Working title: Swedes in Roger Williams’ Garden: Church, State and Community in Swedish Immigrant Churches, 1848-1860

Link here for earlier outlines and notes

  • HERE for Oct. 23-Jan. 24
  • HERE for Jan. 25-April 7

** INSERT A (Dec. 17, 2021): ** Scratch outline, from notes I jotted down at 3:57 a.m. during a midnight snack, on how I might split off the conceptual framework stuff from the original paper I presented to ALPLM last year:

  • Rework October 2020 presentation into an article for Illinois Historical Journal, leading with [Norwegian pastor] Paul Andersen in Chicago and focusing on [Swedish pastor LP] Esbjörn’s relations with the American Home Missionary Society as he established the Augustana Synod’s mother in Andover.
  • Outline a more speculative article leading with ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s homily at Augustana LC in Andover and focusing on reciprocal creolization, Christian nationalism, ecumenism, etc.

It was exactly 3:57 a.m. when I raided the refrigerator before jotting down this outline. Knowing what happens to other brilliant ideas that occur to me in the middle of the night, I am including it here without apology. ** End INSERT **

Overall outline:

One: Introduction — open w/ Elizabeth Eaton’s story of the “generosity, hospitality and open-mindedness of the augustana tradition” at her church in Ashtabula

  • thesis (frame as research question(s) — how does Swedish reaction to Protestant American norms — as voluntary religious associations w/ separation of church and state — point the way to the “welcoming that augustana has always  been a witness to in the greater church?” And what lessons does it have for us in “in these days when the culture says you’ve got to identify which camp you’re in and separate yourself one from another lest you be contaminated by that other person””)
  • 1850s much like out own day. Swedes were Protestant and “English” Lutherans were Americanized, so they weren’t hated, but they recoiled from conversion narrratives, Sabbath observance and revivalist “new measures.” Swedes went back to first principles, grounding their membership policy in the “unaltered Augsburg Confession,” Luther’s view of baptism and created a creolized institution in Augustana Synod
  • Roger Williams  was a separatist, founded first Baptist church in British North America — but retreated beyond organized religion entirely — perhaps a forerunner of today’s “none’s.” BUT Williams’ concept of “soul libertie” and his relations with the Indians might offer a counter-narrative. Whatever else you can say about it, and however much it failed to meet 21st-century standards, Rhode Island was a forerunner of a religiously and culturally diverse polity — a polar opposite to John Winthrop’s “citty on a hill,” even though they were both grounded in Calvinism. (But with pirates and Long Dick Chasmore!) RW’s Rhode Island as a type [?] of multicultural society.
  • Creolization and acculturation — I think I have an outline here from the doctor’s office — FIND THAT AND ADD: Swedes tried to “Americanize” too fast, at the behest of AHMS and later as they came in conflict with “English” Lutherans at seminary in Springfield; retreated into Svensk-Amerika — other ethnic groups formed creolized subcultures — in the end all of these groups would blend into a post-creole continuum not unlike RW’s Rhode Island
  • We’re talking about metaphors here — creolization is a metaphor, RW’s garden is a metaphor, Winthrop’s “citty on a hill” is a metaphor. Even the Hansen thesis is less a thesis than a particular type of metaphor — i.e. a synecdoche. What Ulf Hannerz said about metaphors.Salman Rushdie’s metaphorical flight may be the aspirational touchstone here — once said his writing “rejoices in mongrelization and fears the absolutism of the Pure. Mélange, hotchpotch, a bit of this and a bit of that is how newness enters the world.”
  • available sources and what I’m trying to do — while it’s annotated, this is not an academic history — it relies on secondary sources, some of which are quite filiopietistic, and it tries as much as possible to get at the interior life of the immigrants who came here in the 1850s and created the main outlines of what would become Svensk-Amerika

Two: Sweden

  • Eric Norelius
  • Overall background — Scott, conventicles, etc. — state church cf. image of church-state separation in America
  • Esbjörn — summary of his career — shipboard diary

Three: America — quite different to what they knew in Sweden, even as pietists — quote Diarmaid MacCulloch, the Protestant American ethos of the day was one of “covenant, chosenness, of wilderness triumphantly converted to garden … served up with a powerful dose of extrovert revivalist fervour.” Church and state were separate, all right, but with a heavy dose of denominationalism on the one hand and an expectation that “evangelical” Protestantism was normative; Catholics, Unitarians, etc. were outside the pale (quote Baird on this) and German cultural practices regarding sabbath keeping were discouraged.

  • Open with Norelius’ diary in New York, Chicago
  • America in the 1850s was seething, polarized — undergoing profound cultural, demographic change much like our own day, but with Catholics and Irish as the scapegoats — on the brink, after Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, of civil war — second Great Awakening, revivalism ongoing — bring in Garry Wills head and heart here — transition to Roger Williams
  • Tension between RW’s vision and Winthrop’s — FLASHBACK to New England of the 1630s, Rhode Island — neither was particularly well known in the 1850s — quoting Bancroft
  • Baird — evangelical —
  • Lutherans


  • Open with Norelius

Andover and beyond

  • Norelius reminsecence of Esbjörn

Planting / Northern Illinois Synod: Reaching out and pulling back

  • Open with ____ Harkey at Geneva dedication
  • Springfield Imbroglio

1860 new synod and laroverk

  • polity
  • Norwegiqn school on Superior Street
  • psalmodikon tab

Epilog: Svensk-Amerika

  • Maybe open with Civil War (Norelius in camp, Esbjorn’s sons, Bishop Hill erc. (look ahead to Hemlanded/Trib quote
  • Dag Blanck’s thesis — role of Augustana Synod in creating Swedish-American culture (cf. New York Times article on “we became Asian” — weave in here reference to Augustana’s role in merger negotiations,
  • Bratt — quote about other ethnicities
  • A couple more examples — creoles in Alaska (cf. and contrast)
  • post-creole continuum?

Findings and discussion

Very preliminary scratch outline (ca. 2:30 a.m. May 5):

  1. Andersonville and Edgewater today — multicultural Swedish-American neighborhoods — Andover, Bishop Hill, Moline– Swedish remnants
    • in community today
    • churches — Ebenezer and Immanuel in Chicago, Augustana in Andover, Vasa and ______ in Minneapolis. St. Ansgar’s in Chicago now Cristo del Rey
    • Table fellowship today with Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and UCC — ELCA’s joint initiative after Jan 6 with Bishop Curry and Baptist group opposing Christian nationalism

2. Christian nationalism/exceptionalism — straight line back to the exceptionalism of the 1850s through Christian right

3. Wuthnow?

3. Roger Williams — Barry: tension with Winthrop’s city on a hill

  • PRELIMINARY THESIS STATEMENT — April-May Swedes tried to “Americanize” too fast, at the behest of AHMS and later as they came in conflict with “English” Lutherans at seminary in Springfield; retreated into Svensk-Amerika — other ethnic groups formed creolized subcultures — in the end blended on a diverse post-creole continuum marked by diversity and religious pluralism
  • ADDING:not unlike Roger Williams’ Rhode Island in conflict with the inheritors of the Mass. Bay Colony’s ‘citty on a hill.” Colonial Rhode Island may offer an addition to the pantheon of American civil religion and a corrective to the exceptionalism of modern interpretations of the city on a hill. If we try to reconstruct the civil religion of the 1850s, we find some measure of pluralism but with white Anglo-Saxon Protestant hegemony; freedom of religion, but within limits. Swedes were not hated; indeed, they were regarded as hard-working Protestants. And the Congregationalists in AHMS were more open than most, but the Swedes learned they would flourish best if they went their own way.
  • ANOTHER ELEMENT? — “Were the problem simply one of interpreting responses to public opinion polls the solution might be discovered in the fact that people respond without thinking, have only Protestants and Catholics in mind when they say that all religions are equally true, or are registering that same uncanny ability to compartmentalize incompatible views that pollsters find in social and political attitudes” Robert Wuthnow, America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005), 131)

Esbjorn abolitionist https://www.augustana.edu/about-us/president/presidents/Esbjorn/slavery The sin of slavery here is, as drunkenness has been, a national sin, which has taken frightful root, and it requires great powers of Christian self-denial to uproot them. Many Christians express a hearty desire to enlighten their neighbors, but it goes slowly. […] I wish that Sweden would add a little fuel to this fire of love, and give the United States some return for (Rev. Robert) Baird’s book. Thus, I ask you, as a historian, to send me some historic proof that Slavery in Sweden disappeared immediately with Christianity so that as it arrived, slavery left.” Letter to Peter Wieselgren May 23,1850

Notes toward a transitional/nut graf section in last chaper (?)

I think there must have been two main inflection points. One came early. Even before E arrived in Andover, Paul Andersen found he had to fudge a little in order to admit xxxx to his Norwegian congregation in Chicago. And E was faced with it as soon as he sought funding from the American Home Missionary Society. “QUOTE” Their compromise would serve the Synod of Northern Illinois and later the Augustana Synod for a number of years. The other inflection point came later, when the Swedes joined other Lutherans, mostly assimilated German-Americans, in the seminary at Springfield. The Swedes, I believe, perceived it as an existential threat.

James Davison Hunter, author of Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (1991), told Politico he sees strong parallels with the 1850s. That existential fear, especially on the part of cultural conservatives today, is one of them

“Conservatives see this as an existential threat. That’s an important phrase: They see it as an existential threat to their way of life, to the things that they hold sacred. So while the earlier culture war really was about secularization, and positions were tied to theologies and justified on the basis of theologies, that’s no longer the case. You rarely see people on the right rooting their positions within a biblical theology or ecclesiastical tradition. [Nowadays,] it is a position that is mainly rooted in fear of extinction.” [brackets in the oridinal]

The parallels aren’t exact. But the cultural divides, and the fear of extinction led to an all-or-nothing atmosphere. e.g. slaveholders’ fear of abolition, northerners’ fear of extension of slavery. In religion it was an age of doctrinal strife …


In a remarkable, wide-ranging interview with producers of the God in America show, Cathrine Breckus of the University of Chicago Divinity School suggested Americans of the runup to the Civil war saw each other as an exponential threat to their way of life.

… another legacy of the Puritans I believe, was a tendency towards what sociologist Robert Wuthnow calls exclusionist ?) religious groupings — from covenanted, gathered communities, halfway covenant, etc. Martin Marty, among others calls them tribal — “ovreagainstness.” This the Swedes did not share, coming from a nascent folk church in Sweden. Perhaps his is one source of the inclusive, welcoming quality Bishop Eaton spoke of in 2015.


a bright line leads from the evangelicals of the 1850s — F’s “folk religion” — from the Protestant ascendancy of the 1830s-50s through 20th century fundamentalism to the Christian right (Fea) and white Chrisitan nationalism — today’s white Christian nationalism, “great replacement” theory, etc., are rooted in the fear of annihilation. Cf. Daniel T. Rodgers (270-71) on Glenn Beck video — “Beck’s Winthrop script put on vivid display the emotional dualism that cuts through the world he and his fans inhabit. A / stark collision of moods, a vertiginous oscillation between a sense of power and a sense of paranoia; this was the theme that Beck’s filmmakers drew from the Model’s story, not the sihining optimism of a Ronald Reagan or the certainties of American exceptionalism.”

it’s also related to American civic religion, to use Gorski’s word in a Faculty Viewpoints interview

The American civil religion is a way of thinking about the American project and what its highest ideals are. I think about it as an evolving tradition that goes back to the foundings, to the founding of Puritan New England and to the American Revolution, also to the re-founding of the American republic following the Civil War. I think its four core values are freedom, equality, solidarity, and inclusion.

Or, to quote a boy in a Scout troop’s merit badge class observed by Tom Gjelten of NPR, ““I would say that the thing that really holds America together, it’s our values. Kinda like freedom and, like, respect to everybody.”

John M. Barry on tension between Winthrop’s and Roger Williams’ vision — both anchored in Calvinist idea of covenanted community, but Winthrop was all about a theocracy to enforce conformity to the covernant while Williams seems to have come up with idea of soul libertie or freedom of conscience and put it to work in Providence.

Gorski adds to list of Founders — at the risk of carrying it farther than he would go, I’d call it a pantheon of America’s civil religion — people like Jane Addams and Dr. King. I would add Roger Williams


I don’t mean to imply that the Swedes suddenly became inclusive Christians, to use Wuthnow’s term. Far from it. In fact, Esbjorn soon lost whatever inclusive tendencies may have had in Sweden as he recoiled from the exclusive claims of frontier Methodists and Baptists. Inclusivity wasn’t part of the Zeitgist in the upper Mississippi valley of the 1850s. The kind of ad hoc arrangement he and Paul Andersen made with the American Home Missionary Society was about as inclusive as it got in those days days, and it had its limits. When the Augustana Synod came into being, it would fight its own battles along these lines. xxx “unionism” xxx Galesburg rule — Lutheran preachers in Lutheran pulpits xxx — Its very name reflected a strict insistence on the unaltered Augsburg Confession of 1530. But by leaving the multi-ethnic Synod of Northern Illinois and setting up their own Scandinavian-American enclave, the added to the religious diversity of 19th-century America. They were not the only ethnic group to do so.

Bray — (the guy from Calvin, whatever his name is) etc.

Daniel T. Rodgers, As a City on a Hill: The Story of America’s Most Famous Lay Sermon (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2018), 270-71.

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