Periodically, since the early eighteenth century, America has gone through a outbursts of explosive religious revivalism, known as Great Awakenings. These episodes, led by Protestant preachers, are characterized by outpourings of intense emotion, predictions of the end of the world, dramatic public "rebirths in Christ," and savage condemnations of the secular, Godless wickedness usually identified as issuing from the big cities. The great New England preacher Jonathan Edwards played a major role in the first of the Great Awakenings, and countless others have followed in his footsteps. [Full disclosure: From 1971-80, I lived in a house in Northampton, MA on the grounds of which were a few quince bushes, said to be descendants of a quince grove in which the young Edwards played as a youth. My first wife and I, somewhat presciently, in 1968 actually considered naming our firstborn Jonathan Edward Wolff, but decided against it when we realized that his initials would be JEW. We settled for Patrick Gideon Wolff.]
Once again, it seems, we are in the midst of a Great Awakening, and the latest politician to hitch his wagon to this comet is none other than Texas Governor Rick Perry, currently meditating a run for the presidency. Perry has invited America to join him in The Response, a national day of prayer and fasting scheduled to take place Aug. 6 in Houston at Reliant Stadium, and he has rounded up a number of hot revivalist preachers to do their stuff at the meeting. One of them has warned that we are all being deluded by attractive, plausible, seemingly benign minions of the Antichrist, prominent among whom is none other than Oprah. A second has alerted us all to the danger of being seduced into the worship of evil gods and goddesses, focusing his minatory attentions on perhaps the most prominent of these false idols, that product of French Masonry, The Statue of Liberty.
For those of you who despair for the survival of the human mind, I can offer only this ray of hope: History suggests that Great Awakenings burn themselves out in a decade or two, and are sometimes followed by upswellings of progressive energies. One can but hope.