The Kingdom of Matthias depicts a classical 19th century of American religious revivalism, describes a story of sex, society and religion. The core theme of the book centers on the impact of the Second Great Awakening concerning on the lives of the American people and the society.
The main characters in the story center to Elijah Pearson and Robert Matthews, whereby the protagonist (Robert Matthews) introduced him as the Prophet of the God of the Jews – Matthias. Robert Matthews was born to a Scot family in 1788 in New York. Their family belongs to Anti-Burgher Secession Church, a splinter of Scots Presbyterian Church (Johnson and Wilentz, 1995). Like the many of the Christian sects, the Anti-Burgher Secession Church deflects involvement to government affairs, complies strict observance of Sabbath and its beliefs. Elijah Pearson is a businessman who fell from the spell of Matthias. His belief to raise his wife from the dead makes it easy for Matthias to control him. The character of Pearson displays his ignorance and unawareness to a true preacher and to a real belief/religion.
THE SECOND GREAT AWAKENING
During 1820-1840, many false prophets came into appearance, confusing American people for a true religion. Just like any other false prophets that came, Robert Matthews proclaims his own religious visions and tricked his followers for salvation, beliefs and clams of riches. The reawakening of religion was used by religious leaders including Matthias for publicity and used their skills and strategies to preach religion for fame. In the story, Robert Matthews was arrested for killing Elijah Pierson, on one of his devoted followers and accused of adultery with one of his follower’s wife. With the unethical values Matthias displays in front of his followers, they still believed to Matthias and his preaching. The character of the protagonist in this story portrays how Matthias deceived his people and his characters tells how he can be worst than anybody. The book indirectly implies how is the Holy Bible can be misinterpreted and abuse by false prophets and religious leaders. In 19th century where people fall for religion and spiritualism, they did not scrutinize people teaching the Bible. This affects the society as a whole and specifically men and women and their social living. On the other hand, the Kingdom of Matthias was one of the minority groups fighting for economic repression, liberty and freedom for the poor. The trial of Matthias for the crimes he committed reflects to the point in time in history of America where there were changes in social living and economic condition.
The cult movements portrayed in the story were results of the beginnings of Mormons, sweeping of many Evangelical churches, Baptist, and other branches of Christian religion. The study of unusual and unrepresentative people from the past could be our model in taking the lead for a change. Matthias could be a model not because of his crimes and his core values but for the reason that he led the way for a change, change in the notion about Christianity, about oppression and social representation, and detachment of government from religious affairs. The issue of patriarchy also came into concern from this story. Today, men and women are treated equal but with exceptions that men are the foundations of the family. Women also play a major role of a family.
Johnson, P. E. and S. Wilentz. 1995. The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America (Oxford University Press)