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The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and…
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The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century… (utgåvan 2012)

av Paul E. Johnson (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
254479,229 (3.74)3
In the autumn of 1834, New York City was awash with rumors of a strange religious cult operating nearby, centered around a mysterious, self-styled prophet named Matthias. It was said that Matthias the Prophet was stealing money from one of his followers; then came reports of lascivious sexual relations, based on odd teachings of matched spirits, apostolic priesthoods, and the inferiority of women. At its climax, the rumors transformed into legal charges, as the Prophet was arrested for the murder of a once highly-regarded Christian gentleman who had fallen under his sway. By the time the story played out, it became one of the nation's first penny-press sensations, casting a peculiar but revealing light on the sexual and spiritual tensions of the day. In The Kingdom of Matthias, the distinguishd historians Paul Johnson and Sean Wilentz brilliantly recapture this forgotten story, imbuing their richly researched account with the dramatic force of a novel. In this book, the strange tale of Matthias the Prophet provides a fascinating window into the turbulent movements of the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening--movements which swept up great numbers of evangelical Americans and gave rise to new sects like the Mormons. Into this teeming environment walked a down-and-out carpenter named Robert Matthews, who announced himself as Matthias, prophet of the God of the Jews. His hypnotic spell drew in a cast of unforgettable characters--the meekly devout businessman Elijah Pierson, who once tried to raise his late wife from the dead; the young attractive Christian couple, Benjamin Folger and his wife Ann (who seduced the woman-hating Prophet); and the shrewd ex-slave Isabella Van Wagenen, regarded by some as "the most wicked of the wicked." None was more colorful than the Prophet himself, a bearded, thundering tyrant who gathered his followers into an absolutist household, using their money to buy an elaborate, eccentric wardrobe, and reordering their marital relations. By the time the tensions within the kingdom exploded into a clash with the law, Matthias had become a national scandal. In the hands of Johnson and Wilentz, the strange tale of the Prophet and his kingdom comes vividly to life, recalling scenes from recent experiences at Jonestown and Waco. They also reveal much about a formative period in American history, showing the connections among rapid economic change, sex and race relations, politics, popular culture, and the rich varieties of American religious experience.… (mer)
Medlem:littlewildlibrary
Titel:The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America
Författare:Paul E. Johnson (Författare)
Info:Oxford University Press (2012), Edition: 2, 256 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
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The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America av Paul E. Johnson

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In The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America, Paul E. Johnson and Sean Wilentz argue, “The Matthias cult spoke with strange eloquence to the social and emotional upheavals in which they lived their own lives – particularly their struggles to redefine what it meant to be a woman or a man in the new world of the nineteenth century” (pg. 11). Johnson and Wilentz work within the milieu of the Return to Narrative and Microhistory, telling a riveting narrative based on primary research that exposes the religious conflicts arising out of the Second Great Awakening, the market revolution, the beginnings of Jacksonian Democracy, and new sexual mores.

Discussing Matthias’ religious though, Johnson and Wilentz write, “He had thought long and hard since his first prophecy failed, poring over scripture, reflecting on everything that had happened since his childhood, mixing class resentment with a new-found hatred of preachy Christian women” (pg. 82). Of the Burned-Over District, they write, “Rochester was roaring with the conversions of hundreds of women and their businessmen husbands. It was the Finneyites’ grandest triumph thus far, the greatest revival of religion the nation had ever seen, in one of America’s fastest growing cities. The Prophet Matthias was sure that he could capture the revival for himself and rout the phony Christians” (pg. 84). Alas, a quarrel with his brother – who had famously painted both the Publick Universal Friend and Red Jacket – resulted in Matthias failing in his Rochester mission and returning to New York City.

Much of the story of Matthias played out in, and spread through, the popular press of the time. Johnson and Wilentz write, “The Matthias story hit the police blotter just as a new genre of daily newspapers, the so-called penny press, was making its debut, and these papers would cover the story relentlessly… The Matthias story, with its themes of religious delusion, sexual depravity, and (in time) alleged murder, was perfect fare for the penny press editors” (pg. 146). Later authors, like Poe, Melville, and Whitman, would find inspiration in these accounts. According to Johnson and Wilentz, “By investing the crime stories with literary depth, these authors established their connections to the popular commercial culture of the day” (pg. 171). Meanwhile, “Democrats, Whigs, and radical workingmen; deists, Finneyites, and high-church conservatives; all picked over the available evidence about Matthias and his cult during the winter and spring [of 1834-1835], looking for clues to some grander meaning, hoping to support their conflicting views respecting humankind, God, and the United States of America” (pg. 150).

Johnson and Wilentz conclude, “For all their seeming eccentricity, these extremist prophets have a long and remarkably continuous history in the United States; they speak not to some quirk of the moment or some disguised criminal intention, but to persistent American hurts and rages wrapped in longings for a supposedly bygone holy patriarchy” (pg. 173). As a caution to other historians seeking to narrativize the past, Johnson and Wilentz point out that historical figures “suffered, raged, swooned, and betrayed without knowing anything about a ‘market revolution’ or a Second Great Awakening, concepts that historians only imposed much later. They lived in their own histories, not ours, and [Johnson and Wilentz] tried to respect their histories even as [they] tried to make it intelligible to our own sense of history” (pg. 186). ( )
  DarthDeverell | Feb 1, 2019 |
This is the story of a small cult whose rise and fall is most interesting—even the authors agree—as a window into the great controversies about religion and gender unsettling the country at the end of the 19th century. “Matthias” actually tried to get welcomed by Joseph Smith & crew at the end of his active life, but he was too controversial for them (!), owing to the widely reported scandal about whether he or one of his followers had killed his benefactor (whose wife he had also taken as his own, which was really the scandal that sold the papers). The authors present Matthias as part of a larger evangelical, patriarchal backlash against new varieties of religious life that were largely led by women, or at least in which women could claim equal moral authority in instructing children in religion and making claims about godliness. ( )
  rivkat | Nov 28, 2017 |
A historical account of a short-lived religious cult during the period of the Second Great Awakening. Existing at about the same time as Joseph Smith, and having many similar ideas, Robert Matthews (Matthias) lacked the ability to turn them into an international religion. Just another flash-in-the pan cult that sprang out of the fertile American soil, flourished briefly (though not attracting more than a handful of followers; they were wealthy followers), and disappeared into the annals of history. Thoroughly researched and painstakingly reported. Easy to read. It's hard to laugh at these folks, because there are so many of these movements that continue today. ( )
1 rösta Devil_llama | May 19, 2014 |
During The Second Great Awakening’s religious revival of evangelicalism, Robert Matthews- the self-appointed prophet Matthias- was one of many to create and spread his own ultimately doomed religion, a patriarchal Kingdom of Truth in which Matthias sat at the head as the Father and redeemer. Matthias and his Kingdom were one of many religions developed and spread during the early 1800s, and many of Matthias’ teachings were similar to those of other prophets and seers more successful in popularizing their messages. Yet Matthias and his group remained on the margins of society. Johnson and Wilentz want to explain not only the religion itself, but the reasons for its failure while other similar ones succeeded.

The authors acknowledge that their main three sources are all biased for various reasons and were considered with this in mind. Accordingly, the sources, two books written about Matthias and the Kingdom and one pamphlet by Matthias’ wife about his years before the Kingdom, must be weighted against one enough to derive something as close to the truth about the events. Other primary sources used are newspaper reports, personal narratives/memory, church records, indictment papers from Matthias’ trial, and lectures. A lot of the background and contextual details are taken from various books, some of which Johnson and Wilentz wrote, and journal articles.

The rich and narrative style of the story helps it flow in a way that is interesting but informative. The two were able to create a story that read easy, that is fun to read and very enjoyable. The book is a snapshot of one religious group during the early 1800s that, though being the stuff of pure entertainment, has been all but forgotten. While the book is very isolated in its focus, it expands upon the world at the time by placing Matthias and his Kingdom in the context of their time period. Not only does the book show how the world around Matthias shaped his Kingdom, but how the Kingdom was part of the larger evolving world that it existed within. Though there were many other religions around this time in development, the bizarreness of the story of Matthias illuminates best the failures of religious revival as the others exemplify success, which allows for a more complete idea of the varied nature of 19th century American religion and society.

However, the heavy use of sources that are admittedly very shaky and biased places a lot of the events into question. While no doubt everything written is based on fact and reality, and though the authors state that they have derived truth from contradicting and biased evidence to the best of their ability, there remains a matter of what is fact and exaggeration. The authors can never know what truth really is, they can only guess at it. Additionally, the book went off on tangents about people and rivalries that had no significance to the story. For example, the explanations of Matthias’ brothers, and the story of the Stone and Folgers argument. They were fun to read, but ultimately had nothing to do with the story of Matthias and The Kingdom. ( )
  morbidromantic | Nov 21, 2009 |
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In the autumn of 1834, New York City was awash with rumors of a strange religious cult operating nearby, centered around a mysterious, self-styled prophet named Matthias. It was said that Matthias the Prophet was stealing money from one of his followers; then came reports of lascivious sexual relations, based on odd teachings of matched spirits, apostolic priesthoods, and the inferiority of women. At its climax, the rumors transformed into legal charges, as the Prophet was arrested for the murder of a once highly-regarded Christian gentleman who had fallen under his sway. By the time the story played out, it became one of the nation's first penny-press sensations, casting a peculiar but revealing light on the sexual and spiritual tensions of the day. In The Kingdom of Matthias, the distinguishd historians Paul Johnson and Sean Wilentz brilliantly recapture this forgotten story, imbuing their richly researched account with the dramatic force of a novel. In this book, the strange tale of Matthias the Prophet provides a fascinating window into the turbulent movements of the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening--movements which swept up great numbers of evangelical Americans and gave rise to new sects like the Mormons. Into this teeming environment walked a down-and-out carpenter named Robert Matthews, who announced himself as Matthias, prophet of the God of the Jews. His hypnotic spell drew in a cast of unforgettable characters--the meekly devout businessman Elijah Pierson, who once tried to raise his late wife from the dead; the young attractive Christian couple, Benjamin Folger and his wife Ann (who seduced the woman-hating Prophet); and the shrewd ex-slave Isabella Van Wagenen, regarded by some as "the most wicked of the wicked." None was more colorful than the Prophet himself, a bearded, thundering tyrant who gathered his followers into an absolutist household, using their money to buy an elaborate, eccentric wardrobe, and reordering their marital relations. By the time the tensions within the kingdom exploded into a clash with the law, Matthias had become a national scandal. In the hands of Johnson and Wilentz, the strange tale of the Prophet and his kingdom comes vividly to life, recalling scenes from recent experiences at Jonestown and Waco. They also reveal much about a formative period in American history, showing the connections among rapid economic change, sex and race relations, politics, popular culture, and the rich varieties of American religious experience.

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