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Robert Mathews founded the Kingdom of Matthias in the 1830s. He was an American businessman, authority in his religion, and carpenter. Various names for Robert were assigned to him based on his actions.
He was referred to by various names, including Jesus Matthias, Matthias the Prophet, and Joshua, the Jewish Minister. He was able to persuade three people to start businesses in New York City, and the four of them worked together to found a cult that they subsequently dubbed the Kingdom of Matthias. Joshua, who was orphaned at a young age and was born in a farming community in Cambridge, led a contentious existence that eventually resulted in his imprisonment. He successfully convinced three New York businessmen called Sylvester Mills, Elijah Pierson, and Benjamin Folger to give him lots of money and two houses with a promise that he would give them abundance in the Kingdom of Heaven. This was actually what Robert was arrested for when Folger went bankrupt. He was accused of obtaining money by pretense (Bruce 13). Upon his release, he traveled to Ohio and met Joseph Smith under the false name of Joshua the Jewish Minister. They discussed the resurrection of Jesus and reincarnation. He claimed to be the reincarnation of both the apostle Matthias and God. He also told people and Joseph that he was the literal descendant of Mathias the Apostle and that transfiguration of the soul went from father to son.
This was the beginning of creating the Kingdom that was called the Kingdom of Matthias. It was eventually caught up in bankruptcy, adultery, and murder that later made Robert jailed again. This essay will discuss what the Kingdom of Matthias followers’ critiques of the world around them in the United States of America of the mid-19th century tell us about the most significant changes in the North during this period.
The followers of the kingdom of Matthias perceived the world as a place full of evil people and believed that everyone must join them or perish. They believed that economic failures were being created by market revolution and therefore they preached of a world of no market, no buying, no money, no selling, and no wage system. These principles say much about the northern people of the United States of America, where the kingdom was headquartered. In the 19th century, it appears that the people of USA, especially in the north, were too naïve to think for themselves. They were easily deceived (Johnson and Wilentz 15). The Christian world also had a lot of confusions. Matthias’ promise to Folger and others that they are guaranteed the kingdom of heaven if they give him their wealth, money, and buildings was an irrefutable evidence of the confusion and naivety that rocked the northern USA during the 19th century. This made it difficult for the people to differentiate the truth from pretense and misinformation. Moreover, the fact that Mathews was able to convince Elijah that he was the descendant of Matthias the Prophet so easily was a clear sign of the deception that was going on the northern side.
The followers of the Kingdom of Matthias criticized the enemies of the Jews. Matthias himself claimed that Jews did not kill Jesus and those who were saying so would perish. Such belief showed that the people of the north could not verify the information they were given. People were obedient to their prophet and priests and did not question some of the things that they were saying (Johnson and Wilentz 15). With all this, the Kingdom of Matthias is said to have brought significant changes into the northern part of USA. In the Kingdom of Matthias, women were criticized for being demonic and destroying the world if they are empowered. They believed that empowering women is like giving power to the devil to rule the world. This made women even more inferior in the north as they were expected to be obedient not only to their husbands but to the entire society.
The movement of Matthias brought about the formation of many cults by men like him in the north. There was a serious religious competition as each movement claimed to be the only one to have the truth. This was called the second awakening movement; it swept the northern USA and the entire nation. It gave rise to new sects — for example, the Mormons. The fact not to be forgotten is that the Kingdom also brought about the national scandal of sex and fraud activities. People were swindled of their hard-earned cash that the so-called prophet used for his personal interest. “The fathers’ Kingdom had begun”, claimed Matthias with the declaration of the judgment on 20th June 1830 (Pearson 17).
The story of the Kingdom also tells of the changes in the northern life to a bizarre residence of a religious cult. This affected the American culture and brought about rapid economic changes that rocked the northern part as a result of Matthias followers protesting against the economic revolution.
The 19th century was marked by various changes, namely: the market revolution, the technology advancement, changes in the cultural aspect of the society, and social transformation. However, despite these socioeconomic changes, the people of the north of the USA were still attached to the patriarchal society that existed before all these changes (Johnson and Sean 25). This shows that they were resistant to change a matter, which made Matthias use them for his interest.
The women in the 19th century did not have fundamental human rights and were forced to leave a life of no freedom, especially in the northern USA. They had no other choice but to be obedient to their husbands or fathers. “In keeping with his moderate evangelicalism, he publicly condemned luxury and applauded the new domestic influence of women (though he insisted that women’s natural and amiable timidity should keep them out of the sphere of the stronger sex). He insisted, however that church-going ladies could have clothes that were fashionable and also modest” (Johnson and Wilentz 26). This shows how women were intimidated and decisions were made for them. At some point, Robert called them disobedient devils if they showed no sign of respecting all that he needed them to, like his wishes and those of his kingdom.
However, this changed later and when the scandals of the kingdom came to light, some of the things that their leader Robert Matthews advocated for were no longer of any matter. It also changed the community and the American society’s perception and view of the self-proclaimed prophets (Johnson and Sean 27). It stimulated the authorities to investigate what was going on in most big Christian movements. There was little self-control shown, especially with the women. The sex scandal in the church was a sign of how unprincipled people actually were to use women as sex objects in the name of religion.
In conclusion, the Kingdom of Matthias and its scandals exposed the other side of religion. At that time, the world was changing, people could still get deceived and give out their wealth as did the three men who helped Robert set up the Kingdom. Women underwent difficult moments during the second awakening movement. They were intimidated in the society and mostly used as sex objects in places of worship. Robert Matthews always referred to women as disobedient and devils if they were not following his teachings. The 19th century was marked by the market and technological revolutions, and the followers of the Kingdom of Matthias rejected and protested against them. This shows how the people of the north still had not developed the understanding of the fact that they are free to choose and improve the world by themselves. Instead, they were comfortable with living a primitive, simple life. They left their possessions (and women were considered possessions as well) in the hands of cult leaders like Matthews without questioning. It was expected that things would be different and that people were exposed to a lot of information to help them judge and tell the truth from mere lies.
The Kingdom of Matthias showed how far the people of the north have come with the rise and empowering of women happening as a response to the humiliation they experienced from the lies of self-proclaimed prophets or people in the cult. It is also at this period of time that the people started to protest against market revolution to turn the world into a place of no buying, no market, and no money. This could have been the most difficult life if it had been to succeed. Who would have produced goods and provided services for free or how was the society going to operate? The idea was the worst and seeing that the law caught up with this movement was the best news. From our point of view, at least.
Dickson D, Bruce. Earnestly Contending: Religious Freedom and Pluralism in Antebellum America. University of Virginia Press, 2013.
Johnson, Paul E., and Sean Wilentz. The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America. OUP USA, 2012.
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