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The Bible and Pop Culture

In what three significant epochs in American history has the Bible has played a key role?

There have been three Great Awakenings. The 1730s and 1740s saw the first Great Awakening, a time in which religious fervor spread throughout the country due to a significant increase in itinerant preachers. Jonathan Edwards’ fiery 1741 sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” epitomizes the emotional and intellectual tone of the era. The major theme of this Awakening was acknowledgment of one’s sins and fear of God’s judgment.

A second Great Awakening occurred between 1790 and 1840. This Awakening differed from the first in that the ministers of this era focused on trying to improve one’s self and society. This massive shift in thinking led to the first great wave of social reform in the history of the United States. Effort, time, and money went into improving the lives of the poor, the mentally and physically ill, and those in prison. Also, a strong antislavery belief grew out of this Awakening.

The third Great Awakening occurred between the late 1850s and 1900. It was a time of rapid social change. People were moving from the country to the city in greater numbers. Factories were popping up everywhere, as were slums. The extravagant lifestyles of those made rich through railroads and other industries stood in startling contrast to the starved, barren lifestyles of the working poor. Social aid groups were organized to help the poor with health care, education, and housing.


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