American Christianity in the maritime world : challenges to faith in the early national period.
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DeShong, Thomas Allen.
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The stereotypical eighteenth-century sailor was a superstitious man with little concern for Christianity. While it is true that most mariners at this time practiced a syncretic faith, historians have minimized the influence Christianity had. This thesis analyzes various ideological and spiritual challenges unique to American Christians who lived in the maritime world during the early national period (1775-1815). The first chapter examines the relationship between American Christianity and Islam. The focus then shifts to American providentialism, the effort by American Christians to interpret what God’s will was in human affairs. The final chapter explores the roles of naval chaplains and the struggles they faced in fulfilling their spiritual responsibilities. This thesis is an attempt to re-examine sea-faring life through a religious lens. While Christianity certainly survived in this setting, it did not thrive. In many cases, the principles of Christianity were challenged or undermined by maritime culture.