Why did protestant Christianity and protestant women emerge as forces for social change?
Religion played an important role in early American history. Some of the people who immigrated in the country did so as a way of seeking religious freedom. They wanted a place where they could worship without any prohibitions. Many revivals happened in the country and they helped to establish protestant values in families and the society. The established rules were governed by Christian ideals. They were especially transforming for blacks, who realized that despite their status as slaves, they could gain equality under God. Some Christian churches called for the abolition long before the slaves began fighting for their freedom. Such churches allowed blacks to worship in their churches. The influence of the church was so great in the nation, that legislators sought ways of creating new relationship with them (Henretta et al., 2007)
The second great awakening largely contributed in making America a Christian nation. The reawakening led to the growth and dominance of the evangelical, Methodist, and Baptist churches. The messages preached in the churches had profound impact on the people. The religious leaders sought to win as many converts as possible. Therefore, they preached messages that the ordinary people could relate to and understand. The second awakening compelled Christians to take care of each other. They strived to help those who were poor and less privileged. They largely influenced the establishment of policies concerning the economy, politics, and social institutions. They aimed at ending the social ills in the society as well as promoting social justice (Henretta et al., 2007).
Protestant Christians were active in promoting good virtues among the people and in creating rules that led to the formation of better societies. They helped the poor and those who were disabled. They pushed for changes that led to prison reforms. Protestants were active in establishment of schools. These actions were in line with the Christian teachings. The emphasis on Christianity in the nation made such principles influential. They determined the political, social, and economic policies that were formed. Christians became more active in the quest to ensure that the government and other organizations helped the poor. They strived to ensure an end to slums, poverty, and unemployment. Many labor activists were encouraged to fight against unfair and unjust treatment of the workers.
The emphasis on equality was more of a disruptive force in the traditional societies that believed in slavery and wife subjugation. Slaves and women began calling for their freedom and equal treatment. Women became more assertive and they became more involved in public matters. Although church leadership was mostly male dominated, women made up most of the congregation. Ministers relied on them to perform different church activities. Women took charge of religious and charitable activities. The church gave them a platform since they were excluded from political public service (Henretta et al., 2007). They gained spiritual authority through their participation and involvement in church activities. The decision by protestant churches to recognize the importance of women benefited the society. Women began seeking knowledge and many of them felt the need to gain education. This led to the founding of learning institutions by the churches. The institutions included seminaries and academies that were specifically targeted to women. This decision not only changed the church but the society as well. Educated women began replacing male teachers in public schools. Women were more willing to accept lower salaries accorded to public school teachers (Henretta et al., 2007).
Henretta, A. J., Brody, D., & Dumenil, L. (2007). America’s history (6th ed). New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s