Reforming America: Social Reform and Moral Minorities

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The Second Great Awakening is to be a period of the great importance for the USA. It has transformed moral and social background of the US people within the establishment of several significant reforms. This period can be also considered the true revival of the Protestant religious ethics and beliefs. The Second Great Awakening was the greatest religious movement that began at the end of the XVIII century and lasted till 1820. Due to the reforms inspired by the movement, America has become the largest center of the Methodist, Baptist, and Mormon denominations. The Second Great Awakening led to several important social reforms, including the development of abolitionism, feminist movement, and removal of the indigenous people.

The Second Awakening was the movement of evangelical Protestantism. It was characterized by specific attitude to theological and moral principles. For instance, Methodists analyzed and explained such important Christian concepts as sin and perfectionism. They stated that sin is based on human voluntary actions, so that it is not inclined by essence. Living without sin was a basis of perfectionism and the main invention proclaimed by the Protestants at that time. Moral behavior was believed to be a part of character building. These theological innovations opposed Catholic tradition greatly and made evangelical Protestants the unique revivals of that time.

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The movement can be characterized as the triumph over the human sin, which always played an overwhelming role in Christianity. The statement that the sin is voluntary differed evangelical Protestants of the Second Great Awakening from Anglicans and Puritans. Contrast to earlier Protestant denominations, evangelicals believed that the divine grace could transform the people, so that they were not sinful anymore. One of the most significant figures, who developed the doctrine of Perfectionism, was Charles Finney. He stated that since an alcoholic could stop drinking and slaveowner could stop slavery, the Christians could easily conquer their sin.

Aside from religious reforms, the Second Great Awakening presented a lot of social transformations. For example, during this period, the USA experienced harsh confrontation between people, who supported slavery, and those, who opposed. An influential magazine De Bow’s Review provided numerous arguments for slavery using the vivid evidence from the Bible. The magazine stated that “both the Old and New Testament speak of slavery – that they do not condemn the relation” (Slavery and the Bible, 1850). The great tension regarding the problems of slavery led to the American Civil War later in 1861.

Another social reform that occurred during the Second Great Awakening was the removal of the Indians from the territory of the white settlements. At this time, the indigenous people of the USA had been almost totally removed from the territory of the US states. The President Andrew Jacksons stated that “by opening the whole territory between Tennessee on the north and Louisiana on the south to the settlement of the whites it will incalculably strengthen the southwestern frontier” (Jacksons, 1830). The Indians were not respected in the country, so that the government decided to get rid of them. The removal of the Indians was one of the most significant results of social reforms made during the Second Awakening.

The Second Great Awakening united social and religious reforms, because the efforts to transform the existing society were devoted to the new religious concepts. Social reforms of this period took the shape of several important issues, such as women’s rights. Reforms were considered the essential parts of the divine plan. The US first feminist movement was inspired by the Second Great Awakening and changes it applied to social and religious life. Rising American middle class and a lot of advancements applied to education encouraged women to oppose their oppression.

Female activists of that time compared their social status with slavery. Since the Second Great Awakening supported abolitionist ideas, it had to support women in their rebellion against oppression. Feminism made the emphasis that according to the Bible, all humans were created equal, so that women could not be less important than men. Women began to struggle for the same rights as men had at that time. The most well-known activists within feminism included Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony. Women began to take part in public speeches and petitioning. Feminist movement at that time gave a birth to significant suffrage organizations that included Anthony’s National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Organization.

The period of the Second Great Awakening was especially valuable for the USA, because it brought a lot of changes, advancements, and deep transformations to the country. The movement was initiated by the new denominations of evangelical Protestants, including Methodists, Baptists, and Mormons. They transformed the essential Christian doctrines of sin that lost its original status and turned into voluntary action. Evangelicals provided the new concepts, including Perfectionism that stated every human can conquer the sin under the power of the divine grace.

As for the social reforms, the Second Great Awakening inspired abolitionists and caused the great tension between whose, who supported slavery, and those, who opposed it. The movement led to removal of the American indigenous people from the territories of the white settlements, and that caused the great cultural unification. At that time, the feminist movement began and led to several advancement in female social life. Men and women were considered equal, so that women were to be free from domestic and social oppression. Feminism gave a birth to two important suffrage organizations.

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