Top positive review
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Excellent and Well Researched
on July 18, 2012
I have to respond to some of the negative comments on this very fine and well researched book on a fascinating subject. First, educated Americans are very well familiar with the cultural phenomenon of the Great Awakening. Second, why should the author--who provides a meticulously documented account of these events-- get emotional over his subject? Because it is religion? Do you want a pious recitation? On the contrary, he provides a lively account of some evangelical excesses and his dry humor shines throughout the text; rarely does one fine such an academic book so vastly informative yet entertaining.
I am amazed that one reviewer singled out Jonathan Edwards's sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" for criticism. It is a wonderful sermon filled with vivid imagery that tells us much about the Puritan mentality of the time. Nobody is asking you to believe in the sermon, just to understand it in its historical context. I guess it is such a defective work that it is impossible to go to a decent college and not have it as required reading your freshman year!
Very likely this is the definitive text on the subject. The author covers all sorts of material with a wide geographical spread from New England down through the Southern colonies. You will get a very clear picture of regional developments, which is a bonus. The book is filled with new and original interpretations of the historical data, and devotes much attention to the role that women, Indians, and Blacks played in the Great Awakening. (Usually this approach is burdened by academic political correctness, but here it is truly appropriate and fascinating.) The author's mastery of the primary and secondary sources is superb. If you have any interest in this subject it would be a huge error to miss this book.
Finally,(and this is a personal insight that has nothing to do with the author's methodology) this subject shines much light on the excesses of Protestant fundamentalism that so prominently arise in American politics today among so-called Republican Neo-Cons, or whatever they call themselves. One can gain many valuable insights into the present by studying the past. Americans have long been prone to various exotic manifestations of religious fanaticism. So whatever your interest in the Great Awakening, be assured this book is truly outstanding, and the negative reviewers do not make truly sensible objections. Why, if I were an angry deity, I would hold them like spiders over the fiery pit of Hell and make them recant! Just joking...