Piety in Providence: Class Dimensions of Religious Experience in Antebellum Rhode Island

Piety in Providence: Class Dimensions of Religious Experience in Antebellum Rhode Island

Piety in Providence: Class Dimensions of Religious Experience in Antebellum Rhode Island

Piety in Providence: Class Dimensions of Religious Experience in Antebellum Rhode Island

Synopsis

At the start of the nineteenth century, churches in Providence sought to bring together rich and poor "as Members of One great Family." Within a few decades, however, congregations had split along class lines, with plebeian men and women choosing to worship at their own meetinghouses. In this innovative and compelling history, Mark S. Schantz explores the relationship between religious culture and class formation in a New England city. Covering topics from pew auctioning to the rise of self-anointed street preachers, Schantz provides a rich sense of the daily texture of religious life. In the early national period churches were, he explains, inclusive but also firmly controlled by affluent, white men. The revival of 1820 led the poorer citizens of Providence to adopt their own religious traditions and establish their own congregations. In contrast to bourgeois churchgoers, who were wedded to decorum and rationality, the plebeians welcomed emotional outbursts and evinced an abiding belief in the supernatural. Schantz charts the ways in which these contrasting religious subcultures collided in the political turmoil of the Dorr Rebellion of 1842. Schantz concludes with a fascinating look at how, prior to the Civil War, the city's churches constructed a new understanding of religious community, one that embraced the reality of profound class divisions among Christ's followers.
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