Effects of Religion on Tennessee
Soon after permanent settlements were made on the frontier, Baptist and Presbyterian churches began appearing. However, divisions within both groups led to the establishment of other break away churches. For instance, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was established in 1810 due to the differences in the main Presbyterian Church regarding several issues. Furthermore, the Baptists and the Presbyterians were also divided amongst themselves over the issue of slavery.
The Methodist circuit drivers also appeared on the Tennessee religious scene shortly after the early settlers. They were able to attract many followers owing to their persuasive doctrine and the abhorrence of all that is evil in order to attain a place in heaven. However, controversies soon engulfed the Methodist Church especially on the issue of slavery. By the 1840s, different sects had begun to appear in the Methodist Church. Luckily, for them, they were able to reconcile their differences over slavery and other sectional issues and regroup.
The Disciples of Christ and the Church of Christ were two other Protestant denominations that had their origins in Tennessee during the first half of the nineteenth century. Both groups decried the obscenities and rigorous nature of formal creeds such as Protestantism and Catholicism. They both wanted to return to the ways of early Christianity where there was no established creed or denomination, everyone was simply a follower of Christ, and the same doctrine was adhered to.
Regardless, most immigrants into Tennessee were of British origin and most of them were religiously affiliated to Presbyterian, lapsed Anglican, or Baptist denominations. The result was that Protestantism rooted in Calvinism or the Reformed Doctrine rather than Lutheranism predominated the religious atmosphere of Tennessee at the time. Furthermore, the evangelical Protestantism was seen as the main bridge between white and black folk across the state.
The early religious groups that settled in Tennessee had a profound impact on education. Samuel Doak was a Presbyterian minister who volunteered in the Watauga Settlements (Mansfield & Grant, 1997). In 1784, he established the Washington College in Washington County and another academy in Greene County. Another Presbyterian minister, Hezediah Balch, established the Greeneville College.
The two academies in Greene County would later merge to become the Tusculum college that is still present at the moment. Due to the strong Presbyterian commitment to education in the state, most of the early colleges in Tennessee had some form of Presbyterian heritage. Such colleges include the Blount College, now referred to as the University of Tennessee, the Maryville College, and the Davidson Academy, now referred to as the George Peabody College for Teachers.
The religious developments in Tennessee at the time also had an impact on the social lives of the people in Tennessee. All of the religious denominations preached against the ills that seemed to be plaguing society at the time. Alcoholism, prostitution, and gambling had become very popular across the country and especially in Tennessee during the early 20th century. However, the strong Protestant influence in Tennessee meant that most churchgoers did not participate in such perverted deeds.
Ministers such as Sam Jones, the leader of the revival movement in Tennessee, were very vocal about the grievous consequences of alcohol and prostitution. The revival movement had a large following in Tennessee with more than 10,000 faithful attending the revival crusades in different parts of the state (Mansfield & Grant, 1997). In such revivals, the preachers would castigate those who indulged in alcoholism or prostitution. They would also claim that those who engaged in such activities had no place in the Kingdom of God. As such, many residents of Tennessee abhorred such activities and denounced the indulgence of alcohol or engagement in prostitution activities.
Mansfield, S. & Grant, G. (1997). Faithful Volunteers: The History of Religion in Tennessee.