The United Society of Believers in Christs Second Appearing evolved from low English beginnings to go an influential and peculiarly American religious order. Though the term “ Shakers ” originated with critics who wished to belittle the patterns of those who shook and danced rapturously during worship services, members of the United Society appropriated the name as a positive description of Believers in communicating with God. During the past century, United society of believers in christ’s second appearings have been recognized more for their finely crafted furniture, graceful ellipse boxes, and other prized objects of stuff civilization than for the extremist nature of their venture. This was non ever the instance. United society of believers in christ’s second appearings of the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries advocated a manner of life that many of their neighbours considered hideous. As members of a extremist religious order, Believers challenged normally held attitudes and values and, accordingly, suffered rough public unfavorable judgment that at times culminated in verbal maltreatment and physical force.
United society of believers in christ’s second appearings gathered into small towns off from the prising eyes of the universe, eschewed political relations outside their communities, practiced pacificism and celibacy, lived in big Shaker “ households ” made up of persons from disparate backgrounds, and shared their material goods. They scandalized their neighbours by singing and dancing uninhibitedly during worship, raising kids communally, and fade outing ties between hubbies and married womans. Asserting that all persons were religious peers irrespective of race, gender, category, position, or material privilege, Shakers developed a societal construction that defied conventions. Within the confines of their small towns Shakers achieved a extremist transmutation of society that they believed would function as a theoretical account for social alteration throughout the universe ( see Deignan 1992:160-161 ; Hayden 1976 ) .
Shakerism derives its strength from the ability of persons to put aside their personal demands and desires for the good of the community. Community is cardinal to Shaker spiritual idea and lies at the bosom of Shaker life. It provides the foundation for economic prosperity, carry throughing societal dealingss, and a vigorous organisational construction. Unlike members of outstanding Christian denominations who seek single redemption in the universe, Shakers came to believe that redemption is come-at-able through personal transmutation in the Spirit and entryway into the millennian community ( see Deignan 1992:145 ; Dunlavy 1818:236 ) . By making order and brotherhood within community, heaven can be brought to Earth.
The following survey focal points on a Shaker small town in Kentucky. Initially called Shawnee Run after its location along a feeder of the Kentucky River, the community acquired the name Pleasant Hill when occupants relocated to a more favourable site on a nearby tableland. This analysis explores how laminitiss and occupants of the small town instituted and coped with sociocultural alteration. It examines two separate, but related, inquiries: What prompted people to set up a community that deviated from accepted norms and what schemes did members of the small town usage to keep their Numberss? Believers faced alone troubles in their efforts to perpetuate their society. They non merely abandoned normally held mercenary ends and traditional organisational constructions, but besides deliberately isolated themselves by keeping rigorous boundaries between themselves and the dominant society. Paradoxically, because they practiced celibacy, Shakers were forced to get new members from the universe they rejected. What measures did United society of believers in christ’s second appearings take to modulate their population during the hundred-year lifetime of the community? And how did internal and external factors influence the community ‘s actions over the lifetime of the small town? This survey utilizes informations derived from historical paperss and the findings of old research to research the altering Shaker community from the position of human ecology and ethnohistory.
Religion as an Adaptive Mechanism: The Origins of Shakerism
All societies undergo alterations over clip whether minor or sweeping, gradual or disconnected, internally generated or externally imposed. Religion, a powerful force underlying many social constructions, provides a major avenue by which societal alteration can be inhibited or promoted. Though frequently viewed as a conservative force that reinforces the position quo, faith can accommodate to alterations in the societal construction or it can make those alterations ( Firth 1959 ; Gerlach and Hine 1970: nineteen ) .
Social, political, and spiritual motions can be effectual instruments of sociocultural alteration. Because societies breed a certain degree of discontent, dissenter groups jumping up routinely. Persons who join these entities believe that their demands will be better satisfied by the society envisioned by their peculiar group than by the dominant society. Normally these groups gather few members and do small or no permanent impact. Occasionally, nevertheless, a group ‘s message strikes a antiphonal cord among the public, attracts big Numberss of followings, and becomes a forceful motion that is instrumental in establishing alteration. Motions empower those who are dissatisfied with current conditions and seriously seek ways to better their lives. They can determine and direct alteration by supplying active and originative mechanisms through which “ new types of leading are developed, new societal constructions created, and new values accepted and internalized ” ( Gerlach and Hine 1970: fourteen ) .
A prevalent dissatisfaction with bing faith and a widespread desire for alteration fostered the constitution of advanced spiritual religious orders in England during the 18th century ( see Garrett 1987:143 ; Stein 1992:3 ) . One of the most challenging sectarian groups to emerge during this clip period was the Shaking Quakers, as early Shakers were known. Harmonizing to Shaker beginnings written old ages after a smattering of members migrated from England to America, James and Jane Wardley of Bolton, near Manchester, England, organized the Shaking Religious society of friendss in 1747 ( Green and Wells 1830:4-5 ; see Garrett 1987:141-149 ; OClWHi VI B 10 ) . The United Society was one of several spiritual ventures to develop in the part around Bolton and Manchester. In 1747, the same twelvemonth the Wardleys supposedly established their society, Methodist associations were organized at both locations ( Garrett 1987:143-144 ) . Despite split, discord, and irregular patterns that drew expostulations from the Methodist hierarchy, these entities thrived.
Like members of legion other modern-day religious orders, Shaking Religious society of friendss believed that God ‘s concluding judgement was fleetly nearing ( see Garrett 1987:144 ) . Disillusioned with established faiths that offered their disciples no confidence that they would happen redemption, the Wardleys and their followings formed their ain family and resolved to allow the Spirit of God steer them in their hunt for salvation and in their personal battles against wickedness. About 1858, the instructions and patterns of the little assembly of partisans attracted a magnetic immature adult female named Ann Lee. Although nonreader, the new convert proved to be a airy with natural leading abilities. Finally she came to replace the Wardleys as the chief authorization within the religious order.
Early Shaker thoughts and patterns were likely influenced by the Society of Friends, or Religious society of friendss, and the Gallic Prophets, or Camisards, though direct links between Shaking Religious society of friendss and other groups can non be established with certainty ( see Deignan 1992:22-25 ; Garrett 1987:141-147 ; Stein 1992:6 ) . Another beginning of inspiration obviously came from the sermon and theological Hagiographas of George Whitefield, “ the Grand Itinerant of the Great Awakening ” ( see Garrett 1987:143 ; Marini 1982:11, 75 ) . Whitefield, who traveled widely during mid-eighteenth-century resurgence Tourss through the United States and Britain, visited Manchester on several occasions. An early nineteenth-century Shaker publication recounts that as a young person Ann Lee heard Whitefield speak and regarded him as a true prophesier but she subsequently became disillusioned with the revivalist because his trueness to the male monarch appeared to be greater than his devotedness to God ( Bishop and Wells 1816:64 ; see Garrett 1987:143 ) .
The Radicalization of Shaking Religious society of friendss
Through Biblical survey and Godhead inspiration, Shaking Religious society of friendss concluded that established faiths had strayed from the reliable class pursued by the early Church merely to go involved in ritual and the false readings of churchmans ( Garrett 1987:142 ) . The group, hence, rejected the sacraments and taken Scripture liberally. As the partisans grew confident in the righteousness of their beliefs, they determined to do clergy and members of established faiths aware of the imperfectnesss and weaknesss of their churches. By the early 1770s, activism replaced quiet strong belief and the unnoticeable group of spiritual searchers emerged as a little, but extremist, motion. Gerlach and Hine ( 1970: thirteen ) define a “ extremist motion ” as one in which members mobilize their corporate power in resistance to the bing construction when those who are in places of power resist alteration. Unable to breed a positive response from spiritual governments, members of the religious order became progressively aggressive in their tactics. They openly confronted governments, invaded the sanctuaries of local churches, and disturbed believers during services. Because of their activities, Shaking Religious society of friendss gained ill fame. They were arrested repeatedly, fined for their activities, attacked by rabble, and even confined to prison ( see Axon 1892:193-194 ; Stein 1992:4-5 ) .
In a go oning pursuit for redemption, the visions of Ann Lee provided counsel for the religious order. Profound religious experiences prompted the magnetic leader to proclaim that Believers did non necessitate to wait for the Second Coming to be saved since the millenary had already commenced. It was possible to populate a life of flawlessness and be liberated from wickedness in this universe. Lee maintained that the millenary could be experienced by “ all who would endure the new birth of regeneration which, as redefined by the Shakers, could merely be attained by a tuging province of ongoing transition, inaugurated in the confession of wickedness and acceptance of celibacy ” ( Deignan 1992:38 ) . Unlike conventional Genevans who held that human existences were innately depraved, Shakers believed that persons could prosecute religious and physical flawlessness through ascetic subject and gifts of the Spirit ( Marini 1982:155 ) .
Even though United society of believers in christ’s second appearings rejected both Anglicanism and Whitefield Methodism, they however drew inspiration from Whitefield ‘s instructions refering a “ new birth ” experience for those seeking redemption ( see Deignan 1992:31 ; Marini 1982:12-13 ) . “ The New Birth was a self-validating sacred event in which the Holy Spirit implanted itself straight in the psyche as beyond doubt grounds of godly grace ” ( Marini 1982:13 ) . The experience of New Birth transformed the organic structure and head of the person and bestowed upon them “ gifts ” of the Holy Spirit. Traditionally, Genevans criticized the exhibition of religious “ gifts ” such as enchantments, glossolalia, nonvoluntary organic structure motions, and other physical manifestations normally found among spiritual partisans ; nevertheless, Whitefield linked Pentecostal gifts to the transition experience as forms of the consecrating work of the Holy Spirit. Both Whitefield and the Shaking Quakers believed that those who manifested magnetic gifts were in direct communicating with God.
Shaker Resettlement in America: The Establishment of Communities
Oral traditions, subsequently set down in written signifier by Shaker Scribes, provide the primary beginning of information refering the activities of British Shaking Quakers. Within these traditions, visions were on a regular basis used to explicate determinations made by those in authorization. The going of Shaking Religious society of friendss from England occurred, harmonizing to these histories, after Ann Lee and one of her protagonists, James Whittaker, received visions in which they were instructed to open their Gospel in America ; yet, persecution besides may hold played a portion in their determination ( see Bishop and Wells 1816:66 ; Garrett 1987:158 ) . Had members of the society remained in England, the group likely would hold shared the destiny of the bulk of British religious orders and vanished rapidly from the historical record. Whatever grounds they might hold had for relocating to the New World, Lee and a little figure of avid trusters landed in New York in 1774 as England and her settlements were on the brink of war.
Small is known about the Shakers ‘ first old ages in America and it is likely that members of the religious order intentionally attempted to maintain out of the public oculus. The searchers finally acquired belongings and settled at Niskeyuna, near Albany, New York. In 1780, they began to pull possible converts. As their visibleness increased, functionaries began to surmise that the partisans harbored British understandings. When confronted by governments, the United society of believers in christ’s second appearings declared themselves to be pacificists, a position viewed as disloyal during a clip of war. As a consequence, Ann Lee and other members of the religious order were imprisoned for a figure of months until the intercession of persons in places of authorization helped procure their release.
In May of 1781 Ann Lee and other influential United society of believers in christ’s second appearings embarked on missional Tourss that lasted until September 1783. The group faced tremendous resistance and suffered physical maltreatment as they preached across New England. Targeting vicinities where spiritual resurgences had already generated enthusiasm, leaders of the religious order converted a figure of persons at assorted sites along their path. These converts provided the foundation for the constitution of Shaker small towns in New York and New England.
Although Ann Lee is considered the primary leader of the Shakers, at Niskeyuna, she seemingly shared duties with her brother, William Lee, and one of the original English Shakers, James Whittaker. Her decease in 1784, merely two months after the decease of her brother, posed a menace “ to the coherence and stableness of an baby religious order ” ; nevertheless, the three-party form of leading allowed James Whittaker to presume control ( Stein 1992:32-33 ) . The passage proceeded softly, though several of import members defected as a consequence. Like his fellow leaders, Whittaker encouraged converts throughout New York and New England to retreat from the universe, garner together with those of similar beliefs, and portion their ownerships. When Whittaker died in 1787, the inquiry of sequence and the society ‘s hereafter was much less clear.
Whittaker was the last of the English United society of believers in christ’s second appearings to take charge of the United Society. His decease Markss what Stephen Stein ( 1992:37, 40 ) has designated the terminal of the Age of the Laminitiss and the beginning of the Formative Period. The following Shaker leaders were American Born, and their thoughts reflected the spirit of the new state. Ingenuity, a strong sense of intent, and a desire to win helped these new leaders design an environment and societal construction that reflected Shaker beliefs. The nascent community of trusters, held together by magnetic leading and life in a high province of tenseness and emotional energy, gave manner to a structured and ordered society. The 2nd or Formative Time period can be described as one in which personal appeal was routinized ; that is, more self-generated gifts of the Spirit gave manner to established modus operandi ( Stein 1991:113 ) .
Sociologists Ferdinand Toennies ( 1957 ) , Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim have described two forces that they believe act upon societal life. Gemeinschaft is the non-rational constituent of community, while Gesellschaft is the instrumental, rational, or task-oriented constituent. Kanter ( 1972:149 ) suggests that for knowing communities to be successful, that is to go on to last, they must draw off from the first force to concentrate on the 2nd. United society of believers in christ’s second appearings initiated this passage in late 1787 when American-born Joseph Meacham became the acknowledged leader of the religious order. Meacham is credited with presenting the societal construction, system of authorities, and community organisation that laid down a form for all Shaker small towns to follow. By the mid-1820s, Gemeinschaft “ had given manner to more ordered, rational, corporate agreements ” ( Stein 1992:133 ) .
The Kentucky Shakers: Satisfying the Desire for Change
Social alteration can happen when persons believe their society no longer satisfies their physical, societal, or psychological demands. Certain experiences or events, such as spiritual transitions or calamities, can motivate persons to reevaluate their value systems and seek new ways of life. These intense experiences can breed feelings of solidarity among those who are affected by the event and may animate them to fall in forces in an effort to change their society. One such event, the Great Revival, helped put the foundation for the constitution of Pleasant Hill and is reminiscent of earlier resurgence events, peculiarly the New Light splash in New England, that gripped big Numberss of persons who subsequently settled Shaker communities in the East ( see Garrett 1987:160-176 ; Marini 1982:38-39 ) . The Great Revival, which historians normally include among a sequence of resurgences that have come to be called the Second Great Awakening, was a series of spiritual resurgences that began during the shutting old ages of the 18th century. Locally called the Kentucky Revival, the stirring of spiritual ardor originated along the Tennessee-Kentucky boundary line and so distribute across environing parts before traveling on to older, more constituted colonies east of the Appalachian Mountains.
Those who experienced transition during the Revival expressed a desire to alter ; however, transition did non vouch lasting alteration. Lasting transmutation could merely take topographic point when persons altered their life styles and day-to-day modus operandis. This undertaking proved hard for those who attempted to carry through it in isolation. Unless revival participants received the support of like-minded persons, they were likely to float back to their former ways of life. A figure of those who participated in resurgences found strength and consolation by fall ining spiritual organisations such as the Methodist church. A few, including the laminitiss of Pleasant Hill, believed traditional organisations were incapable of adequately turn toing their demand for more dramatic alteration. These persons wished non merely to transform their religious lives, but besides to reconstitute their society.
Shaker missionaries, who arrived in the part in 1805, brought hope to those dissatisfied with established faiths. Not merely did Shakerism fulfill the religious demands of Pleasant Hill ‘s laminitiss ; it provided the spiritual searchers with matter-of-fact guidelines for transforming society. The Shakers of New York and New England had spent old ages developing and polishing a societal organisation that reflected their political orientation. They erected their first conventicle at New Lebanon, New York, in 1785 and, by 1787, had begun to garner together in communities. Members pledged their committedness to the religion in an unwritten compact the undermentioned twelvemonth. Fearing legal challenges from those who might go disgruntled and leave the community, members at New Lebanon signed the first written Shaker compact in 1795. By subscribing the compact, members agreed to plight their goods and services to the community under an economic system known as “ joint involvement ” ( OClWHi IV A 10 ; see Brewer 1986: sixteen ; Stein 1992:45 ) .
Under Joseph Meacham ‘s way Shakers instituted a division of religious and temporal duties, a hierarchal system of households, and a double male-female authorization system. Because order and brotherhood were necessary for the Society to thrive, Meacham established “ gospel order, ” a hierarchal construction of administration based upon godly disclosure and the obeisance of members ( see Brewer 1986: sixteen, 19-20 ; OClWHi VII B 59 “ Rufus Bishop 1850 ” ) . Through Meacham ‘s attempts, and those of his replacements, Shaker villages served as practical theoretical accounts for community organisation and design that helped reenforce religious beliefs, provide for physical demands, and advance proper societal dealingss ( see Hayden 1976 ; Emlen 1987 ) .
The alone societal construction and unusual organisation of Shaker small towns reflect a typical millennialist political orientation that foremost developed among early English Shakers. Christ, Shakers believe, had made His Second Appearing in their laminitis, Ann Lee, and by this act had initiated the millenary. As a consequence, Shakerism is distinguished “ from all other signifiers of Christianity, even of the sectarian assortment ” ( Deignan 1992:49 ; see Bishop and Wells 1816: four ) . United society of believers in christ’s second appearings do non expect the coming of the millenary ; for them it has already arrived. Rather than returning in the flesh, Christ makes His visual aspect in the anointment of the Christ Spirit. United society of believers in christ’s second appearings see themselves as “ a alone organic structure of redemption ” whose mission is to proclaim the “ handiness of the Resurrection in this life ” ( Deignan 1992:238 ) . This is the message the United Society carries to the universe.
Harmonizing to Shaker histories, Ann Lee believed that Christ had come once more in a deeply personal and transformative experience of brotherhood by which she was born into the New Creation. In this New Creation there was no longer sexual but merely religious brotherhood among individuals. Therefore, celibacy was the remarkable look of eschatological life. Deignan 1992:43
Personal experiences of religious transmutation can be translated into physical signifier by take parting in the New Creation embodied by the Shaker community. Within the spiritual community United society of believers in christ’s second appearings can squeal their wickednesss, achieve sanctification, and live their lives removed from the immoralities of the universe.
Life in the earthly kingdom, Shakers declare, can be lived as it is in Heaven. Therefore, Believers should populate as brothers and sisters. “ Particular dealingss, ” including close friendly relationships, fond regards between hubbies and married womans, ties between parents and kids, and devotedness to akin families, should be eliminated since they foster favouritism and inequality. Likewise, private belongings should be abolished since it creates inequality, green-eyed monster, upset, and a deficiency of brotherhood. By making an ordered universe in which greed, lecherousness, and enticement are eliminated, or at least lessened, early Shakers hoped to accomplish flawlessness on Earth.
Nascent Shaker communities provided a dramatic contrast to those of the dominant civilization. United society of believers in christ’s second appearings required members to abandon their fond regards to material goods and physical pleasance, low-level opportunism for the good of the group, confess their wickednesss, obey unquestioningly the dictates of leaders, and comply with legion other limitations. A supportive environment, one that reproduced Shaker ideological beliefs in physical signifier, assisted new converts in doing the passage to Shaker life while reenforcing the committedness of seasoned Believers. Architectural design supported the Shakers ‘ celibate, communal, breakaway life style by dividing male from female, novitiate from covenanted member, and Shaker from non-Shaker ( see Hayden 1976 ; Emlen 1987 ) . By thoughtfully and carefully pull stringsing their environment, Shakers minimized their exposure to enticement. Regardless of how eccentric, nauseating, or dissident the Shaker life style might hold appeared to their neighbours, big Numberss of persons found fulfilment, security, and family within Shaker communities.
Celibacy and Community
Celibacy, instead than functioning as a negative force, provided a powerful adhesive that held burgeoning Shaker communities together. During the early Formative Period, converts left settled, familiar ways of life for the unsure possibilities of life within a spiritual community. Want, physical adversity, and deficiency of privateness were certainties. The early occupants expended tremendous sums of clip and energy constructing edifices to house members, farm animal, and industries ; fixing land for harvests ; and take parting in other undertakings necessary to guarantee their endurance. Leaderships non merely engaged in the more everyday undertakings of colony edifice, but besides scrambled to indoctrinate occupants and establish a supportive and well-integrated religious community. Celibacy assisted Shakers in carry throughing these ends. It served as a forfeit by which members could show their committedness to the religion, freed them from the duties of matrimony and child-rearing, and allowed them to concentrate their energies on community, instead than personal, ends ( see Kanter 1972:77-78 ) .
Sanctioned by assorted scriptural transitions, celibacy has a long tradition within Christianity “ as a agency of self-purification and devotedness to the worship of God ” and has been practiced by anchorites, mediaeval monastics, Roman Catholic clergy, Anabaptists, Pietists, and others ( Foster 1991:21 ; see Pitzer and Elliott 1979:250 ) . Even Ann Lee, Shaker writers note, had been counseled about its value after fall ining the religious order she would subsequently take ( Bishop and Wells 1816:49 ; Deignan 1992:35 ) . In the United States, celibacy found look among assorted peoples including the Inspirationists of Amana, the Rappites or Harmonists, the Zoarites, and the Jansonites at Bishop Hill, Illinois. Nonetheless, celibate groups confront a cardinal job: In order to last, all societies need extra members to replace those lost through decease and desertion. Because biological reproduction provides the least complicated and most practical agencies of social reproduction, the short-run benefits of celibacy turn into long-run liabilities. Consequently, celibacy is normally limited to certain sections of a population ; or, if an full population is impacted, it tends to be a impermanent project.
When celibacy began to hold a negative affect on Shaker populations, Believers refused to abandon the pattern. United society of believers in christ’s second appearings retain their committedness to celibacy non because they resist alteration or fear new classs of action, but because it promotes the Society ‘s ideals and is good to its rank. Although the enthusiasm with which they greet new constructs and inventions has varied harmonizing to clip and circumstance, United society of believers in christ’s second appearings have by and large been recognized for their pragmatism and ingeniousness. Not infrequently, United society of believers in christ’s second appearings have sought out new thoughts, experimented with improved methods and engineerings, adopted technological progresss to accommodate their demands, and even produced devices of their ain design. The quest for flawlessness makes promotions in both religious and temporal kingdoms acceptable, even desirable, since it brings persons closer to God.
United society of believers in christ’s second appearings, unlike a figure of sectaries who accept the Bible as the lone truth and keep fast to unchanging beliefs, espouse a “ progressive political orientation. ” This progressive political orientation motivates them to accept “ farther disclosures ” and serves as a mechanism through which alteration can be instituted. Consequently, a “ farther disclosure ” or flowering of the religion could approve reproduction or authorise a signifier of matrimony. Believers, nevertheless, ne’er instituted such alteration. For Shakers, celibacy is the practical and lone pick available to those who choose to follow the religion. Celibacy lies at the centre of Shaker belief as an changeless behaviour that facilitates the creative activity of Eden on Earth. It serves non merely as an built-in constituent of Shaker political orientation, but it provides members with a sense of individuality as Believers populating in the millenary.
Yet, despite its importance to the religion, celibacy presents a formidable challenge to the continuation of Shaker society. All new members need to come from the outside universe, a universe that members of this sectarian group cull. The enlisting and subsequent indoctrination of converts proved tremendously expensive in footings of clip, energy, and material resources. To convert persons to follow a radically different life style and encompass new values is a hard undertaking. During the early 19th century, possible recruits often rejected Shakerism entirely because they regarded the pattern of celibacy as immoral and unnatural. Even persons who expressed sincere involvement in the religion were frequently excessively attached to sexual relationships to of all time go to the full committed members of the community. Occasionally, nevertheless, the converse proved true. Assorted persons preferred the celibate life and lief left bad matrimonies and household webs for the safety of Shaker small towns.
Early disparagers of Shakerism voiced more cardinal expostulations to celibacy. The pattern torus at the societal cloth of American life by endangering to destruct traditional values and interrupt the societal order. Together with the acceptance of communitarian patterns, celibacy endangered the basic establishments of matrimony and household. Shakerism could rend a household apart when the determination to fall in the religion was non shared by all its members. Spouses could be alienated, kids caught in terrorization and confounding detention conflicts, and heritage called into inquiry. Even persons whose households and friends remained apathetic to Shaker missional attempts feared the impact that Shaker society might hold on their lives. Shaker communities, because of their big size and tightly knit organisation, had an economic advantage over their neighbours. United society of believers in christ’s second appearings could pool their resources, get big piece of lands of land, command mercantile establishments for their merchandises, and bask other market advantages unavailable to households and little groups ( see Stein 1992:136 ) .
Once converted, new members proved to be both a load and a joy. Because they had non yet been integrated into the cloth of the community, recent converts could interrupt the established order ( Kanter 1972:146 ) . However, the enthusiasm of converts could besides convey strength to the community. In theory, converts are more devoted to their religion than “ second-generation ” members whose committedness may be based upon familiar modus operandi and household trueness instead than belief ( Gerlach and Hine 1970:5, 81 ) . A religious order may lose its verve without sing a corresponding diminution in Numberss if succeeding coevalss are born to, but non genuinely converted by, their religion. Converts, nevertheless, may besides miss committedness to the religious order ‘s spiritual ends. Social, economic, or other force per unit areas may do them to fall in a religious order. If those force per unit areas diminish or other state of affairss appear more desirable, they may go forth the religious order in order to better their places.
Exasperated statements in Shaker diaries and correspondence testify non merely to the troubles encountered by those who attempted to change over persons to a religion that repudiated sexual pleasance, but besides to the perturbations caused by United society of believers in christ’s second appearings who could non or would non keep a celibate life style. Leaders wrote repeatedly of those who “ went to the universe ” when they could no longer “ bear the cross ” of celibacy. Particularly straitening to the community were the desertions of those in places of authorization. If members of the leading could non bear the cross, how could common members be expected to defy worldly enticement? These defaulters brought disquiet to Shaker communities that, at times, caused other members non merely to oppugn their religion but besides to seek fulfilment in the outside universe.
Direct challenges to the pattern of celibacy were highly rare, although they did happen. During the 2nd half of the 19th century, Shaker leaders permitted increasing adjustment to the “ manners ” of the universe. As common members gained more freedom to show themselves, they openly questioned the cardinal dogmas of their religion. One of the most serious challenges to celibacy occurred during the late 1860s when a “ dissident spirit ” gripped reformists in Shaker communities in New York and New England. In their ardor, the reformists attempted to modify the rule of celibacy by following a signifier of “ purified coevals, ” an thought that Louis J. Kern ( 1981:103-104 ) has linked to the turning spiritualist motion and Shaker contact with members of the Oneida Community ( NN Avery Journal 1864 ; see Brewer 1986:160-161 ; Stein 1992:496 n. 106 ) . Mediums contend that physical and religious universes are immediate, psyches have affinity for one another, and persons may come in into “ religious matrimony. ” This led a little figure of United society of believers in christ’s second appearings to believe that go oning disclosure could authorise the mingling of flesh and spirit. Shaker leaders, nevertheless, were uncompromising in their response: To discontinue being celibate was to no longer be a Shaker.
Although celibacy is frequently cited as a factor that contributed to the diminution of Shaker populations, its impact is neither direct nor wholly mensurable. Arguably, communitarianism and dictatorship were at least as damaging, if non more deleterious, to the care of Shaker populations. Such patterns were at odds with the American values of independency, individuality, democracy, self-government, and the ever-increasing desire for material goods. Yet, like celibacy, they were considered built-in constituents of Shaker society and ne’er abandoned, although dictatorship persisted in a more attenuated signifier ( see Stein 1992:200 ) .