The Theology of Food
September 15, 2019
The Battle of Karbala: The Turning Tide of Sunni/Shi’a Relations
February 5, 2020
The Battle of Karbala: The Turning Tide of Sunni/Shi’a Relations In the hot, summer heat of 632, the newly crowned conqueror of Mecca took ill and suddenly died. This was no ordinary conqueror however; this was Muhammad, leader of a fledgling religion called Islam. And yet at the height of Muhammad’s power and on the brink of death, he refused to name a successor; one who would carry on his legacy as spiritual and political leader: The Caliph. It is no wonder that when a power vacuum opened upon his death, many used their political influence to gain the recently vacated seat. It is in these last days of Muhammad that many may point to the infamous Shi’a/Sunni split that occurred in Islam. According to the Shi’a interpretation, Muhammad cemented his successor in the person of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the first male convert to Islam and Muhammad’s cousin. According to the traditional sources, in the months leading up to his death, Ali is supposed to have recounted: “He laid his hand on the back of my neck and said, ‘This is my brother, my executor, and my successor among you. Hearken to him and obey him.’” It would seem obvious who the successor would be. Nothing could be further from the truth. And instead of clarity, the seeds were planted during this moment that would rip the two sides apart for centuries. The story comes to a head almost fifty years later, at an event known as the Battle of Karbala. It would be here that Husayn ibn Ali, the son of Ali, would fight Yazid I, the Umayyad Caliph. It would also be this exact spot that Husayn and his army would be cut down, and thus the split would become final. This will be the foundation on which this paper will build: The Battle of Karbala was the defining moment in the Shi’a/Sunni split. This will be demonstrated in several steps: first, a brief background to the context of Karbala will be discussed. Second, an analysis of the battle will be performed. Lastly, the battle’s legacy will then be evaluated. In the end, it will be clear that the battle was the exact moment when the Shi’a/Sunni split became cemented in the annals of history and in the religious sect of Islam. Contextual History Surrounding the Battle of Karbala The beginnings of foment to the split lay in an unlikely place: the loss of a necklace. A’isha bint Abu Bakr was one of the most influential wives of Muhammad after the loss of his beloved Khadija bint Khuwaylid, his first wife. In the year six, A’isha recounts that while she was out on an expedition with the prophet, the necklace “came undone from my neck without my noticing.” Frantically, she looked for the necklace thinking that the caravan would wait. It did not. Several hours later, A’isha returned to Medina on the back of a camel of a Medinan warrior. The implications were vast: if she was guilty of adultery, she could be sentenced to death. The Prophet asked for guidance from his most trusted advisor: Ali. Ali told Muhammad, quite bluntly, “Messenger of God, women are many, and you can get a replacement.” If not for the vision that Muhammad received declaring her innocent (“Rejoice, A’isha! God has revealed your innocence”), he may have listened to Ali. Nevertheless, the damage had been done: this event would irrevocable change relationships, pitting Ali between A’isha and her father: Abu Bakr Abdullah ibn Uthman. It was unforeseen that Muhammad would get sick. It came quick and without warning. But there was still the problem of succession that was on every companion of Muhammad’s mind. Who would take his place as the spiritual and political leader of the community of believers? Muhammad would die and with no succession plan in place, the Ansar, or the Helpers, took little time in scheming to fill the void. When the news reached Abu Bakr and his closest friend, Umar ibn al-Khattab, they also reacted quickly to retain power. The early sources say, “The Ansar gathered in a roofed building… this news reached Abu Bakr, so he came to them with Umar…” The point of this clandestine meeting, of course, was to wrestle power from Muhammad’s earliest believers. With Ali mourning the death of his uncle and his relationship with Abu Bakr strained, Abu Bakr, Umar, and the Ansar made the decision for Muhammad: Abu Bakr would become the next Caliph. The injustice stung: Ali, barely fresh from burying his uncle and perhaps the closest partner to Muhammad, was passed over as spiritual head of Islam. Instead Abu Bakr took control. Two events continued to thrust Ali and Abu Bakr apart: Umar descended upon Ali’s house to force him to announce an oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr. When Ali refused, Umar knocked the door down and, it is debated, that he inadvertently hit the pregnant Fatima bint Muhammad who later miscarried and died several months after. In addition, both Ali and Fatima appealed to Abu Bakr for land that rightfully belonged to them; he refused. Abu Bakr ruled for less than three years and then died. Perhaps now was Ali’s time to become Caliph. However, it was not to be: al-Tabari says, “During the illness of which he died, Abu Bakr arranged for Umar b. al-Khattab to succeed him in the caliphate.” Umar did much to consolidate power and expand the empire, but he too died, this time from assassination, soon into his caliphate. Again, Ali was passed over and Uthman ibn Affan became the third Caliph. It was during the Caliphate of Uthman that sowed the rocky soil Ali would have to tread as Caliph in the years to come. Uthman ruled for nearly ten years and he padded his administration, those governors and leaders from at home in Arabia to the far-flung areas of empire, with members of his family: the Umayyads. During this time, there is almost universal agreement that he was corrupt. One of the most impactful decisions he made was to enlarge the governorship Syria to Mu’awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan. But Uthman too passed in assassination. Ali’s time had finally come, 24 years after the death of Muhammad, to become Caliph. However, A’isha still lingered in the background; after the death of the Prophet, she had received a large amount of land from her father Abu Bakr, and thus was part of the ruling elite in Mecca. Upon hearing of Uthman’s death, she and two companions raced to confront Ali and take vengeance on those who killed him. Meanwhile, Ali endured criticisms from Mu’awiyah, who also refused to recognize him as Caliph: al-Tabari says, “Mu’awiyah, whose criticisms of Ali also centered on the death of Uthman and included the demand that Ali hand over the killers for vengeance…” A fight was brewing, placing Ali in a very awkward position. It happened that the armies did meet, but it was not Mu’awiyah’s time yet. Instead, A’isha gathered an army and met Ali in what would become known as The Battle of the Camel. After facing defeat, A’isha pledged her allegiance to Ali, but not all was well; Mu’awyiah stepped up his vocal attacks on Ali. The drums of war sounded and Ali’s hand was forced. At the Battle of Siffin, Ali and Mu’awiyah fought against each other. Just as Ali was on the cusp of victory, Mu’awiyah tricked the army of Ali by placing pages of the Qur’an on the end of their spears. Surely this was a sign to cease hostilities. Many in Ali’s army ceased to fight, and the battle progressed to a withdrawal on the heels of victory. In the aftermath, Ali had to capitulate to many of Mu’awiyah’s demands. His power was great in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt while popular opinion was pitted against Ali. It was because of this that an assassin penetrated the inner defense of Ali’s entourage while he was praying and killed him with a poisonous blade. Ali would die, and would cede the Caliphate to his sons, Hasan and Husayn. Tabari says, “Then al-Hasan assumed authority for six months” But this power was not to last: Mu’awiyah, cunning as he was, took up the mantle of leadership after forming a peace treaty with Hasan, with the promise that he would one day become Caliph. In a political move, Hasan’s wife poisoned him, ensuring this would never happen. Peace came to the land, but only for a time; Mu’awiyah soon died, leaving another crisis for the Prophet’s followers. Of course, Mu’awiyah would want to keep political power within the family, appointing his son, Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah, the Caliph. However, Mu’awiyah had not been a gentle leader to his people and the Iraqis were tired of his reign. They petitioned Husayn to ride to Kufah and to strike against Yazid. Gathering with him an army, he set out from Mecca and on the way, encountered a Syrian camel train: one of Yazid’s. The army plundered the train and they set off for Kufah. But Yazid had heard of Husayn’s treachery, and before Husayn could reach Kufah, their armies met at a fateful destination in Southern Iraq: Karbala. The Battle of Karbala The companions of Husayn, when they heard of Yazid’s army, asked to turn back: “’By God! We will not return until we take our vengeance or are killed’” Husan pitched tents for forty-five horsemen and one hundred foot soldiers, waiting for Yazid to make the first move. Umar, one of Yazid’s governor’s, was given authority over the army. Umar arrived with over 4,000 soldiers, and he was “instructed to march against Husayn” At first, Umar attempted to reach peace with Husayn by sending a peaceful emissary. The first was rebuffed, but the second reached Husayn and he was asked why he had come so far: “The people of your town wrote to me invitations to come. If they are now averse to my presence, I’ll leave them and go away” When the messenger returned to Umar, he conceded that Husayn’s army would be refused water; Husayn, the odds mounting against him, asked for a meeting with Umar. Tensions remained high until Umar made his decision: “O horsemen of God, climb onto your horses with anticipation of good news,” he replied. He rode to Ali’s camp to ask for a meeting; he was refused. Messages were sent back and forth without progress. The eve of Ashura had arrived and Husayn and his followers spent the evening going over the course of action for the next day’s inevitable battle. He said to them, “When they march against us and fight us, we will set the wood on fire, so we will not be open to attack from the rear. We can fight them from a single direction” They then spent the rest of the evening asking for the forgiveness of sins, somehow knowing that they were about to die. The next morning came. The horseman mounted and face Umar’s army. ‘Amr b. Hajjaj “launched the first attack against the right flank of Husayn’s followers,” killing many. Later in the day, Husayn’s followers managed to repulse a section of Umar’s army; his response was to set the tents of Husayn’s followers on fire, so that they could “attack only from one direction” The most tragic casualty of the battle was Husayn’s own son. According to the sources, “Husayn was seating when the suckling child ‘Abdallah b. Husayn was brought to him. One of the Banu Asad member fired an arrow that smashed into him.” Yazid had not only taken the Caliphate, but Husayn’s own son. The battled raged on until there were only a few of Husayn’s followers left. Becoming surrounded, an opponent gathered the courage to face Husayn alone. He “struck Husayn on his head with his sword such that it cut through the hooded cloak and reached his head” Hurt but not destroyed, Husayn placed a turban around his head to prevent blood loss. Mikhnaf relates, “The foot soldiers fiercely attacked Husayn from the right and left. He responded to the ones on his right and force them to flee… By God, I have never seen such determination from a person who had lost his sons…” A young boy was thought to have struck Husayn with his sword, incapacitating him. A wait ensued as no man was brave enough to approach the wounded warrior. Finally, a man “sat upon Husayn’s body and severed his head, which he handed over to Khawali b. Yazid” The battle was lost; the war was over. And most importantly, the curtain was ripped in two, forever splitting Islam into two majority factions that would change the history of the world forever. The Battle of Karbala: Analysis When attempting to pinpoint the exact split of the Sunni and Shi’a, one may be tempted to point to the first succession crisis. The fact that Ali did not immediately become Caliph seems to be a focal point in which Shi’a Muslims could exercise as the core issue. However, it would be more appropriate to state that the succession crisis, while important in splintering Shi’a Muslims, is an overstated issue in relation to the whole story. Kamran Aghaie says, “While the disputes and schisms may have begun with the crisis of succession, they evolved in accordance with later political and theological trends.” This evolution would reach its final form on that piece of desert known as Karbala. But what about Karbala is so important according to Shi’a Muslims? Taking into account the assassination of Ali and Hasan as well as the exceedingly important overlook of Ali immediately after the death of Muhammad as Caliph, one could point to a number of equally egregious reasons for fractionalization. There seems to be two reasons why the event has etched itself into history books and the minds of Shi’a Muslims as the breaking point that led to the massive divide: first, Ali and his descendants have become mythical figures in Shi’a Islam. Ali is purported to be the “first Imam,” a title unique to Shi’ism. Second, there is a martyr complex within Shi’a Islam that has bound up within itself Shi’a Muslims who pit these mythical heroes of the faith against the followers of evil. To explore the first, followers of Shi’a Islam have given extraordinary license for interpreting the source material to the persons of Ali, Hasan, and Husayn. Hamid Dabashi says: “Two interrelated concepts have arisen from the post-traumatic stress syndrome of the Battle of Karbala and as such are definitive and integral to what Shi’ism has meant and what it has been over its long and arduous history: one is mazlumiyyat (innocence) and the other, deeply rooted in it, is shahadat (martyrdom).” This idea of mazlumiyyat, or innocence, is the alchemy which has worked its magic in thrusting the idea of a demigod upon Ali and his offspring. The picture of Ali in Shi’a depictions is of a peaceful man, without stain of sin, dressed in a green turban and riding a white horse. He has become known as “Imam Ali, the lion of Allah,” evoking an image of grandeur, dignity, and innocence. The depictions of Husayn are of a dying warrior, battling the forces of evil while also donning a green turban. These pictures cloud the real individuals for a fictional and idealized version of history that play into this concept of innocence. To the Shi’a, this is no mere admiration for the leaders of their religion; rather the pedestal that these men stand on are idolatry in the form of worship (an irony for a religious belief that claims that there is no God but Allah). This first premise informs the second: since these men are of unordinary character for human beings, the fact they died has constituted a martyr complex to rally around. This has manifested itself in two ways: first, Shi’a Muslims believe that they have been the subject of wide persecution, and this has been true for much of the history of Islam. One commentator said, “The battle of Karbala accentuated the split between the two major branches of Islam. The event forged in Shiʿite Muslims an identity as believers who are subjected to persecution for the sake of the true succession of Muhammad.” This is not difficult to find in the history: Ali was persecuted in the decision to make Abu Bakr Caliph; Hasan was persecuted for standing up to Mu’wiyah; Husayn was persecuted when he attempted to help the Kufans. Just as their mythological leaders suffered, so too do Shi’a Muslims for standing up for what they believe. But second, and perhaps more important, Shi’a Muslims believe that these individuals were standing up to evil itself. They were the true arbiters of what was good, and their death is seen as a rallying cry to not capitulate, no matter the circumstances. A. Yusef Ali says: “The throne at Damascus had become a worldly throne based on the most selfish ideas of personal and family aggrandizement, instead of a spiritual office, with a sense of God-given responsibility. The decay of morals spread among the people. There was one man who could stem the tide. That was Imam Husain… But his blamless and irreproachable life was in in itself a reproach to those who had other standards. They sought to silence him, but he could not be silenced. They sought to bribe him, but he could not be bribed. They sought to waylay him and get him into their power. What is more, they wanted him to recognize the tyranny and expressly to support it… The holy man was prepared to die rather than to surrender the principles for which he stood. This illustrates the principle that Husayn was of the ultimate good; he was the force that was to work as Allah’s cleansing agent to purify the godlessness of Syria. This took on a spiritual and religious dimension as well. Hamid Dabashi says: “The Kufans looked to the family of Ali as did the Egyptians to the family of Abd al-Afz as representing their independence; but there early came up several factors to give this sentiment an emotional and moral, and therefore a religious turn… Husayn himself no doubt was aware of his dignity as grandson of the Prophet, as well as son of Ali; and the Tawawabun repentants of Kufa who went off to be martyred in trying to avenge his death certainly were combining loyalty to Ali with loyalty to Muhammad himself – an essential step in making the matter a strictly religious issue. Not only was Husayn working to fight for the political independence of those crushed by the weight of Mu’wiyah’s, and by extension Yazid’s, ruthlessness, he felt the obligation to represent Islam itself. His death represents allegiance of the highest order, akin to the mission of the Prophet himself. It is no wonder that the Battle of Karbala has pulled the strings of so many Shi’a Muslims. Every year on the tenth day of Muharram, Shi’a Muslims celebrate what is known as Ashura. This event marks the day that Husayn was killed at the Battle of Karbala. Evangelicals understand that the celebration of death has many heads: the celebration of Easter, for example, is both a joyous occasion and a somber one. Just as Christians see the death of Christ on the cross as a path to salvation, so do Shi’a Muslims celebrate the death of Husayn as a path to salvation: “ death may be said to have provided his followers with the historical foundation for a theology of salvation through suffering and martyrdom, a doctrine that has continued to influence the lives of many Muslims to the present day.” Conclusion The Battle of Karbala has become an indelible symbol to Shi’a Muslims throughout the world. Far from the first succession crisis defining this religious sect, it has been proven that the Battle of Karbala was the nail in the coffin for the Sunni/Shi’a split. But how can Evangelicals benefit from this knowledge? Is there any application from the Battle of Karbala that can inform our thinking? The answer is a definitive yes. First, one of the most critical lapses of evangelical (in the sense of proclaiming the Gospel) fervor is the misunderstanding of Islam. Education has, historically, paid little attention to the history of Islam, instead focusing on the rise of ideals such as democracy in ancient Greece, Christendom in Rome and Byzantium, the Renaissance in Italy, and the Enlightenment in France. Few in the West can articulate the theological or historical reasons behind the split. Thus, to be an effective witness, knowing the historical foundations of Islam, and thus the Shi’a/Sunni split, remains a stumbling block to evangelizing the lost. Christians will do well with being informed on the history and the theology of Islam in order to be an effective witness to Muslims around the world. Second, knowing about the Battle of Karbala can also aid Christians in understanding the differences between Shi’ism and Sunnism. The former is particularly critical to grasp in light of recent international/political events that have occurred in the last few months, as well as informing the decade of the 2000’s. Iraq, the resting place of Husayn, constitutes one of the largest demographics of Shi’a Islam in the world. Iran is similar in this way. While in power, Saddam Hussein murdered hundreds of Shi’a Muslims in 1982, which was the part of the context for both Gulf War conflicts by the United States. Iran has become a thorn in the flesh, so to speak, to the United States since the 1970s. Understanding Shi’a Islam and the Sunni/Shi’a split will go far in understanding these modern-day political conflicts. While Ashura will continue to be celebrated year after year, Christians will need to continue to pray for Shi’a and Sunni Muslims around the world who need to hear the transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When a Christian hears the story of the Battle of Karbala, it should convict the believer to pray for the millions of lost souls around the globe. bibliography Abu Mikhnaf. Maqtal al-Husayn, translated from Arabic by Hamid Mavani, Middlesex, UK: Shia Ithnasheri Community of Middlesex, 2001. Aghaie, Kamran Scot. The Martyrs of Karbala: Shi’i Symbols and Rituals in Modern Iran. 1st ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004. Allah, Ishaq S. R. The Life of Muhammad. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1988. Al-Tabari. The Last Years of the Prophet: The Formation of the States. The History of Al-Tabari. Translated by Adrian Brockett. Vol. 9. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997. Al-Tabari. The Challenge to the Empires. The History of Al-Tabari. Translated by Adrian Brockett. Vol. 11. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997. Al-Tabari. The First Civil War: From the Battle of Siffin to the Death of Ali, The History of Al-Tabari. Translated by Adrian Brockett. Vol. 17. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997. Dabashi, Hamid. Shi’Ism a Religion of Protest. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. Kohlberg, Etan. Shi’Ism. 1st ed. London: Routledge, 2016. doi:10.4324/9781315243184. https://www-taylorfrancis-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/books/9781315243184. Martin, Richard C. Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World. 2nd ed. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Macmillan Reference USA, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016. Netton, Ian Richard. Encyclopedia of Islamic Civilization and Religion. London: Routledge, 2013. doi:10.4324/9780203862049. https://www-taylorfrancis-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/books/9780203862049. Yusuf Ali, A. Imam Husain and His Martyrdom. Karachi: Al-Biruni, 1979. Ishaq Allah, The Life of Muhammad, (KarachiL Oxford University Press, 1988), 118. Al-Tabari, The Last Years of the Prophet: The Formation of the State, Vol 9 of The History of Al-Tabari (Albany: University of New York Press, 1997), 59. Ibid, 62. Ibid, 63. Ibid, 186. Al-Tabari, The Challenge to the Empires, Vol 11 of The History of Al-Tabari (Albany: University of New York Press, 1997), 145 Al-Tabari, The First Civil War: From the Battle of Siffin to the Death of Ali,, Vol 17 of The History of Al-Tabari (Albany: University of New York Press, 1997), xii. Ibid, 222 Ibid, 75. Ibid, 75. Mikhnaf Abu, Maqtal al-Husan, (Middlesex: Shia Ithnasheri Community of Middlesex, 2001), 106. Ibid, 108. Ibid, 116. Ibid, 125. Ibid, 142. Ibid, 149. Ibid, 164. Ibid, 167. Ibid, 168. Ibid, 170. Kamran Aghaie, The Martyrs of Karbala: Shi’i Symbols and Rituals in Modern Iran (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004), 5. Hamid Dabashi, Shi’ism: A Religion of Protest (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2011), 80. Richard C. Martin. Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World (Farmington Hills: Cengage Learning, 2016), “Karbala.” A. Yusef Ali, Imam Hussain and his Martyrdom (Karachi: Al-Biruni, 1979), 23-24. Etan Kohlberg, Shi’ism (London: Routledge, 2016), 5. Ian Netton, Encyclopedia of Islamic Civilization and Religion (London: Routledge, 2013) 241-242....
The Layman Prayer Revival of 1857-1858
October 5, 2019
Author’s note: this was written as the culminating “Capstone” Project for my Bachelor of Science Degree in History at Liberty University in 2016. While the goal of the paper was historical in nature, it has obvious modern day application to Christians around the world. The United States of American is unique in its spiritual life among Western nations today. Americans are increasingly “spiritual,” much more so than their European brothers and sisters. The kind of rhetoric that proceeds from the mouths of, particular conservative, Americans are things like “America was founded as a Christian nation,” and “The founding fathers were strong Christians.” Whether this rhetoric is correct or not is not of concern: what is applicable is considerable about statements like these are that they demonstrate that America is preoccupied with religion, and Christianity in particular. But why is this? Scholars will point to two very altering events that present a case for the depth of American Christianity: the First Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening. In the former, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield produced fervor in American’s in the 18th century, contributing to the massive rise of Christianity in the life of ordinary citizens. Edwards’ own “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” was a type of sermon that the people had never heard before and with it came mass baptisms, church attendance, and church membership. This continued in the 19th century with the Second Great Awakening. In this movement, Charles Finney and other prominent members utilized revival-like language that exploded in the American frontier. Methodists in particular reached out to the sparsely inhabited West to evangelize. Similar massive baptisms and church attendance followed this revival. Many are not aware that what could be considered a third “Great Awakening” occurred from 1857-1858 that contributed to the pervasive American Christianity more than either the First or Second Great Awakening. It was called the Layman Prayer Revival, and it is arguably the last massive revival the United States has experienced. It became a national preoccupation that felt its influence spread from it’s genesis in New York to Chicago. Perhaps most importantly, while the First Great Awakening had Jonathan Edwards and the Second Charles Finney, the Layman Prayer Revival had the imperceptible Jeremiah Lanphier. Lanphier’s name probably does not show up in textbooks, and further, his legacy is largely forgotten by audiences in America today. In light of this, the writer will attempt to suggest that while the Layman Prayer Revival has become an afterthought in the minds of Americans today, it should not be diminished. In fact, it should be celebrated as the after effects of the revival were greater than the First Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening. As Kathyrn Long said, “The Revival of 1856-1857, perhaps the closest thing to a truly national revival in American history, represented the culmination during the antebellum period of this impulse to integration.” The writer will present this argument in three parts: first, a brief history of the revival; second, how the revival was conducted; and third, the outcomes of the revival. The evidence will demonstrate that the Layman Prayer Revival had a lasting impact on Christianity in America. The early 19th century was a time of both recovery and turmoil in economy and in politics. The slavery issue continued to rage as abolitionists took to the side of abolishing slavery while (mostly) southern states rested their entire economy on slavery. In business, banking had become a big attraction for investments and a bubble was forming that would soon burst. One commentator said about the origins of the revival, “The movement was given impetus by the financial panic of October 1857, as well as by the ongoing tension over slavery and from extensive coverage in the secular press.” The day of reckoning was coming. And it did indeed come: “On October 10 the New York stock market crashed, putting many stockbrokers and clerks out of work, and shutting down businesses everywhere. Many people went into bankruptcy; the panic shattered the previous complacency.” This is the foundation of the Layman Prayer Revival: turmoil. When the economy began to falter, people inevitably began seeking toward a religious explanation. The financial crisis coupled with the political maelstrom occurring in America at this time probably was a viable catalyst for the revival. Nevertheless, it was all tied to one faithful man who was looking for a way to serve his community. Little did he know that his efforts would become a national preoccupation. The revival had its inauspicious roots in a man name Jeremiah Lanphier. He was employed at the North Dutch Church on Fulton Street in New York. His position was to be a missionary. He was to reach out to the community with the Gospel and to love those in his area. A tract that announced his arrival was published read: The Consistory, anxious that in the spiritual destitution of this part of the city, suitable investigations and labours may be employed, in order that the ‘poor may have the Gospel preached unto the,’ have obtained the services of a pious layman, Mr. J.C. Lanphier. He will devote his time and efforts to explore this lower part of the city, and, with all kindness and fidelity, to attract those whom he visits to the house of God, and to place parents and children under auspices favorable to their temporal and spiritual welfare.” Mr. Lanphier began his ministry by understanding the importance of prayer in the Christian life. After serving in the streets of New York for some time, he felt as if he was not able to reach people in a meaningful way. Because of this, he developed an idea that blossomed into a daily prayer meeting that would be held every day from 12 to 1 o’clock at the church. He circulated a placard that was hung on hotels, boarding houses, shops, factories, counting rooms, and private dwellings. The first meeting took place on the 23rd of September 1857. At noon, the time of the meeting, not a single person showed up. It wasn’t until a half hour later that the first person appeared. Five more entered and after the service, they dispersed. The next day, six increased to twenty. Each day that went by, the number began to swell. People were willing to forgo their precious lunch hour to sit in a church to pray. The pray meetings began to become very popular for two reasons: the economic adversity and the press. In the former, even the New York Daily Tribune admitted that religion was a natural consequence to the plight being experienced around America. One column notes, “The preacher then went on to show that this revival grew out of the sense of dependence which the late financial revulsion had brought home to the understandings of most men; the total stagnation of trade had made the merchant and the mechanic alike sensible of their helplessness and had turned them from their idols of gold and silver to look to the living God.”This is a reasonable conclusion. Whenever people are affected with hardship, their natural tendency is to seek a supernatural answer to their plight. Questions of why and the realization that what is in this life is fleeting makes people question what is beyond. But not all were convinced of this conclusion. The press had their own theory about the roots of the revival. For example, the New York Herald proclaimed: Our theory, as above elaborated, is that the luxury and laziness and laxity of the churches – the tendency of the clergy to theorize and philosophize upon purely technical points of belief was the cause of the backsliding members of the churches; and that finding no refuge out of the ark, they have now attempted to infuse some of the divine unction into it… The only way to bring about such a reform is to return to the plain common sense platform of the early Christians, founded upon the teachings of the New Testament – the best moral code ever written. This explanation is probably a little more unbiased. According to the New York Herald, the churches of the time were overtly complicated. A “commoner” could not enter into the ivory tower of the church as a bystander and gain much more than the content of the sermon. By operating a prayer meeting, the language became simpler; the “sermon” (if you could call it that) was a brief message of positivity lacking the complex language of religion. It was a meeting for people who had never attended church before. And the appeal went farther. Instead of alienating members, they could communicate their concerns, get prayer, and leave without the sometimes-nasty attachments churches bring. It also fueled a sense of belonging. People prayed for them and cared about them. Having a pastor deal with the everyday issues that normally would be swept under the rug at a Sunday gathering was a powerful incentive. The second reason why the meetings became so popular was due to the somewhat vicious war that occurred in the press. When news was released that a grand revival was taking place in New York, the New York Herald and the New York Daily Tribune started a battle in covering the hot story of the day. By this time, thousands were attending the meetings and knowledge about them were continuing to skyrocket. The press fueled this desire to experience the unknown. The New York Herald began the war in February of 1858. They produced a column entitled “Religious Revolution.” It stated: In this city we are told that the daily prayer meetings down town are thronged every day with merchants, bankers, politicians, financiers – men of all classes and conditions. These repentant sinners make oral confession that they have done those things which they ought not to have done, and have left undone those things which they ought to have done; they pray, likewise that they may have strength to resist the devil and all his works hereafter.” The Herald then began producing updates weekly, sometimes more, on the status of the revival. In a column entitled “The Religious Revivals,” the Herald noted that the “Prayer meeting in Fulton street having become too crowded, it was resolved to open John street church every day, between 12 and 1 o’clock.” It produced not only commentary on the significance of the revival, but also advertised new locations and times throughout the city. Not to be outdone, the New York Tribune also took time to advertise and add their own spin to the revival. In columns entitled, “Progress of the Revival,” the Tribune provided a vast array of services to their readers including where the meetings were taking place, adding commentary on the status and origins, and also producing texts of selected sermons. In one such column, the New York Tribune writes, “The day prayer-meetings, which were so largely attended a month ago, have to an average aggregate attendance of about two thousand. The number of these meetings is fully kept up, and the decrease of attendance is principally among those who went from curiosity.” There is little doubt that this coverage was critical to the success of the revival. When a movement begins in an ordinary meeting without a centralized figure, more often times than not it retreats into obscurity. The series of factors that were produced at this time were unique enough to prove this common sense conclusion irrelevant. The newspapers fueled the mania that an unassuming missionary had begun. But what did these meetings consist of? What were the regulations and what took place over the course of the hour? As the meetings became more and more popular, strict rules were enacted to keep the schedule on time. Placards were placed about that gave directions. One said, “Brethren are earnestly requested to adhere to the 5 minute rule”; another “Prayers and exhortations not to exceed 5 minutes in order to give all an opportunity; not more than 2 consecutive prayers or exhortations. No controverted points discussed.” Participants were expected to be prompt, as the meetings would start at twelve o’clock sharp. A schedule was placed in the form of a handout that designated the day’s agenda: 1st. Open the meeting by reading and signing from three to five verses of a hymn. 2d. Prayer. 3d Read a portion of the Scripture. 4th Say the meeting is now open for prayers and exhortations, observing particularly the rules overhead, inviting brethren from abroad to take part in the services. 5th Read but one or two requests at a time – REQUIRING a prayer to follow – such prayer to have special reference to the same. 6th In case of any suggestion or proposition by any person, say this is simply a Prayer meeting, and that they are out of order, and call on some brother to pray. 7th Give out the closing hymn five minutes before one o’clock. Request the Benediction from a Clergy-man, if one be present. A significant account of a prayer meeting is given from a first hand witness, reading: We take our seat in the middle room, ten minutes before 12 o’clock, M. A few ladies are seated in one corner, and a few business-men are scattered here and there through the room. Five minutes to 12 the room begins to fill up rapidly. Two minutes to 12, the leader passes in, and takes his seat in the desk or pulpit. At 12, M., punctual to the moment, at the first stroke of the clock the leader rises and commences the meeting by reading two or three verses of the hymn… Each person finds a hymn-book in his seat; all sing with heart and voice. The leader offers a prayer, short pointed, to the purpose. Then reads a brief portion of Scripture. Ten minutes are now gone. Meantime, requires in sealed envelopes have been going up to the desk for prayer. Every nook and corner is filled- the doorways and stairways- and the upper room is now filled, and we hear the voice of singing… He says: “This meeting is now open for prayer. Brethren from a distance are specially invited to take part. All will observe the rules… A few remarks follow- very brief. The chairman rises with slips of paper in his hands and reads … It is now a quarter to one o’clock… Then came the closing hymn, the benediction , and the parting for twenty-four hours. The meetings, therefore, were efficient in utilizing the time that they had. It is important to consider that the majority of the meetings occurred during the lunch hour. If a meeting ran long, there would be no one left in the pews to continue on. A commotion of businessmen and merchants would have scrambled from their seats to get back to work on time. In this way, it was necessary to keep things orderly and on a tight schedule. The effect of the revival was enormous by the standards of the day. One commentator suggests, “Within two years, approximately one million converts were added to the churches of America. Of benefit to history is the meticulous counting of church historians of the time. Kathryn Long attempted to synthesize the numerical significance of the revival. Some of the numbers are staggering: the Baptists grew by16 percent; Methodists grew by 8 percent from 1856-1858; Presbyterians grew by 11 percent; Methodists grew by 29 percent from 1856-59; the estimated number of people baptized from 1856-58 was roughly 2,800,000; there was approximately a 400,000 net membership increase from 1856-59. These numbers represent a movement in American history that is possible unrivaled before and since. The focus of this work thus far has been centralized to New York City. But this was simply the genesis of the movement and it moved far from its origins. The city of Chicago reported prayer meetings occurring sometime after Jeremiah Lanphier begun the six-member prayer meeting at Fulton Street. It even passed from beyond the borders of the United States. One commentator said, “Soon interdenominational prayer meetings started up in most of the major cities of the North, with more than two thousand people jamming Chicago’s daily prayer meeting at the Metropolitan Theater. The revival then spread to rural areas, including the South, to Europe, especially England, and even to Australia.” It truly became global phenomena. The conclusions drawn from such a momentous yet unforgotten event is complicated. However, an argument could be made that the outcome of the Layman Prayer Revival had a greater impact on the religious activity of Americans than either the First Great Awakening or the Second Great Awakening. First, the numerical advantages of the Layman Prayer Revival clearly demonstrate the significance of the movement. Jonathan Edwards describes the conversions happening in Northampton during the First Great Awakening, saying: “I am far from pretending to be able to determine how many have lately been the subjects of such mercy; but if I may be allowed to declare any thing that appears to me probable in a thing of this nature, I hope that more than three hundred souls were savingly brought home to Christ in this town, in the space of half a year, (how many more I don’t guess,) and about the same number of males and females…” What this demonstrates is the geographical limitations of the revival. At the time of the First (and to a lesser degree the Second) Great Awakening, America was not as populated as it would be almost 100 years later. The fact that the Layman Prayer Revival happened when it did and impacted people in the scope that it did became largely a factor of the more populous states. The revival, as stated, also had the benefit of the press. No such mass publication was yet available in rural areas that Edwards primarily worked in. Second, the Layman Prayer Revival would go on to have a significant impact on the spiritual lives of Americans for many generations. Part of the stigma during the prayer revivals was the lack of any concrete doctrinal positions. As stated, there was to be no discussions of any matter that would seem divisive. The New York Herald noticed this, saying: How we all got to these shady groves, cool wells and pleasant palms seems to be a matter of doubt – certainly, the clergy had nothing to do with it. They found a movement organized and placed themselves at its head. The movement extends to all the evangelical denominations – Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians, Presbyterians, and so forth. They are all orthodox in so much as this – they agree in certain practical truths of Christianity, but dispute in relation to dogmas and points of church discipline, which are really of no vital consequence. What is of importance in this analysis is the language, which refers to dogma as “no vital consequence.” Yet, these issues are important to Christians; they constitute the very centerpiece of their religious beliefs. When viewed in the context of the 1960’s where the liberal movement thwarted the idea of orthodoxy, dogma surely would play an important role. But even further still, what Americans clung to was the idea of spirituality that was devoid of doctrine. This would have far reaching implications that continue even in the present. In these ways, and many more, the Layman Prayer Revival constituted a massive influence to Christianity in America in the 19th, 20th, and 21st century. Its effects are still reverberating long after the revivals of the First and Second Great Awakening have diminished. In this way, the Layman Prayer Revival then was the most momentous, but largely forgotten, revival in the history of America. Bibliography Primary Sources Chambers, Talbot. The Noon Prayer Meeting of the North Dutch Church, Fulton Street New York. New York: Board of Publication of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, 1858. Accessed August 26, 2016. https://archive.org/details/ldpd_6221448_000. Edwards, Jonathan. Thoughts On the Revival of Religion in New England, 1740; to Which Is Prefixed, a Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in Northampton, Mass., 1735. New York: American Tract Society, n.d. Accessed August 26, 2016. https://archive.org/details/thoughtsonreviva00edwa. “Progress of the Revival,” New York Daily Tribune, April 24, 1858, under “page 6,” accessed August 6, 2016, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030213/1858-04-24/ed-1/seq-6.pdf. “Religious Revolution,” New York Herald, February 21, 1858, under “page 4,” accessed August 6, 2016,http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030313/1858-02-21/ed-1/seq-4.pdf. “Religious Revivals.” New York Herald March 2 1858, under “page 4,” accessed August 6, 2016,http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030313/1858-02-21/ed-1/seq-4.pdf. “Religious Revival.” New York Daily Tribune, March 15 1858 under “page 4,” accessed August 6, 2016,http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030313/1858-02-21/ed-1/seq-4.pdf. Secondary Sources Eckman, James P. Exploring Church History. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002. Christian History Magazine-Issue 23: Spiritual Awakenings in North America. Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1989. Long, Kathryn. 1998. The Revival of 1857-58 : Interpreting an American Religious Awakening. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed August 26, 2016). Reid, Daniel G., Robert Dean Linder, Bruce L. Shelley, and Harry S. Stout. Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990. Rusten, Sharon with E. Michael. The Complete Book of When & Where in the Bible and throughout History. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005. Karthryn Long, The Revival of 1857-58: Interpreting an American Religious Awakening (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 144-51, Ebook Collection (EBSCOhost). Daniel G. Reid et al., Dictionary of Christianity in America (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990). “The Time for Prayer—The Third Great Awakening,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 23: Spiritual Awakenings in North America (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1989). Talbot Chambers, The Noon Prayer Meeting of the North Dutch Church, Fulton Street New York (New York: Board of Publication of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, 1858), 35, accessed August 26, 2016,https://archive.org/details/ldpd_6221448_000. Ibid, 41 “The Religious Revival.” New York Daily Tribune, March 15 1858 under “page 4,” accessed August 6, 2016,http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030313/1858-02-21/ed-1/seq-4.pdf. Religious Revolution,” New York Herald, February 21, 1858, under “page 4,” accessed August 6, 2016,http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030313/1858-02-21/ed-1/seq-4.pdf. “Religious Revolution,” New York Herald, February 21, 1858, under “page 4,” accessed August 6, 2016,http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030313/1858-02-21/ed-1/seq-4.pdf. “Religious Revivals.” New York Herald March 2 1858, under “page 4,” accessed August 6, 2016,http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030313/1858-02-21/ed-1/seq-4.pdf. “Progress of the Revival.” New York Daily Tribune, April 24, 1858, under “page 6,” accessed August 6, 2016, Talbot Chambers, The Noon Prayer Meeting of the North Dutch Church, Fulton Street New York (New York: Board of Publication of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, 1858), 47, accessed August 26, 2016,https://archive.org/details/ldpd_6221448_000. Ibid, 48. Ibid, 66-68. Sharon Rusten with E. Michael, The Complete Book of When & Where in the Bible and throughout History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2005), 372. Karthryn Long, The Revival of 1857-58: Interpreting an American Religious Awakening (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 144-51, Ebook Collection (EBSCOhost). James P. Eckman, Exploring Church History (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 88. Jonathan Edwards, Thoughts On the Revival of Religion in New England, 1740; to Which Is Prefixed, a Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in Northampton, Mass., 1735 (New York: American Tract Society, n.d.), 24-25, accessed August 26, 2016, https://archive.org/details/thoughtsonreviva00edwa. Religious Revolution,” New York Herald, February 21, 1858, under “page 4,” accessed August 6, 2016,http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030313/1858-02-21/ed-1/seq-4.pdf. ...