‘Awakening’, by Marilynne Robinson

C3ed15a7-cbd0-4b36-ade9-a38b5f6ce788Marilynne Robinson at the Financial Times:

The First and Second Great Awakenings, religious revivals that swept through the midcolonies in the late eighteenth century and the northeastern states in the first third of the nineteenth century, were followed, I have come to realise, by a third awakening in the latter half of the twentieth century, just as I was coming of age. Historians usually treat the earlier awakenings as surges of religious enthusiasm primarily or exclusively, though they are attended by a characteristic cluster of reform movements — enhancements of the status of women, broadening of access to education, mitigations of social and racial inequality. These were consistent even while the demographics of the country changed. The religious and denominational character of the earlier awakenings seems to have been as much a consequence of the old centrality of the churches as centres of civic life as it was a result of their role in stirring religious passion. I hasten to say that in these instances religious passion — and there were occasions of hysteria, fainting fits, visions — led to, and was consistent with, stable and thoughtful social change. The period in the twentieth century I would call the third great awakening was led by the black church, and sooner or later had the support of all the major denominations. But it was not, and is not, understood as an essentially religious movement, though as I have said the distinction between civic and religious is never clear, and was certainly not clear in this case.

more here.