Fourth Great Awakening

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The Fourth Great Awakening was a religious and sociopolitical awakening that some scholars, notably economic historians William G. McLoughlin [1] and Robert W. Fogel [2], discern in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. The terminology is controversial—many historians believe that the religious changes that took place during these years in the U.S. were not part of an "awakening," to be understood like the first three Great Awakenings. Thus, the idea of a Fourth Great Awakening itself has not been generally accepted.

There were major religious changes underway. The "mainstream" Protestant churches contracted sharply in terms of membership and influence. The most anti-modern religious denominations (such as the Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans) grew rapidly in numbers, spread nationwide, became politically powerful as part of the "religious right", and experienced grave internal theological battles and schisms. Other evangelical and fundamentalist denominations also expanded rapidly, such as the Church of God, Pentacostals, holiness groups and Nazarenes. At the same time, secularism (people with no religious affiliation) grew dramatically, and the more conservative churches saw themselves battling secularism in terms of issues such as gay rights, abortion, and creationism. [3]

New sects

Some religious groups which grew or were created during this period were Christian, though quite different from other Christian denominations. Christianity saw a great deal of change during this period, particularly new forms of Evangelical Christianity which emphasized a "Personal Relationship with Jesus" and formed into a number of newly styled "non-denominational" churches and "community faith centers."

The Fourth Great Awakening also saw the rise of nontraditional churches with conservative theology such as megachurches and a growth of parachurch organizations while mainline Protestantism lost many members.

Some believe that a ‘Charismatic’ Awakening occurred between 1961 and 1982. This “Charismatic” Awakening stemmed from a Pentecostal movement that placed emphasis on the experience of the Gifts of the Spirit, including speaking in tongues, healing, prophecy and other aspects. It also focused on strengthening spiritual convictions through these gifts and through signs from God and the Holy Spirit. This Protestant movement spread across the “line” to the Roman Catholic faithful at a time when Catholic leaders were opening up the Church to more ecumenical beliefs, to a reduced emphasis on institutional structure, and an increased emphasis on lay spirituality. [4]


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See also


  1. McLoughlin 1978
  2. Fogel 2000
  3. McLoughlin 1978, Balmer 2001
  4. Blumhofer and Balmer, 1993