Evangelicalism as a Social Movement | National Humanities Center

TeacherServe Essays

Evangelicalism as a Social Movement

By Scott, Donald (NHC Fellow, 1985–86)

Evangelicalism needs to be understood not only as a religious movement, but also as a social movement. As such, it was an integral part of a broader organizational revolution that transformed nineteenth-century American society. For the most part, eighteenth-century Americans lived their lives within hierarchically ordered institutions. They were oriented primarily to place, and they valued order and stability in their families, work lives, and communities. By the early nineteenth century, however, Americans increasingly had become a people in motion, constantly moving across social and geographical space. Under the force of this fluidity, families, towns, and occupational structures lost much of their traditional capacity to regulate individual and social life. Instead, Americans devised a different kind of institutional order as they turned to an increasingly dense fabric of new organizations—religious sects and denominations, voluntary societies of various sorts, and political parties—to give needed structure and direction to their lives.

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History / Education Studies / American History / Christianity / Evangelicalism / Second Great Awakening / Social Movements /