Thursday, 27 November 2008

Thanksgiving, Obama, and the Pilgrims

... This Congregationalist Church of New England essentially became the state church for much of New England. It produced imposing preachers like Cotton and Increase Mather, and fostered widespread literacy, thrift, spiritual devotion and industry. The Congregationalists founded the great colleges of their region, which were originally Calvinist seminaries, and which would dominate the intellectual life of early and later America. Jonathan Edwards, author of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," was arguably the last great Puritan preacher and theologian, helping to ignite The Great Awakening of the mid-1700s that spiritually congealed the American colonies.

By the late 1700s, much of Congregationalism was trending towards Unitarianism. But most retained the orthodox Calvinist doctrine, and the Congregationalists of New England were the American Revolution's main political and intellectual instigators. Their faith was ascetic, rationalist and focused on conforming the world to their view of God's will. The Congregationalists were both soul savers (to the extent that Predestination would allow it), and social reformers. In the 19th century they were among the earliest abolitionists and proponents of women's rights.

In the 20th century, the Congregationalists eventually merged with theologically similar religious bodies to become what is today the 1.2 million member United Church of Christ (UCC). It is one of America's most liberal and fastest declining denominations, having lost over 40 percent of its membership since the 1960s. Until recently its most famous member was Barack Obama, who very publicly resigned from the only church to which he ever belonged, thanks to the verbal intemperance of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the UCC's most famous preacher.

How did the Pilgrims evolve into Jeremiah Wright? Read more

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