4 Religious Institutions, Race, and Belief Systems
Religious Institutions, Race, and Belief Systems
The historical debate regarding race and religious belief systems in America has often centered on Biblical interpretations used to justify racial segregation, white supremacy, and enslavement. In the early 1800s, and at the height of the Second Great Awakening (1790–1815), when God is believed to have poured out his spirit on all believers in abundance, the Abolitionist Movement was born. The movement “brought together a coalition of blacks and whites who opposed slavery. To support their cause, they frequently quoted Jesus’ statements about treating others with respect and love.” In contrast, white Christians in the South did not view slavery as a sin. Instead, their leaders quoted Biblical passages supporting slavery (PBS, 2012a).
As a result of this disagreement, several major Christian denominations experienced a split among North/South lines. The Presbyterian Church in America represented the first major denominational split when it parted ways with its northern counterpart, Presbyterian Church in the USA. The issues were theological and social, including slavery. In 1844, a North/South split occurred among American Methodists, then known as the General Council of the Methodist Episcopal Church, regarding the role of slave owners in the church. The northern churches left the Methodist Episcopal Church and formed the Wesleyan Methodist Church. In 1939, the division ended when the two groups rejoined each other as the United Methodist Church. What is today America’s largest protestant denomination, Southern Baptist Convention was...
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