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Unitarianism in the Antebellum South: The Other Invisible Institution
     

Unitarianism in the Antebellum South: The Other Invisible Institution

by John Allen Macaulay, Edith Blumhofer (Editor), Wayne Flynt (Editor)
 

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John Macaulay's model study of Unitarianism in the antebellum south reestablishes the denomination's position as an influential religious movement in the early history of the region. By looking at benevolent societies, lay meetings, professional and civic activity, ecumenical interchange, intellectual forums, business partnerships, literary correspondence,

Overview

John Macaulay's model study of Unitarianism in the antebellum south reestablishes the denomination's position as an influential religious movement in the early history of the region. By looking at benevolent societies, lay meetings, professional and civic activity, ecumenical interchange, intellectual forums, business partnerships, literary correspondence, friendships, and other associations in which southern Unitarians were engaged with other southerners on a daily basis, Macaulay sees a much greater Unitarian presence than has been previously recognized. Instead of relying on a count of church steeples to gauge numbers, this volume blurs the lines between southern Unitarianism and orthodoxy by demonstrating how their theologies coexisted and intertwined.
 
Macaulay posits that just beneath the surface of organized religion in the South was an "invisible institution" not unlike Franklin Frazier's Black Church, a nebulous network of liberal faith that represented a sustained and continued strand of Enlightenment religious rationalism alongside and within an increasingly evangelical culture. He shows that there were in fact two invisible religious institutions in the antebellum South, one in the slave quarters and the other in the urban landscape of southern towns. Whereas slave preachers rediscovered in music and bodily movement and in themes of suffering a vibrant Christian community, Unitarians witnessed the simple spiritual truth that reason and belief are one unified whole.
 
In offering this fresh argument, Macaulay has chipped away at stereotypes of the mid-19th-century South as unreservedly "evangelical" and contributed greatly to historians' understanding of the diversity and complexity in southern religion.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Macaulay does an excellent job of showing how much northern and southern Unitarianism diverged in the antebellum period. His argument that southern Unitarianism should be considered an independent denominational and intellectual movement is a convincing contribution to southern religion history.”
Journal of Southern History

“Trained in both theology and history, John Macaulay has provided in this work strong correctives to the commonly held views that southern Unitarianism was merely a New England offshoot and that southern religion was generally only of the heart, not the head. His book clearly demonstrates the errors in these overly simplistic, conventional views.”
Georgia Historical Quarterly
 
“Macaulay's book deserves attention for its clear delineation of the intellectual and scriptural foundations of Unitarianism and, especially, for its common sense arguments on the ways social relationships made the few Unitarians a force in southern urban culture and benevolence.”
Florida Historical Quarterly

"John Macaulay sculpts the southern face of antebellum American Unitarianism with clarity, empathy, and discernment. Macaulay's almost startling portrait resurrects one of the South's most elusive, itriguing spiritual groups even as it illustrates Unitarainism's unexpected adaptability in the South and the region's intriguing spiritual diverisity. This is a subtle, superbly researched, engagingly written book that rejuvenates a fascinating chapter of pre-Civil War southern history.
—Jon Butler, Yale University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780817310868
Publisher:
University of Alabama Press
Publication date:
06/28/2001
Series:
Religion and American Culture Series
Edition description:
1st Edition
Pages:
200
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

John A. Macaulay is an independent scholar educated at Erskine College, Duke University Divinity School, and the University of South Carolina.

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