by Dr. Denise R. Ames
Why can’t we just get along? This is a question that I have been working on in my new book, Divided: Colliding Ways We See the World. This series of blogs looks at five worldviews that each have defining characteristics. Understanding the five worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative—is a necessity in this complex and rapidly-changing world. The next several weeks I will be examining the traditional worldview, an often misunderstood and demonized worldview. I would like to share with you some ideas that I have been exploring.
“Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.” ― W. Somerset Maugham
Religious Fundamentalism, Part 3, Christian Fundamentalism
“We can either emphasize those aspects of our traditions, religious or secular, that speak of hatred, exclusion, and suspicion or work with those that stress the interdependence and equality of all human beings. The choice is yours.” ― Karen Armstrong,
Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life
Many Europeans came to North America to escape religious persecution in their native lands and practice their chosen freely in the new colony. Although there were attempts to establish a state-administered religion in some colonies, such as by the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, by and large these attempts proved to be too cumbersome and were banned or were replaced with governments that practiced separation of church and state.
The Enlightenment principle of separation of church and state took root in the newly formed United States. In fact, many of the founding fathers and elites, such as Thomas Jefferson, were deists. Deists believed that religious truth in general could be determined using reason and observation of the natural world alone, without needing faith or organized religion.
By the 1830s, Deism had been marginalized in the nation and a new version of
Evangelicalism became very popular. Its objective was to convert believers to the good news of the Gospel. They wanted a religion of the heart, not the Deist’s remote religion of the head. They wanted the faithful to follow biblical authority and to personally commit to Jesus.
According to Evangelical ideas, faith did not require learned philosophers and scientific experts, as was the case with Enlightenment philosophers; it was a simple matter of felt conviction and virtuous living. From those on the frontier to the developing cities of the Northeast, they were ready to listen to a new kind of preacher who stirred up a wave of revivals known as the Second Great Awakening (1800-35).
Evangelical Christianity led many Americans away from levelheaded rationality to the kind of anti-intellectualism and rugged individualism that still characterizes American culture. The leaders of the Second Great Awakening were not educated men, and their rough, populist, democratic Christianity seemed far removed from the Deism of the founding fathers.
Preachers held torchlight marches and mass rallies, and the new practice of gospel singing elevated audiences to the point where they openly wept and shouted for joy. Like some of the fundamentalist movements today, these congregations gave people who felt marginalized and exploited by the wealthy elites and mainstream society a means of making their voices head. They were mistrustful of learned experts; they wanted a plain-speaking religion with no impenetrable theological arguments.
About the Author
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.
For more about worldviews see Dr. Ames’ book Five Worldviews: How We See the World. $9.95