Christianity

Abolition and Women’s Rights

Abolition and Women’s Rights

In the first decades of the 1800s, a growing coalition of Protestants made arguments grounded in scripture for the abolition of slavery. This group laid the foundation for later social movements, including the Women’s Rights Movement. Although cooperation between churches gave momentum to these campaigns, political and religious arguments also led to internal divisions, often along racial and geographic lines. 

 

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The Protestant Mainstream

The Protestant MainstreamIn the early 19th century, many so-called “mainstream Protestants”—Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, and Anglicans—believed themselves to be responsible for the future of the fledgling United States. Although they founded interchurch agencies that worked toward social reform, some religious alliances eventually split as denominations took either “liberal” or “fundamentalist” stances.

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American Protestant Awakening

American Protestant AwakeningThe 18th century brought a series of religious revivals to the American colonies. Preachers traveled through Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Anglican communities, speaking to large crowds, urging renewed piety and personal conversions, and infusing American Protestantism with a lasting individualistic spirit.

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New Immigrant Christianity

New Immigrant Christianity

The Immigration Act of 1965 allowed greater numbers of Asian, African, and Hispanic immigrants to enter into the U.S. These communities transformed the American religious landscape, bringing their own forms of worship and expression. One resulting physical change has been the emergence of “nesting churches,” buildings that house multiple congregations with different ethnic and religious identities.

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Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, and Pentecostalism

Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism, and Pentecostalism

American evangelicalism has deep roots in the Protestant tradition, and today the term references a diverse group of Christians who often prioritize spiritual rebirth, personal piety, scriptural authority, and evangelism. Fundamentalism emerged in the 20th century as a particular theology characterized most notably by biblical literalism. Pentecostalism refers to Christian denominations who prioritize the Spirit and whose worship may include speaking in tongues, faith healings, and other charismatic expressions.

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The Social Gospel

The Social Gospel

Proponents of the “social gospel” connected social reform to scriptural ideals, calling for regulation of the rapidly industrializing, vastly unequal society that emerged in the late 1800s. The century that followed, characterized by war and social unrest, saw a series of Christian movements and intellectual positions that were indebted to social christianity, notably the Civil Rights Movement and the liberation theology emerging from progressive Latin American Catholicism.

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Latter Day Saints Movement

Latter Day Saints MovementThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known for many years as the Mormon Church, is the largest movement descended from the prophetic claims of Joseph Smith. In the mid-19th century, Smith’s followers moved from upstate New York, Smith’s home, to the West, eventually reaching Utah, where they founded Salt Lake City. Through the present day, members of the movement continue to negotiate their place within Christianity and American society.

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American Catholicism

American CatholicismAmerican Catholicism was defined by waves of immigration: older populations in Maryland and the Southwest were joined in the 19th and 20th centuries by immigrants from Europe and Latin America. Tensions between various nationalities, in addition to a dialectic between assimilation and the preservation of devotional practices, defined 20th century Catholic life. The 20th century also saw the election of the first Catholic president of the United States.

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African American Christianity

African American ChristianityThe First Great Awakening led many enslaved people in the United States to convert to Christianity. Through the 18th and 19th centuries, distinct Black churches emerged, seeking autonomy from white Christians. These congregations grew into denominations, and many thrive in the present day. They have served as homes to various political and religious movements, including Black nationalism and liberation theology.

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Christian Settlements

Christian SettlementsThe European colonization of North America created a range of Christian societies. From the Spanish Catholics across the Southwest to the Puritans of Massachusetts, Christian communities emerged across the land that is now the United States.

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The Cross and the Icon

Orthodox Christian Icon

The shape of the cross informs the architecture of many churches, and the symbol’s frequent appearance in the decoration of Christian spaces stands for the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. For Orthodox Christians, other important images include icons (figurative representations of Christ, the Virgin Mary, or the saints), which adorn worship spaces, are placed in homes, and are carried throughout everyday life.... Read more about The Cross and the Icon

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