02 July 2011

North Dakota Revivalism--More of the Story

In a post earlier this week, I mentioned that Billy Sunday prepared to visit North Dakota in 1930.  While many considered evangelistic meetings such as this with a great deal of excitement and anticipation, others cringed.  One such individual was W. P. Davies, as I mentioned in the previous post that I linked above.  Davies, an editorialist for the Grand Forks Herald castigated Sunday's use of business technique in his meetings and also his "acrobatics" that tended to arouse emotionalism.

Some contemporary evangelicals may wonder why Davies and others of his opinion viewed revivals with suspicion.  Davies gave his reasons for this suspicion.  Grand Forks had only had one such evangelistic meeting before 1930, held by a minister by the name of Hunt.  Several of the local Protestant churches supported him and encouraged the local community to do likewise.  According to Davies' account, the first few meetings went well, moving from church to church, but then Hunt stood up in the Methodist Church and complained about having to move about and asked for donations to build a tabernacle. 

Hunt obtained enough for a quickly-built (by volunteer carpenters) tabernacle of rough wood covered by tar paper, and then went about hinting at scandals he was going to expose and at times apparently mentioned the names or at least insinuated in an obvious way just about every major figure in town.  This activity worried the businessmen who promoted the meetings, but in the words of Davies, Hunt told them "to go to blazes" because the tabernacle was his, not theirs.  He never did tell the scandalous details (perhaps he knew of none and just wanted to draw a bigger crowd), and left shortly thereafter.  One of the local ministers, according to Davies' account, said in relation to Hunt and his campaign, "I thought we had that man sized up right, but we hadn't.  This is my first experience of this kind, and it is my last.  Never again for me!" 

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