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The Kingdom of Matthia...
 
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Paul E. Johnson
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The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  330 ratings  ·  29 reviews
In the autumn of 1834, New York City was awash with rumors of a strange religious cult operating nearby, centered around a mysterious, self-styled prophet named Matthias. It was said that Matthias the Prophet was stealing money from one of his followers; then came reports of lascivious sexual relations, based on odd teachings of matched spirits, apostolic priesthoods, and ...more
Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published (first published April 28th 1994)
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Nick
Robert Matthews was an early prototype of what has, sadly, become an American archetype--the charismatic outsider who claims to be a prophet and convinces (and seduces) a band of followers who honor him with monetary and sexual favors. He stands on the fringe of the Second Great Awakening in the New York of the 1830s with a small following, by the standards of Jim Jones and David Koresh. His followers were experienced members of the more extreme religious currents of the times, founding and mism ...more
Valorie
During The Second Great Awakening’s religious revival of evangelicalism, Robert Matthews- the self-appointed prophet Matthias- was one of many to create and spread his own ultimately doomed religion, a patriarchal Kingdom of Truth in which Matthias sat at the head as the Father and redeemer. Matthias and his Kingdom were one of many religions developed and spread during the early 1800s, and many of Matthias’ teachings were similar to those of other prophets and seers more successful in populariz ...more
Christopher
An interesting book on a rather bizarre occurrence of religious zeal mixed with insanity during early 19th century America. It's hard to believe at times that it is really a book about an actual event as the authors write it in an almost storybook way. The story holds up most of the time, the only time where it really breaks down in the telling of how Matthias' kingdom came down. There is so much backstabbing going on that I would have to read it all over again to understand everything fully. Pl ...more
Annette
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steven Wedgeworth
A fascinating and bizarre story about a 19th cent. cult that anticipates all of the commonly-expected features of a charismatic leader who takes advantage of his followers, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. The final page of the book gives it its most intriguing twist, connecting the Matthias cult to a famous civil rights icon. The Kingdom of Matthias deals with a very fringe group, but it does give you a glimpse of the hysteria involved in the 2nd Great Awakening and its offshoots.
Shelley
This short book chronicles one of the more (most?) bizarre religious fringe movements of the Second Great Awakening and aftermath. I was arrogant enough to think I knew almost all of them, but not this (admittedly very small) one.

In fewer than 200 pages of text, you'll be on a roller coaster of a crazy, bizarre sex-and-religion scandal from antebellum America; it reads very quickly, even if you're not up on fringe religious movements. I mean, sex and religion scandals are sex and religious scan
...more
Cassandra
Interesting argument about the market revolution and religious fervor. The importance of the penny press was also an important thread. I wish I had been paying more attention to Isabella, but I'm not so interested that I'll back track and re-read any of it.
Justin
The Second Great Awakening is the most fascinating part of American history to me and this is an exhaustive account of one of the many emerging prophets. It's also a perfect balance between research and narrative which is kind of rare for books like this.
Nicole
Oct 29, 2008 Nicole added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Elisha, Angie
This academic history is actually a page-turner - you're constantly wanting to know what happens next, and it's got a jaw-dropping ending.

It's also a very quick read. I highly recommend it!
Richard
Johnson and Wilentz use the history of the "Kingdom of Matthias" as a microcosm representative of many of the the social and religious phenomenon endemic to the last decades of antebellum America. In the authors' capable hands the narrative of the "prophet" Matthias and his followers functions as a pristine photo negative drawing into stark relief the character of the times by virtue of the contrast existing between Matthias's revelations and the dominant religious world view of Finneyite reviva ...more
Matthew
The title of this book is somewhat misleading. It's a really wonderful examination of religious belief in America. It tells the story of a cult in New York led by this Matthias character - and so what if it all happened over a century ago? it happened again in Waco in my lifetime - the similarities are astonishing - and the cults that are born in the future will no doubt share the same characteristics.

The value of this work is that it helps the reader understand how a group of people could be in
...more
John
This is a great little microhistory about a tiny corner of the 2nd Great Awakening - this misogynistic crackpot who got a little wife-swapping, patriarchal millennialist cult going in NYC in the early 19th century. This story was apparently all the rage in the early NYC tabloid press, but it is all but forgotten today. If you know vaguely about the great awakening but you always kind of wondered what it was like on the ground, when the burned over district was getting burned over and new religio ...more
Lauren
I was hopelessly absorbed by this little book. American cults and cult leaders fascinate me; I once lost a week to the Jim Jones documentary. This bit from the very end of the book gave me chills: cult leaders "speak not to some quirk of the moment or some disguised criminal intention, but to persistent American hurts and rages wrapped in longings for a supposedly bygone holy patriarchy" (173). Damn, girl. I will likely keep reading about the "virile charismatic prophets of apocalypse," and ragi ...more
Janine
Well written and very readable as a true story. This true story provided insight into reasons why someone would form a family which was very cult-like as well as why people would join one. Patriarchy, class issues, gender roles, and perverse sexual roles are illuminated, as well as misguided interpretations of the Bible and messages from God, the dangers of religious fever and fanaticism, and one woman's search for the truth. An offering of historical insights to keep in mind.
Jo
This was a "have to read" for my American History class. It actually wasn't too bad. Almost read as historical fiction, but in fact it was non-fiction. The story of the market revolution and Second Great Awakening that greatly influenced the lives of Elijah Pierson and Robert Matthews (Mattias). Led them to attempt to establish a Utopian society. The story is full of scandal, sex, religion, mystery and crime. The very best element was the surprise ending!
Scott
I was assigned this book for a class on religion in the US and I loved it. I literally could not put the book down and found it to be a real page turner. Johnson explores the American peculiarities which enabled the Burnt Over District to give birth to new religions as diverse as Mormonism. And then there's the actual story of Matthias the self-styled prophet who started a utopian society in upstate New York before finally falling to obscurity in history.
Nathan
Where do crazy prophets come from? America, apparently. Individualism, laziness, a yearning for more, and poor moorings in Church history turn out men like Matthias. This book helps me see the importance of a healthy church family, hard work, and Biblical humility. It's a historical survey of a very marginal cult, but not any different from more mainstream cults like Mormonism.
Kate
this was actually a book i had to read for a history class in college, and then oddly enough it ended up being a catalyst in deciding the venue for my wedding. Part of the odd religious "cult" in this book is sort of once removed related to the Utopian community that created the mansion where we are having our ceremony.
Meredith
This may be the best non-fiction book I have ever read. In fact, it may be one of my favorite books of all time! It is historical research about 19th century religion, but it reads like a seedy novel. The end is so shocking, that the last sentence actually made me cry out loud!
christina white
Mar 21, 2007 christina white rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: folks interested in religion and or history
I originally read this book because it starts out in my hometown area of Coila, New York, and was very interested in the history provided. However, what really drew me in was the discussion of religious cults, apparently of which the Kingdom of Matthias was an early one. Fascinating.
Doug Adamson
Interesting read. The sub-title is more titilating than the contents warrant (not that I'm complaining). The story could serve as a warning against being too zealous and too undiscerning in one's devotion.
Corinne
I'm reading this book for my "United States to 1877" History class. Fom what I'm reading of the reviews on here, it's both interesting and a quick read. I'm only a few pages in so far...
Tessa
I loved this book. It's a great historical narrative with scandal, a cult, sex, and crime all rolled up in one. For history buffs, it has a surprise ending too.
Jerry Landry
I read this one back in college. Pretty good from what I remember. Not one of my favorites, but not one I hated either.
Whitney Oaks
I had to read this for my college history class. It was interesting, but I hated reading it.
Gabriel Orgrease
i like reading about religious fanatics, this is a very good read about a 19th c nut case
Bob
I read this for a history class in college a long time ago.
Amanda Raley
Ugh. History-related books. Why.
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