Preaching Politics: The Religious Rhetoric of George Whitefield and the Founding of a New Nation

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Preaching Politics: The Religious Rhetoric of George Whitefield and the Founding of a New Nation Jerome Dean Mahaffey. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007.

America from the time of the first settlers has been a separated land and people in need of a common language and culture. The people have generally found answers (more or less sufficient) in the persuasive rhetoric of individuals filling cultural, political or religious needs. Whitefield found a language and a subject with which to satisfy all needs. His rhetoric rode on the wings of religion. As the author says, "Perhaps his primary contribution was to take the revival message, encapsulate it in a simplified vocabulary, spread it far and wide, and argue persuasively for colonists to accept it .... More than any other individual, Whitefield had the rhetorical skills and energy to spread this rhetoric of identity across the British American colonists, making him a key figure for inquiries into American origins" (13). Whitefield was in Constitution Hall in spirit when the new nation was born. The author concludes, "Beginning with the personal sense of identity of all those who had been directly awakened by a conversion experience and extending to those who began to think in the bifurcated terms that the Awakening popularized, Whitefield articulated the elements of a conceptual system that established a collective view of the colonial world" (213). …