Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in AmericaTaking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in America by John H. Wigger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book, along with Wigger's more recent biography of Francis Asbury, is American Methodist history at its finest. Tracing Methodism's emergence and development until the mid-nineteenth century it provides a thoroughly researched and eminently readable account. It's all here - the circuit riders, the itinerancy, camp meetings and their 'boiling hot religion,' slavery, and an excellent chapter on women in Methodism. The Methodist 'croakers' who decried the decline of the movement from about the 1820s were not concerned about statistical decline (with a few slumps Methodists growth continued to meet or exceed aggregate national population growth until the 1950s) but about decline in spiritual fervour. From the first decade of the nineteenth century Nathan Bangs argued that Methodism was right to enter into the mainstream of American life and laboured to this end, in an ironic twist claiming that his cause came to him in a prophetic dream. But Peter Cartwright and many other aged itinerants mourned in their published memoirs the loss of an earlier frontier experience. One of the great religioous dramas of the modern era, the story of American Methodism continues to fascinate and enthrall. Anyone serious about the study of American Methodism will already have read this book. Those who are yet to discover it are in for a treat.

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