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Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster in the Evangelical South

Paul Harvey

Publication Year: 2012

Paul Harvey uses four characters that are important symbols of religious expression in the American South to survey major themes of religion, race, and southern history.The figure of Moses helps us better understand how whites saw themselves as a chosen people in situations of suffering and war and how Africans and African Americans reworked certain stories in the Bible to suit their own purposes. By applying the figure of Jesus to the central concerns of life, Harvey argues, southern evangelicals were instrumental in turning him into an American figure. The ghostly presence of the Trickster, hovering at the edges of the sacred world, sheds light on the Euro-American and African American folk religions that existed alongside Christianity. Finally, Harvey explores twentieth-century renderings of the biblical story of Absalom in William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom and in works from Toni Morrison and Edward P. Jones.Harvey uses not only biblical and religious sources but also draws on literature, mythology, and art. He ponders the troubling meaning of “religious freedom” for slaves and later for blacks in the segregated South. Through his cast of four central characters, Harvey reveals diverse facets of the southern religious experience, including conceptions of ambiguity, darkness, evil, and death.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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Title, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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A Note on Illustrations and Endnotes

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pp. xi-xiv

This book includes references to maps (in chapter 1) and to paintings and other illustrations (in chapter 3) that are best viewed in color. Because illustrations included in this book had to be reproduced in black and white, I have created an accompanying website...

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Introduction: What Is the Soul of Man?

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pp. 1-5

When the pioneering gospel blues slide guitarist Blind Willie Johnson recorded “What Is the Soul of Man?” for Columbia records in the late 1920s, he challenged listeners to ponder a question central to the religious experience. The Texan used his growling voice to pose...

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Chapter One: Moses, Jesus, Absalom, and the Trickster: Narratives of the Evangelical South

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pp. 6-53

When, how, and why did the South become the Bible Belt? And why are the states considered the Bible Belt also so closely associated with high rates of violence, incarceration, divorce, alcoholism, obesity, and infant mortality? Grappling with these two questions...

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Chapter Two: “‘Because I Was a Master’”: Religion, Race, and Southern Ideas of Freedom

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pp. 54-95

Charles Colcock Jones, a Presbyterian planter and minister in the low country of Georgia, scorned slavery when younger but eventually emerged as the most effective advocate for the mission to the slaves in the 1830s. His complex relations with his large family and...

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Chapter Three: Suffering Saint: Jesus in the South

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pp. 96-158

As perfectly portrayed by Robert Duvall, the character Sonny in the film The Apostle stands as one of the most memorable creations of the cinematic history of American religion. A Holiness minister of a biracial church in a southeastern Texas city, Duvall’s Sonny...


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pp. 159-172


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pp. 173-182

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9780820343747
E-ISBN-10: 0820343749
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820334110
Print-ISBN-10: 0820334111

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 8 b&w photos, 1 map
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 794364759
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster in the Evangelical South

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Southern States -- Church history.
  • Evangelicalism -- Southern States -- History.
  • Christianity and culture -- Southern States -- History.
  • Race relations -- Religious aspects -- Protestant churches -- History.
  • Southern States -- Race relations -- History.
  • Tricksters -- Southern States.
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