The eighteenth century was a time of significant change in the perception of marriage and family relations, the emphasis of reason over revelation, and the spread of political consciousness. The Unity of the Brethren, known in America as Moravians, experienced the resulting tensions firsthand as they organized their protective religious settlements in Germany. A group of the Brethren who later settled in Salem, North Carolina, experienced the stresses of cultural and generational conflict when its younger members came to think of themselves as Americans.
The Moravians who first immigrated to America actively maintained their connections to those who remained in Europe and gave them the authority for deciding religious, social, and governmental issues. But, as the children born in Salem became acclimated to more freedoms, particularly in the wake of the American Revolution, a series of disputes intensified the problems of transatlantic governance. While the group's leadership usually associated Enlightenment principles with rebellion and religious skepticism, the younger Brethren were drawn to its message of individual autonomy and creative expression.
Elisabeth Sommer traces the impact of this generational and cultural change among Moravians on both sides of the Atlantic and examines the resulting debate over the definition of freedom and faith.