An Anodyne Age?
I’m almost finished with What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. Reading this and other books on this period of American history I’m struck by how milquetoast the public discussion of religion is in the political domain today in comparison. I noted below that very few individuals in Congress will admit to not having a religion, and yet I recall John Ashcroft being grilled as to the nature of his adherence to the Assemblies of God during his confirmation hearings. We live in an age when religion is good, just not too much, or too strange. In 1832 Andrew Jackson, arguably the first orthodox Christian president of the early republic, refused to set aside a day of prayer due to his strict separationism. A robust anti-clericalism and secularism was not too uncommon in some sectors of what became the Democratic party. Robust enough that Benjamin Tappan, the irreligious brother of the more famous evangelical Tappans, could win enough favor with the legislature of Ohio to be elected Senator during the period we know as the Second Great Awakening, when evangelical reformist politics were waxing.