Camp Meeting Days

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The old-time frontier camp meeting has had a bad press, in our generation. It is usually held up as a horrible example of the emotional excesses of a crude people whose religious impulses were all tangled up with sex hunger, and amateur psychologists have had a field day with it.

Balance is restored by Charles A. Johnson, with his sympathetic and discerning The Frontier Camp Meeting . Mr. Johnson sees the frontier meeting as the end product of a number of forces, not least of which was the desperate need for the steadying influence of religion in a semi-civilized backwoods region. It grew also out of the courageous and devoted work of the old-time circuit riders, out of the need felt by isolated folk for communion with one another, and finally out of the forest itself, with its dangers and its distances and its unrelenting pressure.

In other words, the camp meeting served a solid purpose in the civilizing of the frontier. Here is a thoughtful, well-written book which effectively answers the debunkers.

The Frontier Camp Meeting: Religion’s Harvest Time , by Charles A. Johnson. 325 pp. Southern Methodist University Press. $5.