How does the Great Awakening help us to understand colonial identity?

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In a significant sense, the Great Awakening highlighted and contributed to the independent nature of colonial identity. The revivalism of this movement emphasized that each person had the capacity to form a personal connection with the divine. They were not required to rely on some appointed church official or monarch...

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In a significant sense, the Great Awakening highlighted and contributed to the independent nature of colonial identity. The revivalism of this movement emphasized that each person had the capacity to form a personal connection with the divine. They were not required to rely on some appointed church official or monarch to do this. People could appeal directly to God, bypassing any earthly authority.

This was a radical idea. In England, the religious authority still ran through a strict hierarchy that included bishops and monarchs. However, in the colonies, the Great Awakening drove home the notion that the individuals themselves were responsible for making and deciding their place within their religion and thus in the world.

This would play out in grand fashion a generation later with the American Revolution. The founders of the new nation appealed directly to God for aid, as seen in the Declaration of Independence. Note that Jefferson appealed "to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions" and not to some earth-bound religious institution. Such a direct appeal to the Almighty would have been odd, if not unthinkable, before the Great Awakening.

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