Perfectionist Politics: Abolitionism and the Religious Tensions of American Democracy (Religion and Politics)

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Strong (history of Christianity, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC) tells the little known story of ecclesiastical abolitionism, an important movement during the antebellum period. It involved radical evangelical Protestants who seceded from pro-slavery denominations and reorganized themselves into independent anti-slavery congregations. He also explores how the network of churches in New York State formed a political wing as the Liberty Party and legitimized the connection between church and state. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Douglas M. Strong is professor of the history of Christianity at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D. C. He is the author of They Walked in Spirit: Personal Faith and Social Action in America.

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The American conceit, in Alexis de Tocqueville's words, "to harmonize earth with heaven" in part explains the antebellum rage for perfectionist politics. The struggle among the most radical religions to purge their churches and society of sin, especially slavery, and their uncompromising efforts to force morality into political discourse are nowhere better told than in historian Strong's informed exegesis of perfectionist ideas and personalities and his careful mapping of the schisms and political awakenings across western New York, from which so much antebellum reform and evangelism emerged. Ecclesiastical abolitionism did not end slavery or redeem the religious establishment, but it did point the way to the Holiness movement and Social Gospel of a later day. Strong (They Walked in the Spirit: Personal Faith and Social Action in America, Westminster John Knox, 1997) reminds us that ethical issues were part of American politics long before the Civil Rights crusades and the Moral Majority. Highly recommended for academic libraries.ARandall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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