Role of Religion in the History of the U.S.: Influence of Christianity on Western Culture Essay
Researching the topic 'Influence of Christianity on Western Culture Essay' we will raise themes of Christianity in U.S. history and its role in creating this country that we know now.
There are many people who think that the U.S. is a Christian country founded on religious ideals and that Christianity unifies the U.S. as a force for good in the world. I would say that’s not an accurate interpretation. Christianity did accompany the colonization and rise of the United States, witness the national discord and unity, and the process of democratic construction and development. However, the role and influence of Christianity in the history of the United States require us to go back to history and re-understand it.
The first question is whether the United States is a Christian country which concerns the nature of the state’s government and the basis for its legislation. After the First Great Awakening, the 13 colonies formed a common identity, which laid the foundation for national unity. There is growing talk of a democratic state based on the rule of law, as opposed to the European monarchies. In the 17th century Enlightenment, thinkers linked faith and reason and proposed deism. One of the empiricists, John Locke, had the most direct influence on the founding principles of the United States.
Locke inherited and developed the thought of natural law and social contract. He proposed the separation of church and state and redefined the nature of government. Locke defined the distinction between civil government affairs and religious affairs, and defined the boundary between them, thus limiting the respective powers of the government and the church. Locke believed that government was a democratic institution of citizens organized by contract. Its duty is to protect the natural rights of the people, including life, liberty, and property. The government has no right to associate with a certain religion or church and force citizens to believe in a certain religion by executive power.
Locke proposes freedom of religion. The church is a voluntary group of religious believers, and citizens have the freedom to join or withdraw from it. Believers listen only to their own will in matters of faith and are not subject to any external pressure or restraint. The church has no right to interfere in the private affairs of citizens, let alone to use violence and coercion. The church and no one has the right to interfere with the freedom of worship of people of different faiths. Locke believed that the church and Christians should be tolerant and that anyone lacking love, kindness, and understanding was not worthy of being called a true Christian.
Locke's theory of the separation of church and state and freedom of religious belief created the conditions for the American Revolution and the Constitution, and also deeply influenced the Founding Fathers. James Madison stood for complete religious freedom and opposed government support for religion in any form. Thomas Jefferson argued that freedom of religion was a necessary condition for a state based on consent rather than force. Complete separation of church and state is the only option to fully ensure the protection of the natural rights of all people. These ideas led to the Virginia Religious Freedom Act and the United States Declaration of Independence, which laid the foundation for the American Constitution. Thus, in terms of polity, the United States is not a theocratic Christian country.
However, this does not mean that Christianity had no influence on the founding of the United States. Religious freedom creates an environment that welcomes Christians as well as believers of other religions, giving immigrants the ideal of living in religious communities. In the beginning, migration was about free religious worship and settling in a society that was vital to the Gospel. Here, they could realize their religious ideals, worship God and be virtuous. As John Winthrop mentions in A Model of Christian Charity, they try to create “A city on A hill” (see Matthew 5:14). Because America is a shining beacon of freedom and justice that shines the light of Christ.
Winthrop passionately expresses the fear of God and emphasizes the concept of a contract. He said the colonists had made a contract with God, and God was in charge of everything from the creation of the humans. He used the covenant between Israel and God to remind the Massachusetts colonists to keep the laws of the Gospel. Otherwise, they may pay the price. Winthrop stresses the need to love each other and promotes the meaning of charity. This command was given by God so that the Holy Spirit could work better among the rich and take care of the poor for the greater glory of God. However, it is not because a person’s great character makes him rich, nor because any defect in a person makes him poor, but all people are destined to glorify God.
In the seventeenth century, the German theologian Philippe Spinner founded pietism. In North America, the Great Awakening foreshadowed the profound influence of piety on the reformed tradition. Spinner stressed the importance of understanding the study of scripture, and the fact that reading and interpreting the Bible is nurtured by the Holy Spirit. By diagnosing the problems of the church, and predicting a better future, Spinner proposed the program of church reform and made plans for the revival of the church. He believed that people were born without merit and that if there was any virtue in us, it must have been brought to us by God. He stressed the need to practice God’s will. If we put love into practice, almost all wishes will come true. Spinner saw positive changes in the church.
An English clergyman, William Wesley, was deeply influenced by piety and the Moravians. He proposed that God's love should reign supreme in the Christian mind, not only with external holiness but also with internal holiness. In addition, Wesley encouraged lay preachers to play a role in the development of the church, preaching the Gospel. Wesley's ideas also influenced pieties and Moravians. Although he meant to revive the Church of England, he formed a new church in North America, the Methodist Church. Through the Protestant Renaissance of the Second Great Awakening, Methodists and Baptists became the largest Protestant denominations in the United States.
Although the Second Great Awakening broke the strict correspondence between ethnic origins and religious affiliations, it did not mean that Christianity united the country. As tensions between black slaves and white slave owners intensified, and as Catholic, Jewish, and other religious immigrants increased, Christianity failed to become an integrating and unifying force. While religion often strengthens racial cohesion, race sometimes challenges religious unity. While creating social communities, national loyalties often threaten or destroy religious communities.
By the time of the American Revolution, the status of slavery had been institutionalized, and a comparison of the different trends in religious development between African slave communities in the Americas and those in the Caribbean and Brazil showed a higher death rate and a growing slave population. Slaves could use the Christian language of slave owners while giving it significance to their lives. But they knew they could not raise certain topics around white people for fear of punishment, even in places devoted to the Gospel. The expression of Christianity by African slaves was a consolation for suffering and a hope for justice in the future world. Spirituals show the vision and experience of African slave communities, as well as their claim to and participation in God's eschatological justice. Self-determination manifests itself in their acceptance and rejection of Christianity in various circumstances. They resonate with existing religious experiences and promote the creation of meaning in a new, oppressive context.
Catholics, Jews, and various new religious movements also showed tensions in their relationship with Protestantism. The tension between Catholicism and Protestantism is mainly about education. Protestants and Catholics alike believe that an integral part of a child's education is moral education. Catholics, however, believe that reading and curriculum in public schools contain a distinctly Protestant and Enlightenment view. Against Catholicism, against freedom of thought and conscience. As a result, many Catholics advocate the establishment of schools centered on Catholic morality and Catholic history. Within the Catholic Church, continuity of the Catholic faith has been disrupted by church administration and religious practices among ethnic groups. In addition, many Protestants feared that Catholics would be politically ruled by a papal dictatorship. In modern times, Latino immigrant and African-American Catholic communities face the same struggle.
On the issue of abolishing slavery, different abolitionists would have different motives and ideas. Despite their strong opposition to the evils of slavery, many abolitionists believed that blacks were not equal to whites. In addition to moral and rational arguments, some writers make use of geopolitical considerations. Abolitionists often seemed to use the Bible and the Gospels to support these arguments from reason or experience. Defenders of slavery tend to use specific interpretations of specific texts to describe slavery as God’s providential plan for the human social order. And there are plenty of centrists who want both sides to stay out of trouble. Slavery reflects racial issues, and the second-class status of women, but also highlighted white supremacy. We can see the intersection of the black experience and the broader question of race in the United States.
In the 19th century, the missionary movement spread across the globe. Although there were differences of opinion on this issue, the colonists, including many devout Christians, believed that their enterprises were justified because the colonies would benefit. In their view, God put the benefits of Western civilization and the Christian faith in the hands of white settlers in Europe and North America so that they could share them with the rest of the world. That responsibility is the so-called white man's burden: to bring the benefits of industrialization, capitalism, democracy, and Christianity to the rest of the world. However, medical science spread to many remote areas and saved countless lives. The growth of trade and industry increased the wealth of many areas. There are people all over the world who have benefited from the improved conditions, for whom the promise of modernization and progress has become a reality. However, modernization has also resulted in the displacement of large numbers of people. They lost land, destroyed many socio-culture patterns that had held up for centuries, and exacerbated the gap in living conditions between the rich and the poor around the world.
The relationship between colonialism and missionary work was complex, and the church was deeply influenced by these circumstances and ideas. Christian attitudes to colonialism vary widely. Some people object to particular colonial ventures on the ground that they are contrary to the national interest. Many Christians of deep faith protested the treatment of people in some colonial areas. Missionaries are often accused of being agents of colonialism, yet some missionaries oppose colonialism. Missionary work was not always opened through the doors of colonialism. The colonial expansion of the West, especially the expansion of Western Protestantism, thus helped and hindered each other at times.
The United States is not a Christian country, yet Christianity is the main theme of the history of the U.S. It helped form the early government and gave the people the idea of equality and liberty. It is the spiritual pillar and moral foundation of the United States, and the main source of social services such as education and medical care. Christian culture has been deeply integrated into people's lives and imprinted with Christian marks.