The Woke, Elvis and America’s Great Awakenings


Published on October 17, 2021

The Wall Street Journal

John Lennon laid down a famous dictum: “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” Darkness was upon the face of the deep. Elvis Presley was the big bang. The new universe of rock ’n’ roll emerged ex nihilo. Elvis’s music brought forth a new culture. Before you knew it a vast young audience was rocking to Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. The rest is history. The poet Philip Larkin satirized the moment: “Sexual intercourse began in 1963.”

The cosmology of 21st-century wokeness is similar to that of the freshly formed counterculture in the 1960s. Wokeness, however, doesn’t assert that there was nothing prior to the current great awakening. Instead, it claims there was nothing good—merely the wickedness of the American past and Western civilization, which has “got to go,” Mozart and all.

I propose that the country’s periodic Great Awakenings should be referred to as “Elvises.” Each such epoch represents an intense wave of religious emotion passing through American democracy.

Click here to read the rest of this piece at the Wall Street Journal‘s website.

Mr. Morrow is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His latest book is “God and Mammon: Chronicles of American Money.”


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