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When I began taking photographs of Ireland some forty years ago I felt an immediate connection with Irish emigrants in America, the thousands of people who had left the old country to begin a new life in Boston and New York. The landscape back home was dotted with abandoned stone cottages and derelict farmhouses. The desolation reminded me of my own departure. I was forced out of Ireland myself at the age of fourteen, wrongly accused of stealing a bottle of lemonade at a country crossroads dance. The consequences of that Sunday summer evening was the reason I left my homeland far too soon.

I naturally sensed a strange affinity with those who had journeyed out before me.

Photo Essay: Dreams of the Old Country | Irish America

All Irish emigrants of the old country keep some part of the homeland firmly in their memory, images of a time past that linger on in the mind exactly as we remember it, and held there forever unchanged. My own memories seemed to concentrate on the dark mysterious side of Ireland that I experienced in my youth, a time when many villages still had no electricity, and at night-time the homes were dimly lit with the calm flickering flames of candlelight and Tilly lamps.

I remember too the small backroads where rural life was a daily struggle for both man and beast. Later I opened a studio in London photographing celebrities. Fifteen years passed before I plucked up the courage to venture home on a visit to Ireland — it felt as though someone might still tap me on the shoulder and ask me to leave again. Still, with the decline of religious faith generally, FitzGerald suggests that evangelical churches must embrace ethnic minorities if they are to survive.


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She is the author of The Evangelicals: Spirits of the Earth. By clicking 'Sign me up' I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the privacy policy and terms of use. Free eBook offer available to NEW subscribers only. Must redeem within 90 days. See full terms and conditions and this month's choices. Tell us what you like, so we can send you books you'll love.

Sign up and get a free eBook! They range from Tea Party supporters to social reformers. Still, with the decline of religious faith generally, FitzGerald suggests that evangelical churches must embrace ethnic minorities if they are to survive. She is the author of The Evangelicals: Spirits of the Earth. FitzGerald is a great writer capable of keeping a sprawling narrative on point. Anyone curious about the state of conservative American Protestantism will have a trusted guide in this Bancroft and Pulitzer Prize winner.

We have long needed a fair-minded overview of this vitally important religious sensibility, and FitzGerald has now provided it. Her book makes the case so well, it leaves readers with the feeling that we should all be paying closer attention. This is a comprehensive, heavily footnoted, yet readable study of how the evangelical tradition has become seared into the fabric of American life and the key figures who made it happen. Fitzgerald, always judicious and unbiased, nobly succeeds in analyzing the nuanced differences between evangelicalism and fundamentalism, Calvinism and postmillennialism, charismatics and Pentecostals.

This rich narrative ranges across the various Evangelical denominations while illuminating the doctrines—especially personal conversion as spiritual rebirth, and adherence to the Bible as ultimate truth—that unite them. A complex and fascinating epic. They were always here. We were just not looking at them. What repeatedly makes us look again is what she is here to tell us. Now we have in one volume the richly textured, often puzzling, and always engaging story of American evangelicalism from colonial days to the present.

Overflowing with historical anecdote and contemporary reportage and essential to interpreting the current political and cultural landscape. A Life of Nelson Rockefeller. She explains issues such as fundamentalism, biblical inerrancy, Christian nationalism, civil religion and anticommunism, the charismatic movement, and abortion, and introduces such diverse figures as Karl Barth, Jerry Falwell, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Pat Robertson. Few movements in our long story have had as significant an influence on American life and culture as conservative Christianity, and FitzGerald does full justice to the subject's scope and complexity.

The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Journalist and historian Frances FitzGerald presents nearly years of complex ideologies, schisms, social reforms and energetically creative theology in a well-organized, eye-opening narrative. This book is not only for those with a particular interest in religious history; it is for anyone with a serious interest in American social movements, politics and culture. It is a history that strongly re-emphasizes the evolution of a nation, and those who hope to shape the future are wise to study the past.

FitzGerald also deftly captures the 'exotic cast' of this pure product of America In the telling of this story, FitzGerald pulls off an admirable feat. She writes compassionately about generations of deeply held faith without seeming naive, even as she resists cynicism while noting the psychotics, charlatans, and con artists who have sometimes arisen to "deceive the very elect. By clicking 'Sign me up' I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the privacy policy and terms of use. Free eBook offer available to NEW subscribers only. Must redeem within 90 days. See full terms and conditions and this month's choices.

Tell us what you like, so we can send you books you'll love. Sign up and get a free eBook! Price may vary by retailer. Back Order Back Order. In the American case, the revivals came in two waves. The earlier, known as the First Great Awakening, peaked in the s but set off reverberations that continued to the time of the American Revolution. The later one, the Second Great Awakening, began just after the end of the War of Independence and continued intermittently in various parts of the country through the s.

Everywhere, the revivals involved a rebellion against the formalism of the established churches and an effort to recover an authentic spiritual experience: In Europe the established churches survived and incorporated the pietistic strain within their own traditions. But in America the revivals transformed Protestantism.

They undermined the established churches, led to the separation of church and state, and created a marketplace of religious ideas in which new sects and denominations flourished. At the same time, they made evangelical Protestantism the dominant religious force in the country for most of the nineteenth century. In America the periods were, not incidentally, ones of rapid demographic growth, and social, as well as political, change. The expansion of settlement and commerce opened space for initiative and innovation, and small, integrated communities dissolved into an expansive, mobile society.

The itinerant revivalists themselves embodied this mobility and this reach. In offering individuals the possibility of a direct relationship with God they helped adjust the society to its new circumstances and to transform the hierarchical colonial order into the more egalitarian society of the nineteenth century.

After the Revolution many of them explicitly preached individual freedom, the separation of church and state, voluntary association as a primary means of social organization, and republicanism as the best form of government. Some of the attitudes formed at the time, such as the spirit of voluntarism, have become a part of our common heritage. Others have had a particular and lasting effect on American Protestantism. Indeed, to ask what is religiously or culturally distinctive about either mainline or evangelical Protestants today is to find that most explanatory roads lead back to their particular inheritance from the Great Awakenings.

On the evangelical side, for example, the revivalists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries pioneered mass evangelism and introduced new communications techniques that, with additions and modifications, have been used by evangelical preachers ever since. In their eagerness to save souls, the revivalists introduced vernacular preaching styles, de-emphasized religious instruction, and brought a populist, anti-intellectual strain into American Protestantism.

Then, as most of them saw it, America was a Christian—read Protestant—nation. The Puritans had established close-knit communities, bound by covenant, where church and state cooperated in an effort to build a Holy Commonwealth. Life, therefore, was a constant struggle with Satan. But whatever God willed, all men had a duty to help each other, to respect the clergy and the magistrates, and to obey the law. Ultimately, they believed, Christ would return, either to establish a millennial reign of peace on earth, or, as the emissary of a wrathful God, to destroy it. In the preface to the covenant signed aboard the Arabella, John Winthrop wrote: These Puritan rulers valued order above all other social virtues and saw themselves as responsible only to God.

Congregationalism remained the established religion, its churches subsidized by taxpayers in all but one of the New England colonies. Rhode Island, settled by Baptists, was the exception. Yet the immigration of other Christians and nonbelievers had eroded the Puritan control of the polity.


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  4. Then, too, the westward movement of the settlers and the growing wealth of landowners and merchants bred a new spirit of individualism. Economic controversies erupted, pitting settlers against the gentry who ran the colonial governments, and political factions emerged. At the same time, Enlightenment ideas about free will and the power of reason circulated among educated people, causing some to doubt fundamental Calvinist doctrines, such as predestination and human depravity.

    Congregationalist clergymen preached obedience to the God-given order, but many people could not fit their lives into the old patterns—though they were haunted by guilt for their apostasy. In the first two decades of the century, Increase Mather and other clergymen concluded from their reading of the biblical prophecies that human society was descending into such a state of sin and chaos that God would intervene cataclysmically and Christ would return to deliver His judgment on mankind.

    Such was their sense of crisis. The son and grandson of Congregationalist ministers, Edwards had studied science, or natural philosophy, as it was then called, at Yale and had read the works of Isaac Newton and John Locke. Looking up at the sky and the clouds, he had, he later wrote, a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, and as he looked around, this divinity appeared to him in everything, the trees, the grass, and the water.

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    Later in his theological works, he used the methods of the Enlightenment thinkers to revitalize Calvinist theology and to defend it from the clergy swayed by Enlightenment humanism. Five years later, while he was giving a series of sermons on justification by faith, an outbreak of religious fervor occurred in his parish. People laughed and wept, some saw visions, and many were filled with hope and joy. In the space of six months three hundred people were converted, bringing the total membership of his church to six hundred—nearly the whole adult population of the town.

    Visitors came to his church, and the revivals spread to towns up and down the Connecticut River and from thence to other parts of New England. In his account of these events, Edwards attributed the revival to a sudden, surprising descent of the Holy Spirit. In his revivalist sermons, he began by telling people what they already believed: Edwards, however, was preaching the evangelical message that individuals could have a direct relationship with Christ—and that Christ would save not just the apparently worthy, but all those who would receive His grace.

    Previous revivals had been local and short-lived. This one, however, kept going on, and not just among the Congregationalists, but also among the Presbyterians, the descendants of the Scots-Irish Puritans who had settled in the Middle Colonies, and the Dutch Reformed of New York. With the arrival of the English evangelist George Whitefield in , the revivals spread through all of the colonies. Unlike Edwards, who was a theologian and pastor, Whitefield —70 was an itinerant evangelist and by far the most popular preacher of his day.

    An Oxford graduate and an Anglican minister, he had a powerful voice, a dramatic preaching style, and an ability to simplify church doctrines for a mass audience. A Calvinist, he had theological differences with the Wesleys, who had adopted Arminian, or free will, doctrines, but in college, he, like John, had a profound religious experience that banished all doubts he had about his salvation.

    In , Whitefield made the first of seven voyages to the American colonies, and two years later, at the age of twenty-six, he traveled up and down the Eastern Seaboard, preaching in the major cities and towns. His sermons had already caused a sensation in London, and in America he drew crowds of thousands to open-air meetings. Even the skeptical Benjamin Franklin was impressed by his voice and delivery.

    With the help of the media of the day—the newspaper reporters who heralded his meetings and the printers who published his sermons and journals—Whitefield became the first intercolonial celebrity and an inspiration to local revivalists across the country. By the end of his year in America, evangelicalism had turned into a countrywide movement with a radical wing fomenting religious rebellion. Gilbert Tennent, a Presbyterian whom Whitefield met not long after his arrival in Philadelphia, was one of the leaders of the rebellion.

    His father, William, a Presbyterian pastor, had established a small academy, known as the Log College, in rural Pennsylvania to train local ministers. Gilbert had gone to Yale, but he and his four brothers had grown up in the pietistic and intellectually informal atmosphere of the Log College. In the Synod in Philadelphia created a New Brunswick Presbytery for Tennent and his colleagues, but voted that other presbyteries could refuse itinerant preachers and promised that the Synod would evaluate the credentials of all ministerial candidates who had not graduated from well-known universities.

    In , the Log College men, joined by other ministers, created a new synod with presbyteries in four states and founded the College of New Jersey later, Princeton University. Their success was such that when Presbyterians reunited in , the New Side ministers outnumbered Old Side clergy by three to one.

    The Struggle to Shape America

    And there are many things that make it probable that this work will begin in America. This optimistic, postmillennial view echoed the Puritan view that God might begin His work in America. Until then, most of the Congregationalist clergy had seen the revivals as yet another season of renewed piety and welcomed the increased attendance in their churches. Further, the two itinerants encouraged less decorous revivalists, whose preaching caused extreme reactions like screaming, fainting, and convulsions.

    To local clergymen, this new phase of the revivals seemed an attack not just on the established church but on the whole social order—which to an extent it was. But even the moderates were challenging the established authorities of church and state by denying them sanctifying power and relocating religious authority to an experience in the hearts of individuals.

    What was more, even they used vivid language to waken people from their lethargy, to make them feel their own sense of guilt so that they could rid themselves of it through the ecstatic experience of being born again in Christ. A minister much influenced by Enlightenment thinking, Chauncy at first merely inveighed against what he saw as the excesses of the radical preachers, but from there he went on to question whether the anguish and joy the revivalists evoked were works of the Holy Spirit, or simply psychological disturbances.

    Chauncy for his part insisted that sinners required knowledge of the Gospels before they could achieve grace. These public conflicts shook the confidence of laymen in the ecclesiastical establishment. The irony was that the New Light revivalists had undermined the authority of the clergy by preaching the harshest version of traditional Calvinist doctrines, while some of their opponents defended the status quo by emphasizing themes more in tune with Enlightenment thought, such as the importance of reason, education, and good works.

    Art imitates life

    In any case, the public conflicts gave the radicals the opening they were looking for. Calling for a return to the purity of the early church, these Separates took laymen they believed graced by the Holy Spirit as ministers and attempted to strip away the accretions of history from their ecclesiastical practices. Inspired by the radical revivalists, these Separate groups proved as troublesome to the civil authorities as to the orthodox clergy. With liberty of conscience as their rallying cry, they struggled to attain exemption from the taxes that supported the established churches.

    The Evangelicals

    Fined and sometimes jailed as tax dodgers, they practiced civil disobedience and published tracts denouncing the magistrates and clergy as a tyrannical upper class. Their petitions went largely unanswered, but after the Revolution, they became leaders in the movement for the disestablishment of the church from the state. The Anglican Church had been the established church in Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia since the settlement of the colonies, but it had neither independence nor power.

    The local landed gentry, who dominated the church vestries, opposed the creation of a diocese, preferring to keep the clergy and the ecclesiastical taxes under their own control. As a result, the church had no bishop, no ecclesiastical machinery, and little leverage with the Church of England. The task of an established church was to hold society together under the rule of religion, but because London sent few ordained priests, and the parishes were immense and sparsely populated, this could hardly be done. By the mid-eighteenth century, the expansion of settlements into the frontier districts left many in the South outside the sphere of organized religion.

    Those churches that flourished were essentially fiefdoms of local gentry and identified with a class system that sharply distinguished the aristocrats from common people and slaves. The wealthy sat in private pews, and from the pulpits came messages that the lower classes should be obedient and defer to their betters. Further, the scholastic theology taught by the ministers had driven many of the less educated out of the churches and some of the best educated, like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, beyond Christianity into Deism.

    The first to arrive were New Side Presbyterians, who at the request of a group of pious laymen came to minister to a congregation in Hanover County, Virginia.


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    The governor of Virginia had no liking for dissenters, but Rev. Samuel Davies, a graduate of the Log College and a learned man, somehow convinced him that the New Sides were orthodox Presbyterians with as much a right to preach in Virginia as they had in England. They were not as politic as the Presbyterians.

    Fresh from their battles in New England, they maintained that civil authorities had no right to interfere with religion and refused to ask for licenses to preach or to abide by the laws against itinerancy.