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Revivalism was the essence of the Great Awakening, and by its very nature, revivalism targeted large crowds of ordinary people. Itinerant ministers like George Whitefield and the Tennents crafted a message and an emotional style that appealed to what were believed at the time to be common sensibilities. While the Great Awakening lacked the strong democratic impulses of the Second Great Awakening of the early nineteenth century, many reformers emphasized an individual relationship with God that transcended class, gender, and even race. Especially in the southern colonies, so-called "New Lights" represented a serious threat to the established Anglican order, and the Baptist practice of welcoming slaves to worship caused major consternation. Some historians have even argued that the religious radicalism of some backcountry people motivated them to resist corruption and envision a more egalitarian society. The North Carolina Regulators, for instance, who rose in revolt in the late 1760s and early 1770s, are one prominent example. At the very least, the Great Awakening represented a major surge in religious sentiment among people of all classes, but especially common people. As one historian of the period puts it, in eighteenth-century America after the Awakening, "the idiom of religion penetrated all discourse, underlay all thought, marked all observances, gave meaning to every public and private crisis."
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