When the Pilgrim’s disembarked at Plymouth, they didn’t walk into an evangelical megachurch.
We’re taught that religious folk came here to escape tyranny and persecution, they wanted freedom of religion. They wanted to have potlucks and Christmas Programs sans people burning at stakes.
What is not stressed is that most religious folks set up tyrannical State Churches just like the ones they left! Ay, tis true. Severe penalties arose for skipping church and not tithing.
State Churches existed until about 1830. The Revolution disbanded most State Churches with the establishment of the separation of Church and State.
An advantage of being a State Church is that you don’t have to worry about money, it is taxed from the people. A downside is that since you don’t have to worry about money, the church really didn’t have to do anything.
When state churches fell apart, churches had to go about “staying in business.” Thus we have churches getting into more evangelism, slicker marketing, and changing the message to draw crowds.
Not sure if it’s a coincidence that around the time State Churches fell away The Second Great Awakening occurred. Sequels are never as good as the originals. My cynical view is that pastors got nervous and started a revival to get people into their pews paying money.
I’m sure it was all the work of the Spirit, however.
Once churches couldn’t put people in jail for skipping church or not tithing, they had to get creative. The 19th century begins a trend of bizarre religious affections, revelations and false teachers.
State churches kept a lot of the loonies at bay. The price of freedom is having to allow idiots to be free too. The religious landscape we see today, fragmented denominationalism run rampant, is a product of our past.
Is freedom worth it? I think so, otherwise most of you would be in jail this morning. Sinners.