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Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Waiting for Revival

We have been living through an American revival. Conservatives may want to stop wishing for the next.

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href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/abandoned-church-sits-decaying-falling-apart-783005083">(Silent O/Shutterstock)

Conservatives have said for decades that America needs a revival, and in recent years they got their wish. Our society has undergone a remarkable upsurge in moral fervor, as Americans have sought to transform individual lives and remake public institutions in line with a high calling. On race, sex, and gender, Americans have adopted a new creed sometimes described as the Great Awokening. Revival has arrived—and conservatives hate it.

Of course, revival didn’t come in the form that they hoped. Instead of an upsurge in conventional piety, patriotism, and thrift, American zeal has been channeled into progressive causes. But even this strange revival has something to tell us about the problems of conservative revivalism more generally. It’s not obvious that conservatives really want revival. Nor is it clear that they should.