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One Name but Several Faces Variety in Popular Christian Denominations in Southern History By Samuel S. HiU University of Georgia Press, 1996 128 pp. Cloth, $20.00 Reviewed by Kathleen Joyce, Andrew W Mellon Assistant Professor of Religion at Duke University. She specializes in American religious history with an emphasis on American Catholicism and gender and religion in America. There once was a story about religion in America. The story began in the early seventeenth century with the Puritan errand into the wilderness, moved on to tell ofthe birth ofevangelical religion in the eighteenth century and die proliferation of Christian denominations in the nineteenth, and ended in the 1960s with tales of the death of God and the emergence of the secular city. With the rise of the Christian right in the early 1980s, however, it became clear that the story had ended prematurely. Intense national debates over issues from abortion rights and gay rights to international peacekeeping and urban crime and punishment proved that religious ideas and values still played a vital—ifcontested—role in American society. Over the course of the past two decades, other aspects of the traditional story about religion in America have been reexamined. The narrative has expanded to embrace native cultures and die experiences ofAfrican Americans, and to consider the influence ofgender and sexuality on the religious journeys ofAmericans past and present. The historiographical tradition that for so long had presented Protestantism as the de facto state religion in America has been challenged by new, imaginative work on American Catholicism andJudaism, as well as by studies that have reframed—and repositioned on the religious landscape—the sects and cults of old. Recent scholarship depicts diese once-overlooked groups as sites of religious creativity and critical sources of religious vitality rather than as marginal to the story of "real" religion in America. Yet notwithstanding diese attempts at refraining—or decentering, as one historian would have it—the traditional narrative ofreligion in America, the boundaries and the regional emphasis of the original story have remained much the same. American religious history for the most part has included only developments in the continental U.S., and even within these boundaries die Northeast Reviews 105 has continued to receive the most scholarly attention. This focus on the Northeast is understandable, given the region's population density, concentration ofpolitical power, and importance as a site of cultural production, but more focused attention to other areas is clearly warranted. Belief in the cultural dynamism of the northern states has only sharpened the perception of the South as the land tiiat time forgot. Typically viewed as the home of traditional values, political conservatism, and religious extremism, the South has suffered less from scholarly neglect than from scholarly overconfidence . Many historians have failed to probe deeply into the complexities of southern culture because they are certain that they understand its basic features. Particularly in the religious realm, the South has been ill-served by treatments that with one broad stroke paint the region as the Bible Belt, conflating evangelicalism , fundamentalism, and Pentecostalism into a single Southern Religion. In One Name butSeveralFaces: Variety in Popular Christian Denominations in Southern History, Samuel S. Hill challenges this unnuanced view ofsouthern religions. Delivered originally in October 1994 as theJack N. and Addie D. Averitt Lectures at Georgia Southern University, the essays in this volume highlight both the pluralism and die dynamism diat, Hill contends, have always characterized religion in the South. Hill, professor emeritus ofreligion at the University ofFlorida, uses three religious groups—the Baptists, "Christians," and "Of God" bodies—to illustrate what he considers the dominant trait ofsouthern religions: "The southern faithful 's yearning for freedom." Since these groups are generally associated with close, uncompromising readings of the Christian scriptures, it is clear that Hill means something quite specific when he writes ofthe yearning for religious freedom . Indeed, by freedom Hill means "a passion to be free from constraints and restraints" that hinder creative expression of religious faith. Hill does not challenge or ignore the association of these groups with strict interpretations of scripture and theology, but he contends tiiat over time they have exercised a certain kind of freedom: from class and race barriers...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 105-107
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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