Outbreaks of religious mass enthusiasm, often inspired by
a new wave of spiritual fervor andor in reaction to persecution.
They have often been accompanied by a variety of paranormal
manifestations, such as luminous phenomena, aerial music,
miraculous healing, speaking in tongues, and prophecy.
From June 1688 to February 19, 1689, five to six hundred
prophets emerged in France (in Dauphiny and in the Vivarez)
as a result of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV
and the consequent persecution of Protestants. Under its effect,
eight thousand seers were counted in Languedoc in the first
There hardly was a house that did not have its inspired orators.
Even children prophesied in tongues unknown to them.
Heavenly music was heard day and night in the air, tongues of
fire were observed and, in at least one case, the ordeal of the
pyre was harmlessly undergone by the entranced leader Claris.
Cavalier, Roland, and Marion, the organizers of the insurgency,
were all inspired orators. The army which they assembled
chose its own chief by their gifts of the spirit.
The great Irish revival in 1859 and the Welsh revival in 1904
were accompanied by similar phenomena, especially the sound
of unearthly music and the sight of inexplicable lights.
The Reverend John Crapsey of Brookfield, Tioga County,
was quoting the words of Jesus on the cross when
‘‘a mighty invisible power seemed suddenly to possess him,
and a luminous appearance scintillated upon and around his
hand, shining with brilliant effulgence in the eyes of all beholders.
Under an impulse which I could not resist, I sprang from
the desk out upon the middle of the floor into the midst of the
congregation. Fire and pillars of smoke and luminous light
rose up bodily in our midst; men, women and even stammering
children were seized, speaking with new tongues, and uttering
prophecies. Prayers and exhortations were poured forth in
abundance, and many of the congregation broke out into the
most marvelous and heavenly singing.’’
McLoughlin, in Modern Revivalism (1959) cites three great
revival periods in the United States history, each lasting about
a generation, each spurred on by national periods of intellectual
and cultural conflict and change. The First Great Awakening
(1725–1750) followed a period of colonial growth prior to the
Revolution, featuring the immigration of the religiously persecuted.
The Second Great Awakening (1797–1835), emerged as
the new United States sought to establish its identity, expanding
its political boundaries through western expansion.
The Second Great Awakening, in particular, emerged out of
the rural camp meetings of Tennessee and Kentucky, on the
western borders of the burgeoning United States. One of the
most famous of these camps took place over five successive days
in August of 1801. As many as 10,000 to 30,000 traveled to east
of Paris, Kentucky from parts throughout the East and Midwest,
to listen to ministers from the Presbyterian, Methodist,
and Baptist churches preach adherence to fundamental Christian
‘‘. . .from rotting stumps, fallen tree trunks, horse-drawn
wagons, and makeshift platforms, they sermonized and admonished,
cajoled and exulted, often all at the very same
time. . .As many as 3000 to 5000 made their confessions of faith
right there, many displaying involuntary physical convulsions
as evidence of their heart-felt conversions they jerked and
twitched, barked and bayed, sang and chanted, cried like babies,
and fainted dead away, often remaining unconscious for
hours on end.’’
The Third Great Awakening (1875–1915) followed the Reconstruction
Period after the Civil War, as the country attempted
to redefine itself as it moved toward the Industrial Revolution.
Each of these Awakening periods swept through the
growing nation, creating new sects, reviving old ones, and inspiring
an infectious spiritual fervor. Among the most famous
evangelists of the Great Awakenings included Charles Finney,
Dwight Moody, and Billy Sunday, each paving the way for revivalists
of future generations.
A peculiar form of revivalism is said to have arisen by the
late twentieth century, culminating with the explosion of television
evangelists in the politically conservative 1980s. Televangelists
such as Oral Roberts, Billy Graham, Jimmy Swaggert,
Jerry Falwell, and Jim and Tammy Bakker reached huge audiences
through broadcast and cable television, virtually recreating
the Great Awakenings’ revivalist meetings in the American
living room. These televangelists reflected much of the same
fervor, fundamentalism, and showmanship of 19th century
preachers. Scandals erupted among some of them in 1987, but
by then the phenomenon of the televised revival had affixed itself
to the modern cultural landscape. (See also Convulsionaries
of St. Médard; Pentecostalism; snake-handling; Tremblers
of the Cevennes)
Buchanan, Paul D. Historic Places of Worship. Jefferson, N.C.
McFarland and Co., Inc., 1999.
Grey, E. Howard. Visions, Previsions and Miracles in Modern
Times. London L. N. Fowler, 1915.
Hadden, Jeffrey K. and Shupe, Answen. Televangelism. New
York Henry Holt and Co., 1988.
Kelsey, Morton T. Tongue Speaking. Garden City, N.Y.
Doubleday, 1964.
Lewis, Mrs. J. The Awakening in Wales. London Marshall;
New York Revell, 1905.
McLoughlin, William G. Modern Revivalism Charles Grandison
Finney to Billy Graham. New York The Ronald Press Co.,
Simson, Eve. The Faith Healer Deliverance Evangelism in
North America. ConcordiaPyramid, 1977.