Biography28 Apr 2010 01:18 pm
A new edition of The Intellectual Devotional, this time with a focus on Biographies, will be available online and in stores on May 11. As the release date approaches, “The Devoted Intellect” blog will introduce and expand on material from that book. Today’s entry on “Ann Lee” draws from the “Preachers and Prophets” section of the Biographies edition.
“Do your work as though you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow.”
“Put your hands to work, and your heart to God.”- Shaker hymn
Ann Lee (1736-1784) was the founder of the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, or Shakers, in the United States. Born in England, she was baptized and raised in the Anglican faith. Lee was reportedly squeamish about sex from the get-go, and she stalwartly attempted to abstain from marriage and remain single. Unfortunately for Ann, her father was unsympathetic to this position, and he eventually railroaded her into marrying. Unsurprisingly, her marriage was an unmitigated disaster, exacerbated by her loss of eight children (four stillbirths and four living children, none of whom lived past the age of 6).
Suffice it to say, her difficult pregnancies and the loss of EIGHT children did little to thaw her frigidity. In 1758 she left her husband and joined the Wardleys, an English sect founded by Jane and preacher James Wardley (a precursor to the Shaker sect). The Wardleys believed that shaking and trembling during religious services was caused by sin being purged from the body by the power of the Holy Spirit, which purified the worshipper. She began teaching and cultivated a sect of devoted followers who believed that she embodied all of the perfections of God in the female form. Ann thought so too; she believed she was Christ’s female counterpart.
Lee preached that sinfulness could be avoided by not only treating men and women equally, but also by keeping them separated so as to prevent any sort of temptation leading to impure acts. Lee eventually tired of the religious persecution in England, and immigrated to the United States in the early 1770s, accompanied by a select group of her followers. Under Lee’s leadership, her followers became known as the “Shakers,” because they worshiped by ecstatic dancing or “shaking”. The Shakers were best known for their wholesale rejection of sexual relations and their intense work ethic, which they channeled towards making really great furniture. You have to sublimate that id somehow….
Unsurprisingly, the Shakers eventually died out for reasons that need not be mentioned. They left some great end tables though.
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