This project examines the ways in which divisions within Baptist churches in antebellum western North Carolina were caused by the Second Great Awakening and the Market Revolution. More precisely, these schisms were reactions to theological changes made by the governing bodies of the Baptist denomination as well as the social reform endeavors propagated by the new emerging middle class. With state funding no longer going to certain churches, denominations now competed on equal footing for congregants. Baptists began to adapt their theology in order to reach a broader audience. But their accommodations in doctrine were challenged by members of their own denomination who saw no reason to alter their interpretations of scripture. Concomitantly, a rapidly expanding market economy gave rise to a new middle class of individuals whose unique social perspectives differed sharply from both rural lower and upper classes in the South. And as more members of the Baptist ministry began identifying with this emerging class of professionals, citizens who found themselves disconnected from market centers and bereft of the benefits of a growing economy took issue with the unfamiliar social mentality propagated by these preachers. Recent historiographic trends have upset traditional narratives that have long-argued social reform could not take root in the Old South. However, these studies have failed to fully examine the significant role played by churches in heated political and economic debates. Rather than only focus on how churches inserted themselves into the secular sphere, this thesis looks inside the churches and analyzes the degree to which socioeconomic and cultural forces radically changed the ways in which North Carolinians made sense of their world in religious terms.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Steele, Kristian, ""The Cause of Zion": Divisions Between Southern Baptists in Antebellum North Carolina" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5209.