home  |  book  |  blogs  |   RSS  |  contact  |
  An American Manifesto
Sunday August 2, 2015 
by Christopher Chantrill Follow chrischantrill on Twitter













Mutual aid






Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15


Chapter 12:
The Fourth Great Awakening

| (1) | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | next>> |print view

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.” —James M. Ault, Jr.

DURING THE LAST HALF of the twentieth century, the United States experienced a period of unusual spiritual ferment and renewal.  As we have seen, the spiritual outburst is a normal and recurrent phenomenon in post-Columbian North America.  Colonial North America began with a Puritan Awakening; the United States was born of the First Great Awakening;  the Civil War was provoked by a Second Great Awakening, and the century of the welfare state was inspired by a Third Great Awakening.  According to William G. McLoughlin and Robert William Fogel, these Awakenings represent a spontaneous upwelling of human spiritual torment, a shared feeling that something is amiss, neither specifically personal or social.  According to their taxonomy, the present ferment deserves the title of the Fourth Great Awakening. 

The sociology of religion developed by Rodney Stark also comprehends this continual upwelling of religious enthusiasm.  His Theory of Religion presents his approach:

All humans share the desire for very general rewards, such as everlasting life, which seem unavailable to anyone this side of paradise.  Such unfulfilled desires serve as a universal motive for religion.  In addition, the powerful want religion to support their position of privilege and their superior level of rewards, while the powerless want forms of religion more saturated with specific compensators and in tension with the sociocultural environment dominated by the powerful. (Stark, Bainbridge 1996 p315)

The way in which these desires play out, according to Stark, is in the opposing forces of secularization and revival.  The slow relaxation of religious feeling in the process of secularization is continually interrupted and reversed by the formation of new high-tension cults and sects.  Long established churches tend to live in a relaxed relationship with the surrounding society.  But this relaxation dilutes the power of the compensators—such as the promise for eternal life in the next world—that are the very essence of religion.  In the relaxed climate of weak compensators new cults and sects get formed by people who seek either a new way to experience and express the rewards of religion or a way to intensify an old way by revival and purification.  Following each Awakening or revival is another period of secularization, as the newly formed high tension cults and sects slowly reduce their distance from the surrounding culture and as the members of the sects become more powerful and want to connect with and influence the surrounding society.  The mainstream churches of the United States that cater to the comfortable are secularized churches that were once high tension sects.  The Presbyterians and Congregationalists were once Puritans; the Methodists once recruited members by revivals and hellfire sermons.  The high-tension sects of the early twenty-first century like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the numerous Pentecostal churches will probably become, over the course of years, more relaxed and secularized.  According to Stark’s theory, the Fourth Great Awakening should represent an unusually large crop of cults and sects that are filling the gap left by the secularizing main-line churches that provide for their members only weak and unconvincing general compensators for the desires that people experience for rewards not available in this world.

In the analysis of McLoughlin and Fogel, the story of the North American Awakenings was entwined with their own “likely story.”  They wanted to construct a narrative that demonstrated the important role that progressive academicians and scholars came to fill in the twentieth century and ought to continue to fill in the twenty-first century.  To confirm their importance, they differentiated the spiritual leaders of each Awakening into two groups: “old lights” and “new lights,” borrowing from the taxonomy of the first great religious schism in the Great Awakening of the 1740s between Old Side and New Light Presbyterians.  Old lights were those that looked backwards; new lights were those that were trying to find a new way to express their spiritual search.  It was a categorization that helped to shine a light of approval on progressive forces and disapprobation on the cruder aspects of religious revival and the darker side of the sawdust trail.  It was particularly helpful to McLoughlin and Fogel in their analysis of the Third Great Awakening when they wanted to show the old-light preacher Billy Sunday as irrelevant and benighted and Social Gospelers as progressive and inspired.  The problem is that such a division encourages the self-anointed “new lights” to regard their program as the progressive truth and the “old light” program as a reactionary lie.  This happened in 1909 when retired Harvard President Charles Eliot in an address entitled “The Future of Religion” formulated a conception of the Social Gospel that read the old lights out of the magic circle of respectability. (Armstrong 2000 p170)  He inaugurated the great schism between progressive Social Gospelers and conservative fundamentalists that persisted throughout the twentieth century.

The Spiral Dynamics perspective comprehends the analysis of McLoughlin and Fogel and then transcends it.  It sees the old lights as religious leaders who appeal to the people of red consciousness and to their spiritual needs while the new lights, the Social Gospelers, are religious leaders who appeal to people of green consciousness.  It does not find itself attempting to judge the progressiveness or benightedness of the different strains of spiritual experience.  It judges them on their effectiveness at delivering spiritual nourishment to their adherents and helping with spiritual growth, and expects to find that the old-light leaders provided the simple offering of discipline and purpose that red impulsives need to acquire competence in the city, while the new-light leaders offered the vision of a universal community of caring and sharing that provides a menu of spiritual nourishment attractive to those entering a green consciousness.  For the Fourth Great Awakening, the old light/new light analysis is clearly inadequate.  The Fourth Great Awakening is too big, too multifaceted to be limited by such a cramped perspective.

The Spiral Dynamics perspective also comprehends the sociology of religion of Rodney Stark and extends it.  Stark sees the cycle of religious revival and secularization as responding to self-conscious “deprivation.” His analysis does not permit much differentiation of the different kinds of deprivation, although he notes that the recruits to revivals of enthusiastic Christianity tend to be less powerful and less educated than those recruited to cults like Theosophy and Transcendental Meditation.  The Spiral Dynamics perspective, armed with a more differentiated psychology, is able to develop a more nuanced analysis of the process of spiritual renewal.  It sees the cycle of secularization and revival in the Christian churches as a continual process of renewal whereby red impulsives remake a secularizing church  to respond to their needs for a high-tension religion to help them separate from their red roots, and make the journey on the road to the middle class.  As they and their children assimilate into the middle class their need for a high-tension religion dissolves.  Their sect relaxes into a church, and then the church relaxes into secularization.  It sees religious groups like the Mormons, the Brompton Oratory, the Alpha Course, and the religion at work movement as evidence of blue conformists starting to deal with the challenge of orange consciousness, developing the courage to leave the safety of conformism and the moral idiocy of the welfare state into the adventure of a career.  The Spiral Dynamics perspective sees the New Age movement, environmentalism, and the interest in eastern religions as the quest of orange creatives and green communitarians for their own high-tension cults to reflect their feeling of apartness from the mainstream middle-class society.  Naturally, their spiritual needs at the orange/green transition would be different from the needs of red impulsives trying to cope with the challenge of making it in the city or the needs of blue purposives attempting a tentative break out of conformity.

| (1) | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | next>> |print view


Click for Chapter 13: Repairing The Road


Buy the ebook: Road to the Middle Class: only $0.99.


Your comments are welcome. Please e-mail to Christopher Chantrill at mailto:chrischantrill@gmail.com, and take the RMC test here.



The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm

Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust

Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity

Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


©2007 Christopher Chantrill