Discuss U.S. Religious History: A Case Of The West Coast

U.S. Religious History: A case of the West Coast

The religious history of the West Coast was not as smooth as was expected or thought to be. The arrival of the early missionaries left starvation and death in their wake so as to force the natives into accepting Christianity. This however also was not for their good as the parish compounds were camps of forced labor. Previously used to build their houses out of wood and reeds, the cathedrals were to be made of bricks. The new converts were obliged to do all these manual labor and were not allowed out of the compounds without express permission contrary to the freedom they had been promised. This caused a series of conflicts within the churches as well as outside the churches too.

In the seventeenth century, Spain kept New Mexico as the Franciscan enclave devoted to the conversion of the indigenous inhabitants to Christianity. In 1599 a revolt in Ácoma was viciously covered up by Juan de Oñate. These actions of the native Spaniards surprised all of the Pueblos, and these were not to be forgotten. The tensions became greater than before among Spanish soldiers looking for wealth, priests in search of money to build their churches, along with the Indians that had to generate the riches (Bridgers)

Between the year 1644 and 1675, the Indians continually revolted against these better-armed, well-organized Spaniards, yet these rebellions were rapidly suppressed. In the1660s as well as the 1670s, famine and abnormally soaring temperatures made their life more and more difficult for the Indians plus the Spaniards too. The Spaniards went ahead and seized the Indian property along with their crops. The decade of more isolated unrest did culminate in the union of most of the pueblos with the other communities in opposition to the Spaniards (Gaustad and Schmidt).

The compelling Tewa leader Popé in 1680 led a successful rebellion against these Spaniards, called The Great Pueblo Revolt. All through the higher Rio Grande basin to the north of El Paso up to Taos, Tiwa, Tewa, Zuni, Hopi along with the other pueblos (Keresan-speakers), with even other non-pueblo Apaches concurrently revolted against all the Spanish. Those Spaniards that were able to flee fled towards Santa Fe. There, also they were overwhelmed by a joint army of a range of tribes equipped with Spanish weaponry. Following several days of fighting, the Spaniards were able to break through the cordon and went on to flee south to El Paso. Effectively The Pueblo Rebellion finished the Spanish rule within New Mexico for the subsequent twelve years. Nevertheless, Popé died leaving the de facto confederacy of the pueblos falling apart. Given that there had been no Spanish troops to provide protection, the long-standing enemy of the Pueblo people, the Apache along with the Navajo, began their attack. The next Spanish governor of their territory, Diego de Vargas Zapata, began the unbeaten political and military re-conquest in 1692 (Ahlstrom and Hall).

Within the church, a lot was not going according to plan. Lamy, the representative of the 19th century French ultramontane Catholicism, was resolute to replicate the French manner of being a Catholic in the areas of New Mexico. Lamy was not fond of the festivities, the art, or even the penances of the Hispanic people. He was able to replace the Santos by the plaster saints along with the colored lithographs; he tried to repress the traditional fandangos- social dances; moreover, he sought to stifle the Penitentes, a brotherhood that carried out works of charity along with strict physical penances. While New Mexico was a portion of Mexico, the tithes to the Catholic Church were a civil requirement. The Don Martínez, a wealthy property owner who had used his property to assist the poor, convinced the local Mexican Assembly to do away with the tithe since they weighed so greatly upon the underprivileged (Albanese).

As Lamy arrived, he was resolute to put up the church as an establishment with the convents and the schools and the hospitals all which required funds to achieve. Various funds were sent from France; however, he reinstituted these tithes and imposed them by denying sacraments to the people who could not or would not shell out for them. Lamy, then admittedly in a tricky situation, heavy-handedly imposed his decree and his apparition of the church (Bridgers)

Lamy scandalized those Mexican priests who were close to the local people that they didn’t live the private, sober lives – the Mexican priests had also been seen to dance. He expelled them for the least real or imagined violation and then imported more French priests in their place. After New Mexico became an American territory, Lamy also did insist that these French priests sermonize typically in their imperfect English, with the outcome that the Hispanic parishioners were bewildered.

The clergy in France was able to object to a lot of the contemporary rural culture which had carried over since the Middle Ages. Among those bones of contention involving the young men along with the clergy was the issue of dancing. The Priests, counting the Curé of Ars, John Vianney, would refuse pardon to the men except if they promised to give up the dancing (James). However, the dancing that the clergy found so offensive was the customary circle and line dancing, not the intimate body-to-body dancing. The priests also established that most saints’ day feasts and pilgrimages were also objectionable, seeing as they were conducted by the laity as well as not controlled by their clergy. Lamy also implemented similar instructions.

The Chinese Exclusion Act became the first central law to restrict immigration to the United States of America. It was endorsed in response to the economic fears, particularly on the West Coast, where the native-born Americans accredited joblessness and the declining wages to the Chinese workers that they also considered as racially lesser. On 6th May 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law by then-President Chester A. Arthur. It successfully halted the Chinese immigration for ten years and banned the Chinese from being United States citizens. With the Geary Act of 1892, that law was further extended for a further ten years before being made permanent in 1902. Following the Gold Rush of 1849, more Chinese immigrants were attracted to the West Coast as the center of economic prospect where, for instance, they did help to build the original transcontinental railroad via working from 1864 to 1869 in the Central Pacific. The Chinese Exclusion Act did foreshadow the immigration-restraint acts of the 1920s, concluding in the National Origins Act of 1929 that capped by and large immigration to the United States at just 150,000 annually and banned Asian migration (Ahlstrom and Hall).

That law was rescinded by the Magnuson Act of 1943 in the course of the World War II when China was a partner in the conflict against Regal Japan. Nonetheless, that 1943 act still permitted no more than 105 Chinese immigrants each year, reflecting enduring intolerance in opposition to the Chinese in the American immigration policy. The prejudice continued until the Immigration Act of 1965 that eliminated the previous national origins documents that major Chinese immigration into the United States was permitted to commence again following a gap of over eighty years (Ahlstrom and Hall). While Christianity continued its journey throughout the United States, Buddhism also arrived. Buddhism has seen incredible growth within the United States over recent years, owing to a huge number of factors counting migration, religious diversity, international travel, religious freedom, and the internet. The initial major event regarding Buddhism in the United States of America was with the assembly of the World’s Faiths held in Chicago in 1893. That marked the earliest time a delegate from the Buddhist nations, for instance, China, Japan, and Thailand got a public opportunity in the United States of America. It was as well the first revelation of many American Christians to the Buddhism beliefs. In the next Fifty years, Japan was able to send large numbers of Buddhists to America to spread Buddhism even to the American communities. The Zen Buddhism, especially, was well received, first and foremost due to the labors of D. T. Suzuki. He began to put in writing books in the English language on the Zen Buddhism. A huge variety of the forms of Buddhism existed in the United States of America; the immigrants from Japan, China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Korea, among others all brought their distinct local varieties of Buddhism to the United States of America. The bulk of Buddhists in the United States are of Asian origin, although the number of the non-Asian American Buddhists continued increasing (Gaustad and Schmidt)

The West Coast religious history brought a lot with it. While the Christians brought with them death and starvation to the natives, the Asians, on the other hand, provided cheap labor. The early arrival of Christianity may have played a huge role in making it the most common religion taken up by the natives. Within the west coast, religions came up and spread to the east coast over time. With the making of New Mexico territory of the United States, more religions like Buddhism found their way to the people though not so readily taken up like Christianity.

Works Cited

Ahlstrom, Sydney E., and David D. Hall. A Religious History of the American People. Yale University Press, 2004.

Albanese, Catherine L. America: Religions and religion. Cengage Learning, 2012.

Bridgers, Lynn. The American Religious Experience: A Concise History. Rowman & Littlefield,


Gaustad, Edwin S., and Leigh Schmidt. “The Religious History of America: The Heart of the American Story from Colonial Times to Today, Rev. Ed.” San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, vol. 395, 2002.

James, William. “The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).” American Religious History, 2008, pp. 244–253.