Emotional Religion and the Ministerial “Balance-Wheel”

John Corrigan

in Business of the Heart

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780520221963
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520924321 | DOI:
Emotional Religion and the Ministerial “Balance-Wheel”

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The Protestant churches in Boston in the mid-nineteenth century were troubled by a degree of unsettledness. Pastors came and went, churches opened and closed, houses of worship were moved from one part of town to another, and laity openly criticized clergy for their unemotionalness. This chapter illustrates these developments and notices also the phenomenon of Spiritualism, which, with its trances and highly emotional settings, attracted large numbers of persons. The revival emerged directly out of discontent about the emotional barrenness in the churches and as a response to perceptions of disorder and corruption in the churches. During the revival lay Protestants would set their own agendas, including guidelines for the expression of emotion in religious gatherings. The most biting complaints of the laity had to do with the failure of ministers to cultivate feeling in their congregations. Ministers varied in their thinking about emotion, some wanting more controls, more official means by which to channel it, than others. Moreover, women were thought more emotional than men and therefore good bets to incite a more robust emotionality in congregations—if they were allowed to take the pulpit.

Keywords: emotional religion; clergy; protestant churches; Boston; mid-nineteenth century

Chapter.  10293 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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