: Prinston University Press.

McLoughlin, William. 1980. Revivals, Awakening and Reform. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Cultural Core of America Through the Course of Great Awakenings." July 18, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cultural-core-of-america-through-the-course-of-great-awakenings/.

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