The Times’s editors eventually worked themselves into a positive assessment of the Fulton Street phenomenon. The principles adopted by the newly zealous, they concluded, “can but tend to make citizens more loyal, merchants more honest, men and women nobler, kinder, more just, and generous, and brave, in all the concerns of life.” But it’s clear that they had no intention of attending one of these meetings themselves, any more than Dan Piepenbring would dine at a Chick-fil-A for a reason other than to write a piece for the New Yorker.
The sort of simple and open Christian devotion expressed by the supplicants of 1858, and merely hinted at by the cheerful servers of chicken sandwiches in 2018, is always and everywhere slightly out of place. Piepenberg is basically right to see it as an infiltration. The urbane and forward-thinking commentariat always find it so—alien, gauche, vaguely menacing.
To them it smells fried. To others it smells of life.