It wasn't a 9/11 terrorist attack, a Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, a new COVID-19 pandemic or still another mass shooting, but the opposite. It was something beautiful and inspiring, a look upward instead of downward. To be sure, it was unexpected and of attention-grabbing importance, but it was filled with love instead of hate. It was soothing, spiritual truth that induces insights instead of shock that results in ugly feelings.
Major disasters sometimes smeared with blood are known to attract major attention and that's often justified because of important information the news stories share about the world. But here was a gentle occasion, no hurt, no sour words, nothing frightening, just goodness shining bright and somehow causing 50,000 people from America and around the world to come flooding in. The destination was not some big city. What we had was a religious awakening at Asbury College, a multi-denominational school in the small, rural town of Wilmore in my native and beloved state of Kentucky.
After a religious service, students remained seated in most of the 1,489 auditorium seats, not just for an hour or two but for two weeks. Yes, two weeks, not because of planning but spontaneously throughout the day and much of the night, singing, praying, hugging, jumping, filled with joy, sometimes lost in meditation, experiencing a new sense of meaningfulness, a new vision of their lives, a new connection with each other and with God, they said.
Does all of this have the potential of grabbing hold of the society at large so as to get rid of the worst of the culture, such as: nodding yes to the gradual disappearance of family, deserting religion, atheistic fervor, moral relativism, phony historical revisionism, the degrading of America in deficient public schools, gender study in kindergarten, universities getting rid of once-required Western civilization classes, unbelievable tuition, drugs as a journey to sorry sights, crime like we haven't seen for decades, racial antagonism and polarization of social classes?
Will the Asbury awakening give us an outbreak of rectification, maybe nationwide or more than that? I've already mentioned that 50,000 people from all over the world showed up. The extraordinary 6,000 citizens of Wilmore and the leadership of the college somehow found ways to accommodate them, although sitting on the college lawn was often necessary.
Some 200 of the 50,000 were from academic institutions here and abroad, it's reported, and -- this is vitally important -- some 21 or more religious and secular colleges and universities throughout the country have already had their own revivals while often communicating with students at Asbury College. News outlets have covered the awakening extensively, and a post on Twitter got 68 million views.
The excitement comes from people mostly saying the awakenings are not one-act plays, but that their influence will go on and on and that the spread will continue voluminously in line with the most profound Christian teachings. And understand, please, that the students did not see the event as just about them. Yes, this is a time when they feel the world has done them wrong and they are acquainted with all the reporting about Generation Z not being as religious as previous generations, as too given to drugs and other miswrought behavior.
But it is important to think about a sermon the students heard before the awakening began. The speaker referred to Romans 12, a New Testament chapter that asks for a renewal of mind and acceptance of God's will and then a living sacrifice. The message was that the faithful should humbly use their personal gifts to lovingly serve others in need.
"What's happening at Asbury is not and will not remain confined," said Lee University Campus Pastor Rob Fultz on Twitter early in the Asbury event, according to Christian Broadcasting Network. "It will, and already is awakening the deep wells of revival on campuses across the nation. They have been churning, pressing against the seals that have kept them hidden, and they are about to burst with new life."
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at [email protected]