Is a religious revival breaking out in America?
Worshippers are visiting Asbury University in their droves
About a week ago, some students at a Christian college in America attended a worship service. Wholly unsurprising, you might think.
Well, it would have been, if they’d all gone home again — as people normally do after church. But in this case they haven’t. In fact, ever since, Asbury University has been overflowing with worshippers attending round-the-clock services and prayer meetings. None of this was expected, let alone planned. It appears to be a spontaneous religious revival.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
Nationally, the first commentators to take note were evangelicals like David French (“something profoundly powerful is happening”) and Charlie Kirk (“Asbury University might be the first chapter in a revival which will sweep the nation”). Now, the mainstream media is covering the story — and not only Fox News. For instance, this is the NBC report:
Services have become so popular that they are overflowing into other local churches, and even neighbouring towns. So what precisely is the attraction? While the worship is heartfelt, this is hardly unusual for evangelical America. Judging by the online footage, what’s been going on at Asbury seems comparatively restrained — if somewhat livelier than the average choral evensong.
There are no hellfire preachers whipping up the crowds into a frenzy, nor do we see lavish stage shows of the sort put on by America’s super-slick ‘megachurches’. The fact that this happened spontaneously at an ordinary weekday service in a wood-panelled Wesleyan chapel is filling some observers with hope that it’s the real deal: a genuine outpouring of the power of God.
You don’t need to be an evangelical — or any sort of religious believer — to recognise revival as a social phenomenon. American history has been punctuated by surges of religious enthusiasm, most famously the Second Great Awakening that began in the late 18th century. Quite apart from the personal impact on individual believers, this revival had a transformational effect on American society and politics, not least the rise of the anti-slavery movement.
Is what we’re seeing in Kentucky right now even remotely as significant? It’s too early to tell, of course. It could just fizzle out — or go off the rails. What we do know for sure, however, is that this a viral age. Over and over again, social media has proven its power to accelerate the spread of new movements, especially among young people. Recent examples include the transgender trend, the BLM protests and Greta Thunberg’s rise to global influence.
These have all been dismissed as substitute religions for an irreligious age, but it does the beg a question as to the appeal of actual religion. In particular, why haven’t we seen Christian movements go viral in the ostensibly Christian West?
Given the rise of mental distress among young people, there’s an obviously unmet need out there for purpose, meaning and encouragement. We should pray that the right thing meets it.
A sign that this could be the real thing is the call the university made to Fox News. After being alerted that Fox was arriving on Friday, cameras in hand, the school, asked them politely not to come. They believe the Holy Spirit is at work and, though sympathetic with Fox News generally, no propaganda is needed, thank you very much.
It will be the ‘real deal’, if 1. it lasts, 2. it accepts that repentance is possible, and 3. it rediscovers the power of forgiveness, in place of cancellation.
I enjoyed the article however I must point out that “begging” the question is misused here. Raises the question is more precise and accurate.
When should widespread vernacular usage simply be accepted as such and when is it important to hold to the technical definition?
Thanks for covering this event, of course it could fizzle out, I don’t know how it go off the rails, but in any case as a believer I am heartened that MSM and other sources are noticing. And I hope it will be seen as proof that most Christians aren’t trying to judge and accuse, but to love God and one another.
The First Great Awokening also started in America.
The growth of the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s was followed by the growth of evangelism in some countries and political Islam in others.
Perhaps the social media lead “Great Awokenings” of the 2010s and 2020s will also be followed by literal Great Awakenings of religion.
Am I allowed to say Mass hysteria.
You are however I disagree. Mass hysteria can be found in the media coverage of trans issues, so-called institutional racism and systemic mysogyny, and climate hysteria.
I will clarify, it was a joke. There are a lot worse things these young people could be doing.
And it was a pretty good one B.
It says a good deal about the reaction..
Thanks, I thought so anyway. Maybe I should stick to the emery paper 🙂
Pretty good? I downvoted it, not because it somehow offended my religious sensibilities, but because it was such an obvious and clichéd pun that I didn’t think anyone would seriously post it…
Ouch. Next time I’ll make sure I offend your religious sensibilities and include a clichéd pun.
This is the internet. One says it today and all say it tomorrow. Fashion is another name for these phenomena.
The emphasis on “mass” being a religious service for the down voters missing the pun.
I guess. But Protestants have services, not masses, so it doesn’t quite land.
Holy moly, tough crowd…..
Got the joke. Nice.
“Why haven’t we seen Christian movements go viral. . . ?”
The author’s examples of “viral” content–gender bending, racial guilt and grievance, climate hysteria–are detached from reality, whereas Christianity is based in reality. Being detached from reality is a key feature of “online” movements.
“Viral” content–when it isn’t produced by professionals, despite being meant to appear otherwise–“replicates” itself when users see the chance to make a buck, gain notoriety or satisfy emotional yearnings. Your average Christian, having Christianity, is unlikely to feel the need to indulge these cravings.
The internet is a cesspool of pornography, “therapy” and of course endless misunderstandings and outright about Christians. A default browser will pump propaganda onto a user’s “home screen.” Commonplace apps are laden with [email protected] pr!de notifications, w uh an f lu hysteria (recall many churches were forced to remain closed during the Dem panic) and [email protected] tion fundraising. Being sacred, Christianity really has no place in say, a tik tok clip, alongside this garbage.
(On the other hand, is it possible that Christian content exists, and is overlooked by this author?)
I will say I can easily envision some prosperity gospel preacher, therapy guru evangelist or social justice warrior neo-Puritan giving viral content creation a go.
The problem with it is it’s Christless. It’s about love and worship, and spreading love to others, and so ultimately its self focused, and there’s no objective external good news of who Christ is, what he has done, and what faith in him attains. Therefore its not really a Christian revival, but more of an unbiblical inward focused psudo-Christian pietism movement.
you said 5 days ago:
The problem with it is it’s Christless. who are you to say this?It’s about love and worship
who do you think they are loving, and worshipping and spreading love to others, and so ultimately its self focused,
how can it be self focused when they are spreading the love to others, obviously you are double minded, read your own words
and there’s no objective external good news of who Christ is, what he has done, and what faith in him attains. Therefore its not really a Christian revival, but more of an unbiblical inward focused psudo-Christian pietism movement.
i would be VERY CAREFUL saying it is not CHRISTIAN. YOU BORDER LINE THE UNPARDONABLE OFFENSE BY SAYING THAT THIS SOVEREIGN MOVE OF GOD ALMIGHTY IS NOT CHRISTIAN.
FINALLY, HAVE YOU BEEN THERE?
My original comment disappeared so I will try again. Maybe I break a new record in the number of downvotes a post can get.
I hope this is a fad. We need to move on from the bronze age dogma.
Move on to what, though? Wasn’t the whole purpose of religion to remove us from Bronze Age dogma?
Good question Julian. I believe that we need to move to a post-religion world where ideas that shape our society can be questioned, changed based on evidence. In other words they are not dogmas.
Religion will always exist, whether in technology cults, pagan climate cults or statism or worship of God.
Paula, I think that you are right. And I hope we continue to recognize that and change.
Bourgeois social media driven viral contagion, nothing more. 24/7 services and prayer aren’t really new. International House Of Prayer has been doing that for decades. The only difference is Tik-Tok.
It’ll be a Tik Tok fad, nothing more
With any luck they’ll all start whipping themselves.
I hope this is a fad. As peoples we need to liberate ourselves from the bronze age dogma.
Oh my yes! The last thing the world needs is love, after all.
I agree with you Warren that the world could use more love. But, are the whole 66 books of the Protestant bible all love?
I looked up the Bronze Age and learnt that it was roughly from 3300 BC to 1200 BC. I learnt nothing about the prevailing dogmas of those two thousand years or so, but I imagine they varied from place to place and changed quite a bit over that time. Could you enlighten us as to precisely which Bronze Age dogmas we need to liberate ourselves from?
“Bronze Age” is fairly new term I am seeing in many articles and responses. It is just one of those trendy disparaging terms that people pick up in their echo chambers on social media.
Agreed. “Bronze Age” seems to be the new “caveman” or less-than-human capable of independent thought. Please just come out and state your hateful insult. It would save us cavepersons a lot of time trying to sort through your Enlightened, smart-person big werds.
Daniel, I didn’t mean to be hateful. Apologies.
Warren, I didn’t intend for my comment to be disparaging. Apologies.
Good catch Andrew. I was referring to Christianity as that is the religion that the article was about. Some books of the old testament were written in the Bronze Age period. Christianity broadly repackage older myths that do come from the Bronze age. My larger point is that we need to be liberated from the dogma (in this case Christianity) still stands.
Didn’t we (sorry, they) try that (liberat[ing] ourselves from the bronze age dogma)” with Marx, Stalin and Lenin?
Now Mr Global is trying VERY HARD with the ?CCP, UN, WHO, WEF-Gates clique clamping us all down in CCTV suburbs, “Jabbin’ in the name of the Science” – apologies to Bob Marley.
Is that working?
I think of communism as a dogma too. Not sure that others are, but I am open to hearing more.
Join the discussion
To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.
Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.Subscribe