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

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


  • Norelius reminsecence of Esbjörn

Northern Illinois Synod

  • Open with ____ Harkey at Geneva dedication


  • 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

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