4.19.2010

What I Learned in Church Yesterday

This weekend at church, I learned something I should've known already. The preacher-man did a sermon-speech on "Enthusiasm," recounting the period in Unitarian Church history when the Unitarians opposed the popular Protestant enthusiast movements. During the period when Jonathan Edwards had people sweating and crying by the time a sermon was over, conservative Unitarians in places like Boston--people like Charles Chauncey--were cautioning against such fervor. In the debate between the "New Lights" and the "Old Lights," Unitarians clung to the old.

What I learned was the etymology of the term (it makes so much sense!):
Enthusiasm
c.1600, from M.Fr. enthousiasme, from Gk. enthousiasmos, from enthousiazein "be inspired," from entheos "inspired, possessed by a god," from en- "in" + theos "god" (see Thea). Acquired a derogatory sense of "excessive religious emotion" (1650s) under the Puritans; generalized sense of "fervor, zeal" (the main modern sense) is first recorded 1716.
Happy to say, contemporary Unitarianism is much friendlier to the idea of Enthusiasm. I consider myself an enthusiast by temperament: possessed by a god. I mean, I understand--theoretically--the complaint against the enthusiasts. Charles Chauncey's cautionary work, gathered together under the title, Enthusiasm Described, and Cautioned Against, would be right at home in contemporary academia, which looks skeptically at notions of divine and supernatural light. So much the safer for academia.

But... I wonder if I could publish here and get academic credit--

2 comments:

Insignificant Wrangler said...

My guess is that you wouldn't get credit, but (to duck the greater issue), you wouldn't get credit because the journal doesn't highlight a peer review process.

Casey said...

Yeah. The "greater issue" is interesting, though... what would peer-review look like when it comes to mystico-magic talk?