Monday, December 07, 2009

The Feminization of the Church II

“During the First Great Awakening, which began in 1797, women continued to dominate church life: Ministers wrote that converts were usually young, most often between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five, either single or married but without children, and predominantly female.

Such revivals invariably began with women. They were initiated by the conversion of a young woman or of a group of young women, and often the efforts of such women were opposed by men, es¬pecially young men, who, according to the accounts of ministers, often ridiculed converts, refused to attend church meetings, and conspired to break up revivals in progress. Family men, fathers and husbands, wanted to have nothing to do with these revivals, and though they tried to prevent their wives or daughters from attending church, they were eventually brought into the church them¬selves by these women. Such pressure sometimes worked, but did not win the long-term affection of men for the church. Female zeal later found outlets in such crusades as the temperance movement, in which female church members allied with ministers to conquer male vices, to the continued annoyance of men, who chafed under the reins of the alliance of women and the clergy...

Throughout the nineteenth century the temperance movement aimed to protect women from the vicious pleasures of men. Ministers and women worked together against men, especially young men: "It was often as a covert crusade to salvage not the alcoholic but the woman at his mercy. The drunkard, usually a male, destroys by his debauches himself and his saintly wife, mother, daughter, or sister who loves him and would draw him from the saloon to the fireside." Women took over the leadership of family prayers; men were obviously unsuitable.”

(Leon J. Podles, The Church Impotent)

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