By What Authority? The Rise of Personality Cults in American by Richard Quebedeaux

By Richard Quebedeaux

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Now it was becoming a means to other ends. The Second Great Awakening began in New England, with an in­ tellectually sophisticated revival of religion at Yale University in 1 802, led by its president, Timothy Dwight. One-third of the student body professed conversion . But as the awakening moved West, into Ken­ tucky and Tennessee especially, the intellectual thrust of New England preaching had to be dropped to gain popular interest. The Western 22 The Rise of the Religious Personality Cult revivalists were ministering to a migrating and floating population where opportunities for Christian nurture were few and far between, if they existed at all.

Change my career? Put my kids in private school? Get divorced? Get remarried? Join a new church? And the religion of mass culture not only helps its practitioners make decisions, it also offers believers power to live by­ the method, as it were, for successful living. In popular religion, the ease of decision-making, the power to live successfully, and the feeling of self-worth are all ultimately derived from a certain understanding of the nature of God and of humanity. The belief in an inscrutable deity beyond human reach who is wholly other in character is seldom found, because emphasis on God's unk­ nowability, his mystery, does not square with the modern effort to bring God close to humanity.

As a new evangelical reviv­ alist, Graham laid out fresh principles by which the middle class could once again be reached by mass evangelism. He rejected the sensation­ alism of the "fumbling fundamentalist" revivalists who, in his opinion, destroyed their effectivenesss (among the more sophisticated) by intol­ erance, narrow-mindedness, and sectarianism, not to mention anti­ Cathol icism. He also announced his far-reaching decision to refuse any invitation to conduct a revival that was not tendered by a majority of the established Protestant clergy of the host city, including the "lib­ erals" among them.

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