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In an astonishing history, a work of strikingly original research ...
In an astonishing history, a work of strikingly original research and interpretation, Heyman shows how the evangelical Protestants of the late-18th century affronted the Southern Baptist majority of the day, not only by their opposition to slaveholding, war, and class privilege, but also by their espousal of the rights of the poor and their encouragement of women's public involvement in the church. 352 pp. 6,000 print.
Historian Heyrman (Univ. of Delaware) has crafted a meticulous portrait of the early South in the era of the Second Great Awakening, roughly around the turn of the 19th century. She demonstrates that evangelical religion and southern culture were at first rigidly incompatible—young itinerant Methodist and Baptist preachers threatened the authority of middle-aged southern planters, while women and slaves who found outlets as evangelical exhorters challenged white male power. Evangelicalism could only triumph in the South when its evangelists were willing to make themselves over in the image of the southern male gentry. This meant that preachers had to become older, more settled, and more aggressively masculine, while women ceased to exercise public spiritual authority, retreating instead to the domestic realm. Evangelical religion, which had once demanded that its adherents sever all ties with unbelieving family members, reinvented itself as the force which held the southern family together. The South's "family religion" continues to this day; in the epilogue, Heyrman briefly explores the contemporary legacy of this evangelical male transformation in groups like the Promise Keepers. This is an outstanding book, impressively saturated with primary sources, beautifully written, and spiced with pervasive wit. Heyrman offers a novelist's sensitivity to the many colorful characters of her tale, with each anecdote illuminating the overall evolution of southern evangelicalism. One might wish only for more attention to slave religion, and the interplay between white and black evangelicalism.
But in all, this is a remarkable book that will set a high standard for future studies of religion in the antebellum South.
Charles B. Dew, New York Times Book Review
This is an outstanding book, impressively saturated with primary sources, beautifully written, and spiced with pervasive wit.
Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt has narrative power, unusually combining incisiveness with humanity.
Times Literary Supplement
Indispensable for the study of Southern religion.
Religious Studies Review
[F]or tackling the history of the evangelical mainstream in an innovative way, this book represents an important contribution.
|Prologue: Canaan's Language||3|
|1||Raising the Devil||28|
|2||The Season of Youth||77|
|4||Mothers and Others in Israel||161|