American Culture and Society

American flag

Parties and elections

Relevant terms

Caucus: When the members of the parties/a party come together and decide upon political topics.

Class (senate): A group of senate seats who are up for elections a given years. There are 3 classes of the senate.

Referendum: The people vote directly upon a specific issue.

Ticket-splitting: E.g the president is a democrate and the congress are republican, because people vote different in the elections

Gerry mandering: Manipulate with and change the size and area in order to give advantage to a political group

Incumbent/incumbency: a person has an official position. And the time the person has that position.

Transparency:

Disclosure:

Education – Republican Party:

We believe that maintaining a world-class system of primary and secondary education with high standards in which all students can reach their potential is critically important to America’s future. We believe parents should be empowered to send their children to the school of their choice.

The republicans stand on education

  • The parents should have control over their children’s education
  • Same sex schools or some kind of conservative school structure, for example full-day schools
  • Defend the option for home schooling
  • It should be voluntary if schools should have school prayers or not
  • Children should be able transfer to another school if they are on a dangerous school

The South

Geography:

Virginia was the first area the British settled and colonists arrived in 1607

  • English Protestants were the largest group of settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries

The South established an agricultural system based on:

  • Tobacco
  • Sugar
  • Cotton

They focused mostly on agriculture and slavery

They purchased Florida from Spain in 1819

In the 19th century the South expanded westward

Developed large cities in the 20th century

Demography:

Since 1950 the South has been the most populous region of the US

After urbanization and industrialization the South looks a lot more like the North

The South remains more conservative both politically and socially compared to the North

Economy:

Plantation economy in the South

  • Capital tied up in the slaves which didn’t leave much money to invest in industry

Lost the Civil War (1861-65) and suffered stagnation after the war

Industrialized in the beginning of the 20th century

During the industrialization they took over the textile production of New England (1920s and 30s) and they expanded into most areas of the industrial economy

Slavery

Were the first to import slaves from Africa

Psychological division of the US during the first half of the 19th century

  • North vs South

Abolation of slavery was discussed in the Virginia state legislature in the early 1830s

  • The motion was defeated by a single vote

Slavery was way of life

Africans were heathens and slavery would Christianize them

The slave system expanded westward in the 19th century to great frustration for the North

Religion in the US

1) What is meant by the secularization thesis? How do you explain the fact that ‘the US is the most religious of all the advanced nations’? (Nye p. 195)

  • Separation between state and religion
  • New nation → need for place to gather → stronger community/unity
  • The religions are a way of holding on to their culture (with all the different mix of culture in the U.S. people find something to hold on to)
  • More religious back then → trusted God to bring them to America
  • it’s a part of their social life and culture → will not vote for a non-religious person
    • This questions was misunderstood, so the answer is not correct    

2) What is the largest religion in the USA? Why?

  • Christianity is the largest religion in the U.S.
  • 8 out of 10 Americans are Christian (1/3 Roman Catholics and 2/3 Protestants)
  • The Christianity came to the U.S. with the colonization by the Europeans
  • The Spanish, the French and some of the British colonists brought the Roman Catholicism to areas of the U.S.
  • Primarily British colonists, but also other northern Europeans, brought the Protestantism to the U.S.
  • Depends on the region/state → local issue

3) What has been the role of the church in African-American communities?

  • The church is especially important for the African-American community. For hundreds of years they were denied political power, so the church was an escape for them. It gave them the opportunity to create their own community, and the slaves a way to understand where they belonged in this community. It was important for the African-Americans to meet and share their suffering in the church. The black churches have for a long time provided social services for the poor like shelters and distribution of clothes and food. The preacher in the black churches acted like a spokesman, politician and a spiritual leader for the African-American.

4) What is the fundamentalist view of history? Of evolution?

  • These fundamentalists oppose evolution and instead believe that God created the world and everything in it during a literal six day period.
  • the Bible over history
  • Believed they were defending the fundamentals of the Christian faith
  • Focusing on the Bible / other textual material
  • They believe in Adam & Eve
  • evolution is a myth
  • Science issues → science interferes with God’s work

5) What is meant by ‘the Establishment Clause’? Why was it included in the 1st amendment?

  • 1’st pronouncement of 1st amendment
  • Makes room for different religions
  • Decision makers are no longer chosen by God
  • (Religion as excuse for doing wrong?) → letters of indulgence
  • Prevents government from establishing a national religion

6) Find examples of religion influencing the political agenda (issues)!

  • Death Penalty
  • Abortion
  • Same sex marriage

Willow Church was founded in 1975 by Bill Hybels
Willow Church has expanded throughout the years in the Chicago area to help make it easier for people to attend church and nurture their faith. 20.000 people attend one of the six campuses in just one weekend
Willow Church practices Protestantism and evangelism, and their main mission is to convert irreligious people into devoted followers of Jesus.

Apart from the religious role of the Willow church, it also provides several social services and plays an important role to many in the local society of Chicago. The Church has a Care Center where they aim to fight injustice and poverty in the Chicago area. The Church believes in dignity, and wants to treat people equally and help them regardless of their religious, economic and ethnic status. By providing this aid, the church involves more people to create a sense of togetherness and community.
Moreover, the church provides financial guidance, teaching, spiritual guiding etc.

The aid provided by the church is funded by donations.

What’s interesting about Willow creek and what you might not expect is that it is very modern. Their churches are great amphi-theatres where they can host 20,000 members. In these churches they give speeches and host concerts where everybody sings along. They often create videos with their latest messages given on stage, which can also be played on iphone and tablets and they thereby appeal to modern religious Americans as well as more traditional ones.

Their head mission is to convert irreligious people into devoted followers of Jesus.
Today, more than 120,000 people worship at Willow Creek’s six regional campuses each weekend. This is part of the reason for Willow Creek Community Church being a mega church.
Quite interesting to compare with Denmark, because less than 3 percent attend church each week.

7) What is the Religious Right?

Religious right is also called Christian Right and is a term used to describe right-wing Christian political factions. They generally support the socially conservative policies and they do this by proclaiming the value of the teachings of Christianity and seeking to use these to influence law and public. Religious right supports socially conservative positions on issues such as school prayer (pro), homosexuality (con) and abortion (con)

8 + 9) Find examples of religious rhetoric in the US! How do you explain the importance of religion in national politics (historical and contemporary)?

As an example of religious rhetoric we have chosen a Barack Obama quote from a democratic national convention back in 2004 where he said that “We worship an awesome God in the blue states”. We chose this quote because it also explains how religion is important in politics. Back in 2004 when the democrats presidential candidate was John Kerry, a lot of democrats was unhappy that John Kerry held his relationship with religion private, because it made the democrats look un-godly. Even though they weren’t. So by saying this, Barack Obama proved that he was open about his relationship with religion, and to this day he still isn’t afraid of mentioning god in his speeches. In his inaugural speech of 2009 he mentioned god 5 times. Since the American people is often very religious, it is important for them that their president is also religious.

10) How are churches funded in the US?

Churches are privately funded. Many members (if not all) pay church tithes which mean that they pay one-tenth of their monthly income. American churches receive no state support and their income comes entirely from private donations. Since churches by law cannot receive funds from the government, regular contributions are essential to their survival. This also means that the members alone must pay for the construction and maintenance of the church, the ministers salary, the choir robes, and every other cost and they do so voluntarily.

11) ‘The church remains a central social institution in the United States’ (Nye p. 197). State examples.

The church is where people look for help because they see the church as kind of their welfare system. The church help with daycare, different kind of counselling, lecture series and much more. The church welcomes every minority in the society and wants to keep religious community alive.

People don’t just go to church for psychical help, but also because they have strong beliefs and seeks help from god.

12) ‘American religion on the whole is active rather than meditative’ (Nye p. 200). Explain!

This means that American religion encourages reforms if it is dissatisfied with something. In encourages active change instead of just hoping for things to change.

13) What is the relationship between religion and charity?
Churches also organize charities for the poor, provide emergency shelter for the homeless, engage in missionary work both inside the US and abroad.
Americans give more money to religion than to any other charity, probably because the americans see the church as a welfare system and is guarantied that the money they spend here can possibly benefit themselves in the long run.

Mega churches

The term mega-church refers to any protestant congregation with a minimum weekly attendance of 2000 persons. The average mega church has a weekly attendance of 3943 persons.

There are a significant number of mega-churches in the world – especially in Korea, Brazil and several African countries. The largest mega church in America has an average attendance of 45,000 people (the largest in the world has 250,000 attenders).

There are approximately 1600 mega-churches in the US and they are mainly located in the southern Sunbelt (California, Texas, Florida and Georgia). Most mega churches are located in suburban areas of rapidly growing sprawling cities.

Some mega churches have their own TV-channels and radio stations with millions of viewers and listeners.

Most attenders don’t see themselves belonging to a certain group such as Baptists, Christian, etc. (nondenominational).

Large churches have existed throughout Christian history, but there has been a massive expansion of mega-churches since 1970’s. Mega churches tend to grow to their great size within a very short period of time, usually in less than ten years, and under the tenure of a single senior pastor. The average mega-church has 20 full-time paid staff persons.

Some researches argue that the era of the mega-churches come close to an end, but the total number has increased from 350 in 1990 to over 600 in 2000. Reasons:

  • Financial crisis
  • Natural disaster
  • 9/11 – terror
  • Can not find place in life – do not feel that they belong to something (rootlessness)

All though a lot of catholic churches have over 2000 weekly attendances they aren’t counted as a mega church. Some of the reasons are:

  • Catholic churches don’t have strong charismatic ministers
  • They don’t have the same number of staff and volunteers
  • Many associate pastors
  • Identity that draws a lot of people from far away
  • A lot of programs and ministries organized and maintained by the members – seven days a week activities
  • High level of commitment from the members

What are their roles in society?

African-americans. West Angeles. 

How do they provide social services?

They provide Christian education. They offer grief counselling. Partners counselling . West Angeles has developed over 400 units of housing and commercial property in the inner city of Los Angeles

How do they foster a sense of community?

They do different things to create a sense of community.

They have boys and girls scouts.

They have a Community Development, where they want to increase social and economic justice. They have on-going programs that are geared to cleaning up their community’s streets, crime prevention, environmental involvement, and recycling 

How do they mobilize religious voters on political and moral issues? 

Legally, constitutionally, the church cannot and should not exert influence over the outcome of elections and individuals involved in elections. However, the church can educate people and encourage people, to participate in the electoral process.

West Angeles has developed over 400 units of housing and commercial property in the inner city of Los Angeles.

Save Africa’s Children, with assistance from West Angeles, has provided financial resources, food and housing to over 200,000 children in 400 foster care programs in Africa and Haiti. “The primary benefit of a mega church is that is has resources to initiate programs that are conceived for the work for the advancement of the church.”

Currently, West Angeles Church of God in Christ exceeds 22,000 members. The church has been recognized as one of the fastest growing churches in the nation, with extensive ministry and outreach services including television and radio broadcasts.

Mission Statement

West Angeles Church of God in Christ seeks to be a Biblical ministry of Excellence designed to encourage life transformation through our threefold purpose: to Evangelize, Edify, and Equip the whole person to serve the community and reach the world for Jesus Christ. We strive to be compassionate in our love, excellent in our service, holy in our living, and passionate and reverent in our worship.

What are their roles in society?

  • Predominately African-American membership
  • Grief and partners – consulting
  • Social responsibility

How do they provide social services?

– We offer free healthcare screening once a quarter.

– They offer also education.

How do they foster a sense of community?

  • Increase social and economic justice
  • Try to fight crime

How do they mobilize religious voters on political and moral issues?

  • Social responsibility
  • Hands-on approach
  • We have ongoing programs that are geared to cleaning up our community’s streets, crime prevention, environmental involvement, and recycling.

The frontier

Frederick Jackson Turner  was an American historian in the early 20th century. He was born in 1861 in Wisconsin and grew up in a middleclass family. He is best known for his essay “The Significance of the Frontier in American History“, whose ideas formed the Frontier Thesis. The essay was published in 1893. In his essay, he argued that the moving western frontier shaped American democracy and the American character from the colonial era until 1890. In recent years historians and academics have argued over Turner’s work – they all agree that the Frontier Thesis has had an enormous impact on American history.

Turner’s “frontier thesis” persuaded a generation of historians that American history and character had been shaped by the westward moving frontier.

What is the frontier?

The Frontier Thesis or Turner Thesis, is the argument written by historian Frederick Jackson Turner that American democracy and culture was formed by the American frontier.

The word “frontier” means a region at the edge of a settled area, especially in North American development. It is a transition zone where explorers, pioneers and settlers were arriving. Beyond the frontier lies wilderness (hence the expression “the wild west”) and undiscovered land. The American frontier moved westwards from New England in the 17th century and ended in 1959 when Alaska became a state. Which is why Alaska is commonly known as “the last frontier”.
The frontier thesis shares his views on how the idea of the frontier shaped the American being and characteristics. He wrote about how the frontier drove American history and why America is what it is today.

He theorized that the frontier was a process that transformed Europeans into a new people, namely the Americans, whose values focused on equality, democracy, optimism, individualism and self-reliance. He stressed the process—the moving frontier line—and the impact it had on pioneers going through the process. He also stressed results, especially that American democracy was the primary result.

Turner’s “frontier thesis” persuaded a generation of historians that American history and character had been shaped by the westward moving frontier.

The text

Turner says that the frontier is a field for investigation and that it has not been given much attention.

The text “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” stands as a classic statement of one man’s view of the impact of the frontier on the American character.

America has been forced to adapt to the changes of an expanding people and a people in change.The frontier myth claimed that the wilderness recreated the europeans.

It has gone from primitive economic conditions into the complexity of city life.

Some of the most important effects of the frontier has been in the promotion of democracy here and in Europe and the frontier causes individualism.

Turner compares the US frontier with the European.

The history starts with Europe because the Englishmen was the first to discover America. Back in time the coast was dependent on England because of its supplies.

But America is not a result of Europe – little by little the new product became America. The immigrants has been americanized.

The process has gone on from the early days to our own.

Moving westward, the frontier became more and more American. Thus the advance of the frontier has meant a steady movement away from the influence of Europe, a steady growth of independence on American lines.

The economic and social characteristics of the frontier worked against sectionalism – meaning that the frontier gathered the ‘new americans’ as a whole group without carrying about where people came from, what race they were or whether they were rich or poor.

The traits that has come of the frontier:

The American intellect, strength, acuteness, inventiveness, power, individualism, freedom.

The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development.

Criticism

As said before “The frontier thesis” convinced a lot of people in a lot of years that American history and character had been shaped by the westward moving frontier. Today, academics and researchers reject this myth at every point because research has shown that the western movement was not a positive and great story but one of repeated devastation and destruction.

The conflict with the Native Americans was not only affected by manly valour, but it was actually a racial warfare with broken treaties, disease and alcohol. The settlers took everything from the Indians and made them homeless.

Furthermore, the western states were not more democratic than those of the East. They copied their constitutions, laws and institutions from the original states.

In short, the East shaped and dominated the West and not the other way around. Turner’s thesis does not explain American development, but it does tell a story that convinced many settlers to move westward.

Turner’s thesis does not look beyond the frontier and does not acknowledge other factors in American development, and because of that is has gotten a lot of criticism during the years.

Skriv et svar

Din e-mailadresse vil ikke blive publiceret. Krævede felter er markeret med *