Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular Christianity in America

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Following the Revolutionary War, American Methodism grew at an astonishing rate, rising from fewer than 1000 members in 1770 to over 250,000 by 1820. In Taking Heaven by Storm, John H. Wigger seeks to explain this remarkable expansion, offering a provocative reassessment of the role of popular religion in American life.

Early Methodism was neither bland nor predictable; rather, it was a volatile and innovative movement, both driven and constrained by the hopes and fears of the ordinary Americans who constituted its core. Methodism's style, tone, and agenda worked their way deep into the fabric of American life, Wigger argues, influencing all other mass religious movements that would follow, as well as many facets of American life not directly connected to the church.

Wigger examines American Methodism from a variety of angles, focusing in turn on the circuit riders who relentlessly pushed the Methodist movement forward, the critical role of women and African Americans within the movement, the enthusiastic nature of Methodist worship, and the unique community structure of early American Methodism. Under Methodism's influence, American evangelism became far more enthusiastic, egalitarian, entrepreneurial, and lay oriented—characteristics that continue to shape and define popular religion today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a book that will be useful in courses on American religion and of great interest to anyone engaged in the study of Methodism in America, lay and clergy alike. It is a book that will appeal to any informed reading public, well uritten and attractively presented with a number of plates of early Methodists. We are grateful to Professor Wigger for this impressive work."—Church History

"This is a solid, trustworthy, well-written analysis of the early Methodist movement....It is a substantial contribution to the literature on the religion of the antebellum era."—The Journal of American History

"A book that enriches our understanding of how Methodism was situated on the cultural landscape of the early republic."—Journal of the Early Republic

"...you will be spellbound by the accounts of early Methodism published in this book."—Good News

"Those seeking to better understand not only Methodist history or American church history but American social history as a whole will gain invaluable insights from Wigger's work. While extensively documented—a real strength—the book will be easily understood by the general reader as well as the scholar."—Michigan Historical Review

David Hempton
One of the strengths of Taking Heaven by Storm is the author's willingness to take Methodist enthusiasm seriously without collapsing it into social dislocation or psychological distress.
Books & Culture: A Christian Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195104523
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/28/1998
  • Series: Religion in America Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

University of Missouri-Columbia
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1 The Emergence of American Methodism 3
2 The Methodist Connection 21
3 The Methodist Itinerant 48
4 The Social Principle 80
5 A Boiling Hot Religion 104
6 Slavery and African-American Methodism 125
7 Sisters and Mothers in Israel 151
8 Methodism Transformed 173
Appendix 197
Notes 201
Index 261
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