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Spiritual churches in the United States represent one of several religious movements that African Americans have adopted in their efforts to cope with mainstream society. In this groundbreaking work, first published in 1984, Hans A. Baer explores the richness and creativity of Black Spiritualism, setting forth an illuminating ethnography of the movement that corrects numerous stereotypes of African American religion.
Baer shows that the Spiritual churches blend diverse elements, borrowing aspects of African American Protestantism, American Spiritualism, Roman Catholicism, Voodoo, and black ethno-medicine, occasionally even including aspects of Islam, Judaism, New Thought, and Ethiopianism. He describes not only the history, structure, ideology, and practices of the churches but also the process of syncretism within them and their role within the African American community. In addition, Baer examines how the Spiritual movement juxtaposes elements of protest and accommodation to racism and class stratification in U.S. society
This second edition includes a new preface and a new epilogue in which Baer discusses his methodology in researching the Black Spiritual Movement, describes his meetings with pastors and congregation members, and summarizes his most recent research in the field.