Religion in Mississippi

Overview

In the 1600s Colonial French settlers brought Christianity into the lands that are now the state of Mississippi. Throughout the period of French rule and the period of Spanish dominion that followed, Roman Catholicism remained the principal religion. By the time that statehood was achieved in 1817, Mississippi was attracting Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and other Protestant evangelical faiths at a remarkable pace, and by the twentieth century, religion in Mississippi was...

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Overview

In the 1600s Colonial French settlers brought Christianity into the lands that are now the state of Mississippi. Throughout the period of French rule and the period of Spanish dominion that followed, Roman Catholicism remained the principal religion. By the time that statehood was achieved in 1817, Mississippi was attracting Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and other Protestant evangelical faiths at a remarkable pace, and by the twentieth century, religion in Mississippi was dominantly Protestant and evangelical.

In this book, Randy J. Sparks traces the roots of evangelical Christianity in the state and shows how the evangelicals became a force of cultural revolution. They embraced the poorer segments of society, welcomed high populations of both women and African Americans, and deeply influenced ritual and belief in the state's vision of Christianity. In the 1830s as the Mississippi economy boomed, so did evangelicalism. As Protestant faiths became wedded to patriarchal standards, slaveholding, and southern political tradition, seeds were sown for the war that would erupt three decades later.

Until Reconstruction many Mississippi churches comprised biracial congregations and featured women in prominent roles, but as the Civil War and the racial split cooled the evangelicals' liberal fervor and drastically changed the democratic character of their religion into archconservatism, a strong but separate black church emerged. As dominance by Protestant conservatives solidified, Jews, Catholics, and Mormons struggled to retain their religious identities while conforming to standards set by white Protestant society.

As Sparks explores the dissonance between the state's powerful evangelical voice and Mississippi's social and cultural mores, he reveals the striking irony of faith and society in conflict. By the time of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, religion, formerly a liberal force, had become one of the leading proponents of segregation, gender inequality, and ethnic animosity among whites in the Magnolia State. Among blacks, however, the churches were bastions of racial pride and resistance to the forces of oppression.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781617033162
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 4/9/2012
  • Series: Heritage of Mississippi Series
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Religion and Empire: Colonial Mississippi, 1682-1796 3
2 "Religion Is a Fortune": Frontier Culture Wars, 1797-1830 29
3 "The Duty of Sisters": White Women and the Evangelical Experience 55
4 "Until the Secret Thunder Bursts": Blacks, Slavery, and the Evangelical Movement, 1799-1860 75
5 A Religion in Cotton Bales, 1830-1860 105
6 The Chastening Rod: Religion in the Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1876 127
7 "Redeeming the Times": From Reconstruction to Reform 149
8 Standing at the Crossroads: From World War I to World War II 169
9 Outsider Religious Groups in Mississippi 201
10 "A Search for Life's Meanings": Religion and Civil Rights 221
11 Modernists and Traditionalists since the 1970s 249
Epilogue 283
Notes 293
Bibliography 327
Index 357
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