Human Being and How They Interact Research Proposal

Pages: 5 (1682 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

¶ … human being and how they interact and react with each other and with their environment, often on the basis of certain ideas that gain ascendance at a particular time and place. The society of a given gains shape from the ideas prevalent about a society should be shaped, meaning what should interest that society and how people relate to that society. Two such societies are addressed by the authors of two history books detailing particular social movements and their outcomes, the first in the Kingdom of Matthias by Paul E. Johnson and Alcoholic Republic by W.J. Rorabaugh.

The Kingdom of Matthias tells the story of a real effort to create a utopian society, this time in America in the mid-nineteenth century, headed by the Prophet Matthias, whose sect was a rival for the Mormons under Joseph Smith. The attempt he made to found his own kingdom balances with his visions of a kingdom of heaven on earth. Matthias was notorious before that time and had been put on trial for murder and theft in New York, though the jury did not convict him. Matthias was a Jewish minister, and he sought to create a kingdom to replace the American republic he saw as having failed to live up to its assurances of union, freedom and equal rights. He claimed to be a direct descendant of Jesus and of Matthias the Apostle, and he indeed stated that he embodied the souls of these and other prophets and that he thus had everlasting life because he was a reincarnation of those souls. He gained some followers and set out to create his kingdom.

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The Kingdom of Matthias emerged during the religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. The leader's real name was Robert Matthews, and the kingdom he founded would be deemed a cult if he tried to do this today.

The basics of the cult can be found in a listing by Richard C.S. Trahair, who notes how the kingdom, also called Mount Zion, was founded at Sing, New York and scandalized the world: "The community members would cavort naked, marry spiritually, and freely exchange sexual partners." Clearly, the free love aspect of the cult was one of the most controversial elements and contributed to the way the cult was isolated and later persecuted.

Research Proposal on Human Being and How They Interact and Assignment

Paul E. Johnson shapes this story by starting after Matthias is acquitted of murder and before he gathered the followers he needed to create the Kingdom of Mathias. While he looks back on the way this man developed before his attempt at nation-building, he tells the first part of the sotry with only minimal reference to the events that shaped the man, thus giving a different impression of the man and his effort than might have been the case if the story were told in strict chronological order.

Still, Johnson's approach is effective and serves to introduce many of the currents of the time, the religious controversies, the personalities involved, and does so in some depth as he tells parts of the story in direct narrative and other parts by looking back to earlier times. At the same time, he provides information on many other religious groups of the time, including many also seeking to create some form of religious settlement in this world, such as the Finneyites and the Mormons. Johnson finds that Joseph Smith of the Mormons had much in common with Matthias, though he rejected Matthias and his creed. Both saw themselves, though, as "defenders of ancient truth against the perverse claims of arrogant, affluent, and self-satisfied enemies of God." Johnson tells the story from the perspective of our time but also cite many of the studies of the kingdom from the nineteenth century, noting that the story fascinated the people of that time just as it might people of ours. The story fascinated people at that time because of its mixture of spirituality, economics, politics, and sex, while what fascinates Johnson as much as those elements is the people who were involved.

Johnson tells the story of a number of followers who either helped Matthias create his kingdom or became part of it after that initial step. The personality of Matthias stands at the center of this book, so most of those introduced are described not just ass individuals but as individuals in conjunction with the influential personality of Matthias. Johnson is open about the sources he uses and often cites contradictory sources and then seeks to analyze these to see which should be accepted a fact, or he may meld the two and seek some compromise that the again believes is closest to the truth. The interested reader could do the same by looking to the primary sources or by analyzing the way Johnson uses those sources and how he explains his conclusions. He offers extensive notes on each chapter, notes that include references to his sources and the inclusion of some added material that helps explain the sources and the way Johnson uses them.

Johnson shows how prophets like Matthias and leaders of some of the other cults of the Second Great Awakening made a major impact on individuals and on American religious culture then and into the future. Matthias himself was a carpenter who transformed himself into a spiritual leader and who did so in a manner not dissimilar to many television evangelists of our own time, similarly abusing the truth and gaining power, prestige, and funds from followers. An interesting facet of this story, referring both to Matthias and to Finney, among others, shows the way the charismatic leader used deception and bullying both to gain compliance but also did so while standing up for the poor and abandoned in a way that religion has always claimed to do but that many organized religions have failed to do. The combination of con-man and philanthropy seems to be a characteristic of this sort of religious movement.

A very different sort of social order and social analysis is evident in W.J. Rorabaugh's Alcoholic Republic. The author looks to the period just before the rise of Matthias in America, considering the history of drinking from 1790 to 1840. Where Johnson tells the story of an actual "kingdom," Rorabaugh uses the image of a republic to suggest links among drinkers and a sort of social relationship among alcoholics. He also suggests that there are forces and customs in American society that contributed to more widespread drinking and so to many of the social ills that would later concern that same society. He also analyzes written material from the era and finds ways of reconciling opposing points-of-view, again giving sufficient information for the interested reader to follow up and to come to his or her own conclusions.

The image of a nation of drunkards did not come into being because Rorabaugh thought of it first but because Rorabaugh is deriving the idea from the hyperbole of the clergy of the time, a clergy that railed against the evils of drink and that kept the issue alive with tales of supposed alcoholic debauchery as part of a society that valued freedom over morality, at least as far as certain members of the clergy wee concerned. Rorabaugh derives much of this from excerpts from the sermons and other writings of the clergy at the turn of the nineteenth century. The author also finds similar sentiments expressed by very different sorts of observers, including Thomas Jefferson and many of observers from foreign locales. In considering whether the appellation of drunkards applied to Americans was justified, Rorabaugh presents statistics about the sale of different kinds of alcoholic beverages over time as well as observations made by American writes on the topic. He finds that the truth ranges from the "male drinking cult [that] pervaded all… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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