Tuesday, July 3, 2012


A piece of promotional material announced that the campmeeting season is once again upon us.  I grew up going and enduring.  Later as an adult I returned to the sawdust aisles, funeral home fans, and open air tabernacles by choice. The campmeeeting experience is a unique part of frontier American religious life.  Folks would travel and camp out at the meeting place and different preachers would take turns preaching throughout the day so that it seemed like a continuous service.  Shaped by a strong holiness and Wesleyan influence, the preaching would focus on the conversion of sinners and holy living.  Hisorically speaking, it was a time for serious spiritual business.

Perhaps, the brief history lesson explains the reason for my discomfort with the promotional material which encouraged people to attend what was described as a "fun filled week."   It seemed like an invitation to attend a picnic, or amusement park instead of a campmeeting.  When I was forced to go as a boy, I never thought of it as fun.  And while there are things about campmeeting which I enjoy as an adult, "fun" would not be on my list of reasons to go.  Spiritual renewal might be a reason.  Getting re-connected to God and strengthening my faith might be other reasons for attending.

However, the truth is that a "fun filled week" would likely have more appeal than a "week of spiritual renewal."  This speaks volumes about expectations and culture.  Campmeetings no longer call the sinner to repentance, but tend to have as a goal giving everyone a mild dose of religion enabling those who receive it to feel better.  Those sitting in air conditioned tabernacles are more likely to think of themselves as the saints of Sunday rather than the sinners who are in the hands of an angry God.  Bob Dylan nailed it when he got us singing, "The Times They Are A-Changin.'"

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