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Production of American Religious FreedomThe Production of American Religious Freedom$
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Finbarr Curtis

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479882113

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479882113.001.0001

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You, and You, and You

You, and You, and You

Charles Grandison Finney and Democracy

Chapter:
(p.7) 1 You, and You, and You
Source:
Production of American Religious Freedom
Author(s):

Finbarr Curtis

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479882113.003.0002

By equating democracy with consumerism, some scholars have taken the style and popularity of revivalism as evidence for the democratization of American religion in the nineteenth century. The idea that revivalists respond to consumer desire is at odds, however, with Charles Grandison Finney’s emphasis on the importance of employing social pressure in the service of “melting down” or “breaking down” sinners. Although Finney believed in individual agency and spoke directly to individuals, he did not address rational agents who would patiently examine his ideas. Revivals, by forcing matters of private conscience into public view and scrutiny, used social pressure in order to convert sinners. As Finney saw it, privacy was a mark of shame, a refusal on the part of Christians to act upon their religious convictions in public. His conviction that public and private selves should both be sites for Christian transformation was the basis for his later thinking about social perfection and political reform. Understanding the relationship between revivalism and democracy requires greater attention to the formation the decision-making capacity of free people within a population.

Keywords:   conversion, democratization, free will, government, revivalism, security

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