Music at Cane Ridge

Music at Cane Ridge consisted of singing hymns developed for revivalism. They were influenced by the Black experience and had the beat of voodoo and folksongs. This awakening marked the end of singing Biblical songs.

Competing forces restored the laughing and other kinds of exercises and influenced Caneridge and the Second American Awakening. Later members of the church appealed to choirs and instruments to pull the church out of the dumps by getting the wine to ferment again. Our collective memory is indeed short and distorted. The restoration movement theme of back to the bible is certainly better than back to paganism.

The witch craze in New England was a result of competition between the older "tribal" preachers and a new preacher. The preacher who could create the greatest revival would be the "king for the year." Consistent with all revivalism, many innocent victims have to be sacrificed to "relight the fires." In fact, in the now-popular Aztec revival image, a victim's chest was cut open, the still-breathing heart was cut out, and a new "fire" was lit in his heartless chest. This fire created at the central sanctuary by the revival high priest was then rushed back to the "little dwellings" or congregations and was used to restore life to the local houses for a year. The world was safe for another year, the sky would not fall, Venus or Athene (probably) would not attack the earth but we have to rush back next year to do it all over again. This is consistent with the "high" we get from the Sunday fix which wears off before the day is over. The Aztecs also had their 52 year and 52 week restoration movement program. Call it "Jubilee" or call it "the New Year's Festival."

"As early as 1794, a Methodist church in North Carolina held meetings in the forests for several days and nights" (Jennings, p. 27-28).

"The camp meeting was well introduced by the beginning of the next century. Excitement was intense. This was largely the result of impassioned preaching, earnest exhortation, loud prayers, and energetic singing. Bodily exercises, as dropping, jerking, and barking, often manifested themselves, but since they too often brought disrepute upon religion, they were frequently condemned by the better educated of all denominations." (Jenning, Walter W., Origin and Early History of the Disciples of Christ, p. 28, Standard).

Describing music at Cane Ridge, Conkin notes that: (For the Book)

"Sinners dropping down on every hand, shrieking, groaning, crying for mercy, convoluted; professors of religion praying, agonizing, fainting, falling down in distress, for sinners, or in raptures of joy! Some singing, some shouting, clapping their hands, hugging and even kissing, laughing; others talking to the distressed, to one another, or to opposers of the work, and all this at once--no spectacle can recite a stronger sensation.

And with what is doing, the darkness of the night, the solemnity of the place, and of the occasion, and conscious guilt, all conspire to make terror thrill through every power of the soul, and rouse it to awful attention." (Letter quoted by Conkin, Cane Ridge, p. 93-94).

"Soon the sheer confusion practically subverted the outdoor preaching. Small groups joined in prayer or in loud hymn singing, with singing the most enjoyable group activity and the one that often most affected an audience... More conventional shouts and groans joined with a near babble of speech, some incoherent, some later distinguished as holy laughter or singing." (Conkin, p. 94).

If you listen closely, you will find these same elements present in so-called "Musical Worship Teams" or "Praise Teams." However refined they are by fairly modern harmonic singing, the sounds uniformaly condemned by the Bible are there. The singing was not just "singing." It was a highly-developed style suitable for the tavern or theater but totally rejected for worship. Among restoration movement churches, even after Campbell published his song book, songs were sung without parts to one of only five tunes.

Our point is that the charismatic singing was both the cause and the effect of shutting down the rational, decision making half of the brain. This allows the emotional sounds to slip in uncensored and force the body to do things against its better judgement - and to the considerable embarassment when people sober up from the mental intoxication. (Click Here for some medical evidence)

We insist that "joy" and excitement is the measure of God's work. This flatly contradicts all of the Bible. While the numbers at Caneridge seem to multiply with the telling, Stone estimated that between 500 and 1,000 were converted. It took stone about thirty years to admit that the meetings "did more harm than good." Those who felt that they had been made into fools swore off all religion for life.

"When Lyle came by, he found Burke's audience in an ecstasy of singing and hand-shaking. Burke's new pulpit became the most tumultuous of four centers of activity, including also the tent, the meetinghouse, and a Negro assembly area, probably about 150 yards southeast of the church. Dozens of informal circles or organized or semi-organized prayer groups met at various camping sites." (Conkin, p. 96).

While by Monday most people had to leave and return to their farms, the news had spread and people kept coming until organized effort ceased on Thursday. Of these events:

"They do bear comparison to the ring shouts and dancing so often observed in black religious services, which were probably a survival of African religious practices. Indeed, black religion in the South may have had some influence on expected or sanctioned ways of giving bent to religious ecstasy at Cane Ridge.

"What the exercises revealed were religiously serious people who, in a powerfully suggestive environment, chose, or were forced, to reenact the drama of Jesus' passion and the ever-recurring drama of their own tortured quest for salvation. These mutually reinforcing dramas forced people toward experiential poles--

on one hand the extreme of personal revulsion and self-doubt,

on the other that of exaltation and joy." (Conkin, Cane Ridge, p. 104).

There can be nothing more legalistic than hiring a team or leader "to help lead the worshipers into the presence of God." Mysticism is legalism. Sober people can find God in their life and so-called "worship services" often, as in Corinth (1Cor 11:17) "do more harm than good."

This, like the Jubilee theme may deny the totally adequate atonement of Jesus Christ.

The very symbols, Joseph Campbell calls them "affect images," of Jubilee with its necessary Atonement, revivalism, new wine in new wineskins, the Aztec "burn down the old houses, make human sacrifices and relight the fires in every house (congregation), are connected to ancient lament rituals because the gods seem to be lost and the sky is falling down. The quiet Lord's Supper celebrates what Jesus Christ has done to fulfill Jubilee, Passover and all Jewish rituals. Therefore, to abandon that in order to amass a sufficient crowd to "relight the fires" may be trying to force people to reenact the drama of Jesus' passion. Conkin notes, however, that it it is the "ever-recurring drama of their own tortured quest for salvation" which doesn't seem to be found in buildings and "patterns."

However, the theme in all god-arousal awakenings or Caneridge revivals is that:

"To some extent they were contrived, both by those who exhorted and by those who listened and responded.

Certain techniques, which ministers conscientiously learned,

helped push audiences toward an ecstatic frenzy.

Certain hymns, certain tunes worked better than others. Certain repeated and familiar verbal images, those with great resonance for an audience, worked better than others. In many of the greatest revivals

the spark was a type of confession--the telling of what had happened to oneself there or at an earlier revival. Some ministers learned the most evocative ways of telling their stories.

Several sermonic devices--timing, phrasing, pauses, and above all the display of intense feeling--worked." (Conkin, Paul, Cane Ridge America's Pentecost, p. 106, U of Wis.)

This is still a taught skill and ministers fall into deep depression when the style does not work on normal, educated people. Others note that even the most Biblically illiterate man could, and did, learn the magical preaching techniques developed by black Baptists and lead the more ignorant on to revival and musical ecstasy. This was, and is, a continuation of the exploitation learned at the hands of whites rather than a deep-felt tribal instinct.

"The Baptists had a peculiar appeal to the masses. Their preachers, usually with very slight education, knew their audiences and how to address them in language (with a musical cadence) which would hold their attention and bring conviction. They tended to be highly emotional." (Latourette, p. 1037).

The point to be remembered is that these restoration movements are not signs of spiritual superiority or of a new "paradigm" which will restore the wine to its unhindered fermenting and bubbling red in the vat once again. Rather, in the overwhelming evidence of many wine skin models, it is a sign of lostness and an attempt to "get people to conform, not to the the Bible, but my own experience with it."

For more details on thought control Click Here.

See how congregational singing of Psalms turned to charismatic music at Cane Ridge and similar "revivals." This was a distortion of the word A Cappella.

Are Non-biblical Hymns Idols?

Kenneth L. Sublett

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Musical Worship Index

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