This is a book review of The Believers, which is about the Shaker movement, that began in the east then spread to Kentucky. Since writing this book review I have realized the Shakers were fanatics and zealots. We have fanatics and zealots today in all religions but also within Christianity. I was raised in this kind of culture. We fanatically kept the Sabbath Day. We were in bondage to the law of Sabbath-keeping.
Another kind of Christian fanatic are women today who cover the heads. They are in bondage to the law of head covers. (See Head Covers
Part 1 and Part 2) It is helpful to realizing I have been in bondage and they are in bondage. In Christ we are free from all bondage. We have been freed to love.
This is what the book of Galatians is about. The people of Galatia were Christians who were being influenced to keeping the law of Moses, along with their faith in Christ. Paul wrote to tell them that keeping the law cancelled out their faith. In The Believers it is clear that fanaticism also cancelled their faith.
This is the second book I have read on Shakerism. The first book was by Ann Garhart. This second book is a classic dated 1957 by Janice Holt Giles. Unlike Garhart, Giles book is based on fact. Three of the missionaries were real people, and “most of the incidents…have their origins in actual happenings.”
Whenever I read a book like this, it saddens me how easily people are led astray when they do not have a working knowledge of the truth. Had they known the sacred scriptures perhaps they would not have been taken in by such falsehood.
The person who should have known better was a real person named John Rankin. He began as a Presbyterian minister, who was first taken in by the revival winds of the time, and later by the Shakers. As a Presbyterian-trained minister it seems he might have rejected thinking which dismisses some of the cardinal truths of historical Christianity. From this book I learned that the Shakers believed the only way to eternal salvation was by full dedication to Shaker theology; which included the rejection of the Trinity, original sin, the Bible as God’s final revelation, the bodily resurrection of Christ and marriage as God’s plan for men and women.
And finally, I appreciated the reason given in the book, why Shakerism would eventually fail: “Man’s mind and his spirit and his human dignity were meant for freedom. There is no place where freedom is so constrained as here…no place where it is exchanged so willingly for safety…For by his very nature, man must seek his own destiny, not have it prescribed for him. Authority will kill the very thing it seeks to control. All dead civilizations prove that.”
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and so not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 NIV
© 2018 Lena Rae