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Religious Experimentation Brings More Diversity Chapter 7.

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1 Religious Experimentation Brings More Diversity Chapter 7

2 I. Revisiting the Bible: Restoration During the early years of the 19th century, a primary impetus among new religious movements was a re- imagining, or really a “return”, to the original sense and meaning of the Bible Such a move “endow[ed] power” (95) to the members of new movements, since their claim was that they, not everyone else, was recapturing the truth of apostolic times “Restorationism” (see p. 92) was a prime example of such an impulse, its two primary strains arising out of the same origin, the Stone-Campbell Movement During the early years of the 19th century, a primary impetus among new religious movements was a re- imagining, or really a “return”, to the original sense and meaning of the Bible Such a move “endow[ed] power” (95) to the members of new movements, since their claim was that they, not everyone else, was recapturing the truth of apostolic times “Restorationism” (see p. 92) was a prime example of such an impulse, its two primary strains arising out of the same origin, the Stone-Campbell Movement

3 I. Revisiting the Bible: Restoration Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell both thought denominations were based on arbitrary divisions, and all Christians would be united if they read and understood the Bible through simple “common sense” They wished to return to a “simple, biblical, apostolic Christianity” (92) Both, however, were perceived as founders (or figureheads at least) of two separate denominations: the Churches of Christ (Stone) and the Disciples of Christ (Campbell) Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell both thought denominations were based on arbitrary divisions, and all Christians would be united if they read and understood the Bible through simple “common sense” They wished to return to a “simple, biblical, apostolic Christianity” (92) Both, however, were perceived as founders (or figureheads at least) of two separate denominations: the Churches of Christ (Stone) and the Disciples of Christ (Campbell)

4 II. Revisiting the Bible: Innovation Like Stone and Campbell, Joseph Smith wished to return Christianity to its original, apostolic origins; unlike the former two, he did so by introducing a new set of canonical writings and a new mythological history set entirely in America Central to Smith’s Church of Latter-day Saints was the idea that Israel’s history continued in the New World and kept on continuing by the stream of new revelation that was ongoing from God Like Stone and Campbell, Joseph Smith wished to return Christianity to its original, apostolic origins; unlike the former two, he did so by introducing a new set of canonical writings and a new mythological history set entirely in America Central to Smith’s Church of Latter-day Saints was the idea that Israel’s history continued in the New World and kept on continuing by the stream of new revelation that was ongoing from God

5 II. Revisiting the Bible: Innovation Having opened the canon to new truth, Smith took on the mantle of prophet, a move for which he would be persecuted, ending ultimately in his martyrdom in Illinois However, the movement continued, most prominently under the leadership of Brigham Young who migrated with the majority of Smith’s followers to Utah, where they continued to experience great growth in the midst of oppression Having opened the canon to new truth, Smith took on the mantle of prophet, a move for which he would be persecuted, ending ultimately in his martyrdom in Illinois However, the movement continued, most prominently under the leadership of Brigham Young who migrated with the majority of Smith’s followers to Utah, where they continued to experience great growth in the midst of oppression

6 III. Utopia in America The early 19th century also bore witness to an explosion of communitarian communities, both religiously (primarily Christian) and economically-based Though most were short-lived, they did succeed for a time in “bring[ing] heaven to earth”, given that the goal of many of these communities was to live as things would be during the millennium of Christ’s return The early 19th century also bore witness to an explosion of communitarian communities, both religiously (primarily Christian) and economically-based Though most were short-lived, they did succeed for a time in “bring[ing] heaven to earth”, given that the goal of many of these communities was to live as things would be during the millennium of Christ’s return

7 III. Utopia in America The Oneida community, started by John Humphrey Noyes, was founded on the idea that Christ had returned in 70 A.D., that they were living in the millennium and thus, perfection was possible and all communal ties dissolved (especially marital ones) Complex marriage, where all “spouses” were held in common, and stirpiculture, the eugenic process of creating perfect children, were the beliefs for which Noyes and the community received the bulk of its critique (see pp ) Brook Farm, the Transcendentalist, Fourierist-inspired utopian community of George Ripley, was notable for intellectually- charged atmosphere Things dissolved when the economic endeavor failed, but difficulty arose early from the inability to balance the import of growth in Transcendental principles and sustainable work The Oneida community, started by John Humphrey Noyes, was founded on the idea that Christ had returned in 70 A.D., that they were living in the millennium and thus, perfection was possible and all communal ties dissolved (especially marital ones) Complex marriage, where all “spouses” were held in common, and stirpiculture, the eugenic process of creating perfect children, were the beliefs for which Noyes and the community received the bulk of its critique (see pp ) Brook Farm, the Transcendentalist, Fourierist-inspired utopian community of George Ripley, was notable for intellectually- charged atmosphere Things dissolved when the economic endeavor failed, but difficulty arose early from the inability to balance the import of growth in Transcendental principles and sustainable work

8 IV. The End is Near: Adventism and Millennialism Expectation of Christ’s imminent return, and speculation as to America’s role in that event, color the landscape of American religious history, of which some of the most fervent examples occurred in the early-mid 19th century Speculation about history, reading “endtimes” into historical events became an endeavor common to those who saw history as coming to a close Theological camps tended to divide into two groups: Pre-millennialists (Adventist): those who believed that the Rapture was set to occur prior to Christ’s 1000 year reign Post-millennialists (Millennialist): those who believed that the close of history would occur following Christ’s reign Expectation of Christ’s imminent return, and speculation as to America’s role in that event, color the landscape of American religious history, of which some of the most fervent examples occurred in the early-mid 19th century Speculation about history, reading “endtimes” into historical events became an endeavor common to those who saw history as coming to a close Theological camps tended to divide into two groups: Pre-millennialists (Adventist): those who believed that the Rapture was set to occur prior to Christ’s 1000 year reign Post-millennialists (Millennialist): those who believed that the close of history would occur following Christ’s reign

9 IV. The End is Near: Adventism and Millennialism The Millerites, the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s witnesses are the most prominent examples of such viewpoints William Miller, leader of the eponymous “Millerites”, through a sophisticated and complex reading of the Bible, determined that the Christ would return on October 22, 1844, a date that would later be known as “The Great Disappointment” (p. 99) Though the Millerite movement fractured, splinter groups grew out of it with the same “expectational” principles- the Seventh- Day Adventists, led by Ellen G. White being a primary example; White promoted the idea that Christ did not return because his followers were not prepared, prompting her to promote reinstitution of the Seventh-Day sabbath and various health reforms The Jehovah’s Witnesses, begun by Charles Taze Russell on the other hand felt that Christ had returned (in 1874), but in the spiritual realm only The Millerites, the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s witnesses are the most prominent examples of such viewpoints William Miller, leader of the eponymous “Millerites”, through a sophisticated and complex reading of the Bible, determined that the Christ would return on October 22, 1844, a date that would later be known as “The Great Disappointment” (p. 99) Though the Millerite movement fractured, splinter groups grew out of it with the same “expectational” principles- the Seventh- Day Adventists, led by Ellen G. White being a primary example; White promoted the idea that Christ did not return because his followers were not prepared, prompting her to promote reinstitution of the Seventh-Day sabbath and various health reforms The Jehovah’s Witnesses, begun by Charles Taze Russell on the other hand felt that Christ had returned (in 1874), but in the spiritual realm only

10 V. Religion and the Mind Many, instead of looking outward to history, turned inward at “the human mind itself to uncover a larger frame of meaning for all of life” Most saw the connection between the mind and body; whatever was occurring bodily was often a problem originating in “bad thought”, thus, healing the mind became a primary objective of such movements Tapping into the mind meant connecting with God, an Oversoul or transcendent entity Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish religious mystic would influence many American-grown movements, such as the Transcendentalists, Phineas Quimby and his healing ministry and Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science (see pp for more) Many, instead of looking outward to history, turned inward at “the human mind itself to uncover a larger frame of meaning for all of life” Most saw the connection between the mind and body; whatever was occurring bodily was often a problem originating in “bad thought”, thus, healing the mind became a primary objective of such movements Tapping into the mind meant connecting with God, an Oversoul or transcendent entity Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish religious mystic would influence many American-grown movements, such as the Transcendentalists, Phineas Quimby and his healing ministry and Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science (see pp for more)


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