by Jack Levison
Deeply felt spirituality. Who wouldn’t want that? Reckless abandon. Religious ecstasy, even.
This sensibility lies at the heart of the American religious experience. During the most famous American camp meeting, the Cane Ridge Revival of 1801, one observer looked on in amazement:
To see those proud young gentlemen and young ladies, dressed in their silks, jewelry, and prunella, from top to toe, take the jerks, would often excite my risibilities. The first jerk or so, you would see their fine bonnets, caps, and combs fly; and so sudden would be the jerking of the head that their long loose hair would crack almost as loud as a wagoner’s whip.*
My wife, Priscilla Pope-Levison, whose book Building the Old Time Religion will be out this fall, has told me the dirty little secret that after many revivals—nine months later to be exact—a whole lot of women who attended those revivals gave birth. Evidently, more than just bonnets, caps, and combs came flying off.
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