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Religion in the South

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Religion in the South

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All According to God's Plan

Southern Baptist Missions and Race, 1945-1970

Alan Scot Willis

Southern Baptists had long considered themselves a missionary people, but when, after World War II, they embarked on a dramatic expansion of missionary efforts, they confronted headlong the problem of racism. Believing that racism hindered their evangelical efforts, the Convention's full-time missionaries and mission board leaders attacked racism as unchristian, thus finding themselves at odds with the pervasive racist and segregationist ideologies that dominated the South. This progressive view of race stressed the biblical unity of humanity, encompassing all races and transcending specific ethnic divisions. In All According to God's Plan, Alan Scot Willis explores these beliefs and the chasm they created within the Convention. He shows how, in the post-World War II era, the most respected members of the Southern Baptists Convention publicly challenged the most dearly held ideologies of the white South.

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A Coat of Many Colors

Religion and Society along the Cape Fear River of North Carolina

Walter H. Conser, Jr.

While religious diversity is often considered a recent phenomenon in America, the Cape Fear region of southeastern North Carolina has been a diverse community since the area was first settled. Early on, the region and the port city of Wilmington were more urban than the rest of the state and thus provided people with opportunities seldom found in other parts of North Carolina. This area drew residents from many ethnic backgrounds, and the men and women who settled there became an integral part of the region’s culture. Set against the backdrop of national and southern religious experience, A Coat of Many Colors examines issues of religious diversity and regional identity in the Cape Fear area. Author Walter H. Conser Jr. draws on a broad range of sources, including congregational records, sermon texts, liturgy, newspaper accounts, family memoirs, and technological developments to explore the evolution of religious life in this area. Beginning with the story of prehistoric Native Americans and continuing through an examination of life at the end of twentieth century, Conser tracks the development of the various religions, denominations, and ethnic groups that call the Cape Fear region home. From early Native American traditions to the establishment of the first churches, cathedrals, synagogues, mosques, and temples, A Coat of Many Colors offers a comprehensive view of the religious and ethnic diversity that have characterized Cape Fear throughout its history. Through the lens of regional history, Conser explores how this area’s rich religious and racial diversity can be seen as a microcosm for the South, and he examines the ways in which religion can affect such diverse aspects of life as architecture and race relations.

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Episcopalians and Race

Civil War to Civil Rights

Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr.

Meeting at an African American college in North Carolina in 1959, a group of black and white Episcopalians organized the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity and pledged to oppose all distinctions based on race, ethnicity, and social class. They adopted a motto derived from Psalm 133: ""Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity!"" Though the spiritual intentions of these individuals were positive, the reality of the association between blacks and whites in the church was much more complicated. Episcopalians and Race examines the often ambivalent relationship between black communities and the predominantly white leadership of the Episcopal Church since the Civil War. Paying special attention to the 1950s and 60s, Gardiner Shattuck analyzes the impact of the civil rights movement on church life, especially in southern states. He discusses the Church's lofty goals--exemplified by the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity--and ignoble practices and attitudes, such as the failure to recognize the role of black clergy and laity within the denomination. The efforts of mainline Protestant denominations were critically important in the struggle for civil rights, and Episcopalians expended a great deal of time and resources in engaging in the quest for racial equality and strengthening the missionary outreach to African Americans in the South. Shattuck offers an insider's history of Episcopalians' efforts, both successful and unsuccessful, to come to terms with race and racism since the Civil War.

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A Genealogy of Dissent

Southern Baptist Protest in the Twentieth Century

David Stricklin

Between the Civil War and the turn of the last century, Southern Baptists gained prominence in the religious life of the South. As their power increased, they became defenders of the racial, political, social, and economic status quo. By the beginning of this century, however, a feisty tradition of dissent began to appear in Southern Baptist life as criticism of the center increased from both the left and the right. The popular belief in a doctrine of "once saved, always saved" led progressive Baptists to claim that moderates, once saved, did not address the serious social and political problems that faced many in the South. These Baptist dissenters claimed that they could not be "at ease in Zion."

Led by the radical Walter Nathan Johnson in the 1920s and 1930s, progressive Baptists produced civil rights advocates, labor organizers, women's rights advocates, and proponents of disarmament and abolition of capital punishment. They challenged some of the most fundamental aspects of southern society and of Baptist ecclesiastical structure and practice. For their efforts and beliefs, many of these men and women suffered as they lost jobs, experienced physical danger and injury, and endured character assassination.

In A Genealogy of Dissent, David Stricklin traces the history of these progressive Baptists and their descendants throughout the twentieth century and shows how they created an active culture of protest within a highly traditional society.

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God's Rascal

J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism

Barry Hankins

Colorful and outrageous, influential yet despicable, J. Frank Norris was a preacher, newspaper publisher, political activist, and all-around subject of controversy. One of the most despised men in traditional Southern Baptist circles, he was also the man most responsible for bringing hard-edged fundamentalism to the South. Barry Hankins traces Norris, the "Texas Cyclone," from his boyhood in small-town Texas to his death in 1952. Despite scandals, Norris was a man of considerable public influence who traveled the owrkd, corresponded with congressmen, and attended president's Hoover's inaguration at Hoover's invitation. Through his preaching career he battled anyone and everyone he saw as part of the leftist conspiracy to foist liberalism and immorality on America. This account reveals a remarkable man who helped shape the current American religious landscape.

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The Great Revival

Beginnings of the Bible Belt

John B. Boles

Drawing upon the religious writings of southern evangelicals, John Boles asserts that the extraordinary crowds and miraculous transformations that distinguished the South's First Great Awakening were not simply instances of emotional excess but the expression of widespread and complex attitudes toward God. Converted southerners were starkly individualistic, interested more in gaining personal salvation in a hopelessly evil world than in improving society. As Boles shows in this landmark study, the effect of the Revival was to throw over the region a conservative cast that remains dominant in contemporary southern thought and life.

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Liquor in the Land of the Lost Cause

Southern White Evangelicals and the Prohibition Movement

Joe L. Coker

In the late 1800s, Southern evangelicals believed contemporary troubles—everything from poverty to political corruption to violence between African Americans and whites—sprang from the bottles of “demon rum” regularly consumed in the South. Though temperance quickly gained support in the antebellum North, Southerners cast a skeptical eye on the movement, because of its ties with antislavery efforts. Postwar evangelicals quickly realized they had to make temperance appealing to the South by transforming the Yankee moral reform movement into something compatible with southern values and culture. In Liquor in the Land of the Lost Cause: Southern White Evangelicals and the Prohibition Movement, Joe L. Coker examines the tactics and results of temperance reformers between 1880 and 1915. Though their denominations traditionally forbade the preaching of politics from the pulpit, an outgrowth of evangelical fervor led ministers and their congregations to sound the call for prohibition. Determined to save the South from the evils of alcohol, they played on southern cultural attitudes about politics, race, women, and honor to communicate their message. The evangelicals were successful in their approach, negotiating such political obstacles as public disapproval the church’s role in politics and vehement opposition to prohibition voiced by Jefferson Davis. The evangelical community successfully convinced the public that cheap liquor in the hands of African American “beasts” and drunkard husbands posed a serious threat to white women. Eventually, the code of honor that depended upon alcohol-centered hospitality and camaraderie was redefined to favor those who lived as Christians and supported the prohibition movement. Liquor in the Land of the Lost Cause is the first comprehensive survey of temperance in the South. By tailoring the prohibition message to the unique context of the American South, southern evangelicals transformed the region into a hotbed of temperance activity, leading the national prohibition movement.

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Politics and Religion in the White South

edited by Glenn Feldman

Politics, while always an integral part of the daily life in the South, took on a new level of importance after the Civil War. Today, political strategists view the South as an essential region to cultivate if political hopefuls are to have a chance of winning elections at the national level. Although operating within the context of a secular government, American politics is decidedly marked by a Christian influence. In the mostly Protestant South, religion and politics have long been nearly inextricable. Politics and Religion in the White South skillfully examines the powerful role that religious considerations and influence have played in American political discourse. This collection of thirteen essays from prominent historians and political scientists explores the intersection in the South of religion, politics, race relations, and southern culture from post–Civil War America to the present, when the Religious Right has exercised a profound impact on the course of politics in the region as well as the nation. The authors examine issues such as religious attitudes about race on the Jim Crow South; Billy Graham’s influence on the civil rights movement; political activism and the Southern Baptist Convention; and Dorothy Tilly, a white Methodist woman, and her contributions as a civil rights reformer during the 1940s and 1950s. The volume also considers the issue of whether southerners felt it was their sacred duty to prevent American society from moving away from its Christian origins toward a new, secular identity and how this perceived God-given responsibility was reflected in the work of southern political and church leaders. By analyzing the vital relationship between religion and politics in the region where their connection is strongest and most evident, Politics and Religion in the White South offers insight into the conservatism of the South and the role that religion has played in maintaining its social and cultural traditionalism.

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Raccoon John Smith

Frontier Kentucky's Most Famous Preacher

Elder John Sparks

The Disciples of Christ, one of the first Christian faiths to have originated in America, was established in 1832 in Lexington, Kentucky, by the union of two groups led by Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone. The modern churches resulting from the union are known collectively to religious scholars as part of the Stone-Campbell movement. If Stone and Campbell are considered the architects of the Disciples of Christ and America’s first nondenominational movement, then Kentucky’s Raccoon John Smith is their builder and mason. Raccoon John Smith: Frontier Kentucky’s Most Famous Preacher is the biography of a man whose work among the early settlers of Kentucky carries an important legacy that continues in our own time. The son of a Revolutionary War soldier, Smith spent his childhood and adolescence in the untamed frontier country of Tennessee and southern Kentucky. A quick-witted, thoughtful, and humorous youth, Smith was shaped by the unlikely combination of his dangerous, feral surroundings and his Calvinist religious indoctrination. The dangers of frontier life made an even greater impression on John Smith as a young man, when several instances of personal tragedy forced him to question the philosophy of predeterminism that pervaded his religious upbringing. From these crises of faith, Smith emerged a changed man with a new vocation: to spread a Christian faith wherein salvation was available to all people. Thus began the long, ecclesiastical career of Raccoon John Smith and the germination of a religious revolution. Exhaustively researched, engagingly written, Raccoon John Smith is the first objective and painstakingly accurate treatment of the legendary frontier preacher. The intricacies behind the development of both Smith’s personal religious beliefs and the founding of the Christian Church are treated with equal care. Raccoon John Smith is the story of a single man, but in carefully examining the events and people that influenced Elder Smith, this book also serves as a formative history for several Christian denominations, as well as an account of the wild, early years of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

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The Roots of Appalachian Christianity

The Life and Legacy of Elder Shubal Stearns

Elder John Sparks

Appalachia's distinctive brand of Christianity has always been something of a puzzle to mainline American congregations. Often treated as pagan and unchurched, native Appalachian sects are labeled as ultraconservative, primitive, and fatalistic, and the actions of minority sub-groups such as "snake handlers" are associated with all worshippers in the region. Yet these churches that many regard as being outside the mainstream are living examples of America's own religious heritage.

The emotional and experience-based religion that still thrives in Appalachia is very much at the heart of American worship. The lack of a recognizable "father figure" like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox compounds the mystery of Appalachia's religious origins. Ordained minister John Sparks determined that such a person must have existed, and his search turned up a man less literate, urbane, and well-known than Luther, Calvin, and Knox -- but no less charismatic and influential.

Shubal Stearns, a New England Baptist minister, led a group of sixteen Baptists -- now dubbed "The Old Brethren" by Old School Baptists churches in Appalachia -- from New England to North Carolina in the mid-eighteenth century. His musical "barking" preaching is still popular, and the association of churches that he established gave birth to many of the disparate denominations prospering in the region today. A man lacking in the scholarship of his peers but endowed with the eccentricities that would make their mark on Appalachian faith, Stearns has long been an object of shame among most Baptist historians.

In The Roots of Appalachian Christianity, Sparks depicts an important religious figure in a new light. Poring over pages of out-of-print and little-used histories, Sparks discovered the complexity of Stearns's character and his impact on Appalachian Christianity. The result is a history not just of this leader but of the roots of a religious movement.

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