Religion and Violence in Early American Methodism

Religion and Violence in Early American Methodism

Taking the Kingdom by Force
Jeffrey Williams
Distribution: World
Publication date: 3/30/2010
Format: cloth 248 pages
6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-253-35444-0
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Early American Methodists commonly described their religious lives as great wars with sin and claimed they wrestled with God and Satan who assaulted them in terrible ways. Carefully examining a range of sources, including sermons, letters, autobiographies, journals, and hymns, Jeffrey Williams explores this violent aspect of American religious life and thought. Williams exposes Methodism’s insistence that warfare was an inevitable part of Christian life and necessary for any person who sought God’s redemption. He reveals a complex relationship between religion and violence, showing how violent expression helped to provide context and meaning to Methodist thought and practice, even as Methodist religious life was shaped by both peaceful and violent social action.

Author Bio

Jeffrey Williams is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University.


"Engages a different literature on spirituality, namely its violent dimensions . . . extraordinarily well written, immensely important, and groundbreaking work." —Russell E. Richey, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

"[T]his well-researched and well-written . . . monograph [focuses] on the language of violence in American Methodist literature from the time of Methodist founders John and Charles Wesley to the Civil War. Williams's book reminds readers that Methodist religious experience was not always warm and sentimental but was originally one in which believers were at war within themselves and against sin in the world. . . . Highly recommended." —

"Those interested in religion and violence, and in locating a 'Methodist' strain in American culture, should read this book." —Register of the Kentucky Historical Society , Vol. 108, No. 3 Summer 2010

"Williams sets out to remedy a perceived lack of attention to Methodist history. He provides an important contribution not only to Methodist history but to american religious and social history more broadly." —
American Historical Review , June 2011

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Catherine L. Albanese and Stephen J. Stein

1. Fighting the Good Fight
2. Contesting the Good Fight: Warfare and the American Revolution
3. The Power to "Kill and Make Alive": The Spiritual Battle and the Body in Post-Revolutionary America
4. Beating Their Plowshares into Swords: Methodists and Violence in Antebellum America
5. Methodist Respectability and the Decline of the Good Fight for Salvation
6. The Christian's Warfare and Social Violence

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