Enlightenment and the Great Awakening
The eighteenth century was characterized by two major cultural movements, which played the main role in redefining the relationship between American colonist and England. The Great Awakening and the Enlightenment were two movements that advocated for different ideas. The former advocated for the promotion of a fervent emotive religiosity while the latter encouraged individuals to engage in the pursuit of reason and logical thought in all activities (Schultz 70).
The main effect of this cultural movement on the colonists was that it resulted in the formation of new religious movement and an increase in the level of interest in religious matters. This movement was at its peak and had the major impact on American Protestantism in the 1730s and 1740s as it offered American colonies with a deeper sense of redemption and spiritual conviction, which resulted from preaching that made the matter of faith intensely personal (Kidd 14). The Great Awakening can, therefore, be considered a result of the spiritual dryness that characterized the lives of protestant believers in American colonies (Schultz 70).
In fact, the Great Awakening was a movement that led to spiritual growth and contributed to the development of an American national identity. This began when a group of Christians dissociated themselves from the institutional approach to worship that had been established by England. These believers began attending large gatherings during worship and prayer sessions. The preachers who advocated for the dissociation argued that it was necessary for people to be concerned with their inner emotions rather than their outward religious behavior. In terms of the outcomes, the Great Awakening resulted in the birth of deep religious convictions in American colonies. In addition, the colonists developed behavioral attitudes, which allowed them to confront existing religious authority and practices and disassociated from them if they could not meet their expectations (Kidd 18).
The religious differences and rebellion against institutional religious practices prepared the American colonists for the war of independence. Because of the Awakening, the colonists realized that it was possible to have religious power in their hands rather than those defined by the Church of England. This led the colonists to the development of a vision for freedom against England. The climate resulting from the Great Awakening was also a contributor to American Revolution considering that the movement ensured religious, political, and cultural unity, which was considered necessary in the development of the American identity (Schultz 71).
One of the major contributors to the rebellion resulted from the Great Awakening was the change in the imperial administration towards the American colonies. The administrative changes made by the British confirmed to the American clergy that it could soon be possible to establish an American episcopate. Moreover, religious interpretations of the Stamp Act contributed to the rise of popular resistance against direct taxation since the American dissenters developed an association between the Stamp Act and the objective of establishing an American Bishop. According to the clergy, the Stamp Act asserted that those engaged in the acquisition of college degrees or in the acceptance of ordination required royal approval and an approval from the Church of England. The clergy saw the policy as an opportunity for the Church of England to rewrite the colonial charter in ways that eliminated dissent hence sparking ensuing riots and unrest. There were also laymen who gave an apocalyptic analysis of the Stamp Act by utilizing biblical imagery in raising colonial indignation. Furthermore, the clergy and the protestant in the period of Great Awakening used apocalyptic themes and millenarian in painting the rule of aristocrats and kings as a tool of the Antichrist (Schultz 79).
In late 17th century, an intellectual and cultural movement, the enlightenment, began in Europe. This movement was inspired by many the most prominent of them are John Locke, Franklin, Newton, and Galileo. Proponents of this theory emphasized on the need to embrace science and reason in understanding all phenomena. Furthermore, the proponents of this movement observed that man was good but drew most of the influences from the environment (Kidd 10). This meant that it was possible to engage scientific and logical processes in developing answers to different mysteries in life. Through science and reason, it could also be possible for a member of the society to develop an understanding of the best approach to governance and personal wellbeing. When understood in relation to the association between American colonies and England, it is possible to assert that Enlightenment was a major contributor to the Great Awakening. This is because people became more literate and began reading and interpreting spiritual books such as the bible. They took control of their devotion and conviction in religion. Therefore, most of the American colonists believed that it was possible to attain salvation without the doctrines of established religions. By interrogating the authority of the church, American colonists became critical of the governance system in the society. Other than an increase in literacy initiatives, the enlightenment movement also led to an increase in newspapers and publications as learning institutions began emerging within the American colonies (Schultz 84).
In general, the ideas of the enlightenment, namely equality, justice, and liberty, were one of the different ways through which the enlightenment led the American colonists to rebel against England. In fact, when the American colonists embraced these ideas, they could create conditions suitable for American Revolution thus the development of an American constitution. In fact, most of the ideas and concepts that defined the rebellious movement against the British included the need to respect natural rights, freedom from oppression and innovative way of thought regarding government structure originated from enlightenment philosophers and facilitated the formation of a firm foundation for modern day America (Kidd 11).
Enlightenment in America was considered an essential period of intellectual change in the 13 American colonies. Through the sentiments propelled by enlightenment philosophers, Americans began their quest for the introduction of radical changes in different aspects that affected social structures such as the social customs, racial roles, political ideals and gender-related concerns. The enlightenment partly created the desire among American people to create a democratic government defined by the separation of powers. This was to eradicate aristocratic rule that had been established by the British in the 13 American colonies. Through the works of the leading colonists such as Benjamin Franklin, the rebellious ideas among American people were founded on enlightenment doctrine of deism. According to this philosophy, it was important to depend on the reasoning power of science rather than faith as the best technique for improving the society. This was possible by embracing the concept of natural right as a rational ideology essential in fostering the aide of patriotism among American people who were longing for the development of a democratic government that protected the freedoms of its citizens (Schultz 88).
Moreover, the ideas propelled by thinkers such as John Locke led to the rejection of the divine authority commanded by the British Queen and King. Through his thoughts, the American people demanded the creation of a government among naturally free people in the form of a social contract. This approach to governance would be effective because the leaders would derive their authority from the consent of the people and they would exercise their power in the form of a public trust. For Locke, it was possible to rebel against such a government if it failed in its responsibility of protecting natural rights such as property, life, and liberty. The right to rebellion theory as propounded by proponents of enlightenment influenced American patriots to rebel against the British. Therefore, the need to establish a democratic government was based on the understanding that an aristocratic rule would provide leaders with more unchecked power. Such a government would be tempted to use such authority in controlling people (Schultz 90).
The Great Awakening can, therefore, be considered a result of the spiritual dryness that characterized the lives of protestant believers in the American colonies. In fact, The Great Awakening resulted in the birth of deep religious convictions in American colonies. Therefore, the colonists developed behavioral attitudes, which allowed them to confront existing religious authority and practices, and disassociated from them if they could not meet their expectations. On the other hand, Enlightenment movement observed that man was good but drew most of the influences from the environment. This meant that it was possible to engage scientific and logical processes in developing answers to different mysteries in life. American colonist began controlling their religion convictions and faith. In reality, most American colonists believed that it was possible to attain salvation without the doctrines of established religions. By questioning church leadership, American colonists also became inquisitive of the system of governance in the country.
Kidd, Thomas S. God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution. New York:
Basic Books, 2010. Print
Schultz, Kevin M. Hist. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.