Evangelicalism did not evolve or operate in a space. It is essential to consider the ways in which members of this group participated in and changed their culture, and, conversely, to assess how its social context provided both the ideas which evangelicalism adopted or transformed and those which it actively rejected or resisted. As movements that came of age during the first half of the nineteenth century, Evangelical Protestantism can be understood most clearly in the political, economic, and religious contexts of post-revolutionary American society. Although the movement would come to effect profound changes in its society it was very much in a sense that the culture had grown ripe for its emergence. The tension between …show more content…
The social impact of the Second Great Awakening may be gauged by reviewing several main thrusts of the scholarly literature. The traditional school of thought has tended to portray the period as one marked by widespread secularization and the concomitant efforts of church elites to reestablish order and bring wandering Christians back into the ecclesiastical fold. From this perspective, the Second Great Awakening appears as a process of reorientation, a reassertion of centralized religious authority, as established churches tried to co-opt Evangelical activism by dressing their old theologies in new clothes.
In his influential 1969 essay, "The Second Great Awakening as an Organizing Process," Donald Mathews argued that religious revivalism represented a crucial source of stability in American society, integrating huge numbers of people under the common umbrella of Protestantism. The Awakening, in his words, was "more than a series of religious 'crazes' and camp meetings" and more than the reactionary efforts of New England conservatives. Rather, it was "an