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Gospel of Disunion: Religion and Separatism in the Antebellum South

Gospel of Disunion: Religion and Separatism in the Antebellum South

by Mitchell Snay
Gospel of Disunion: Religion and Separatism in the Antebellum South

Gospel of Disunion: Religion and Separatism in the Antebellum South

by Mitchell Snay


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The centrality of religion in the life of the Old South, the strongly religious nature of the sectional controversy over slavery, and the close affinity between religion and antebellum American nationalism all point toward the need to explore the role of religion in the development of southern sectionalism. In Gospel of Disunion Mitchell Snay examines the various ways in which religion adapted to and influenced the development of a distinctive southern culture and politics before the Civil War, adding depth and form to the movement that culminated in secession. From the abolitionist crisis of 1835 through the formation of the Confederacy in 1861, Snay shows how religion worked as an active agent in translating the sectional conflict into a struggle of the highest moral significance. At the same time, the slavery controversy sectionalized southern religion, creating separate institutions and driving theology further toward orthodoxy. By establishing a biblical sanction for slavery, developing a slaveholding ethic for Christian masters, and demonstrating the viability of separation from the North through the denominational schisms of the 1830s and 1840s, religion reinforced central elements in southern political culture and contributed to a moral consensus that made secession possible.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469616155
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 02/01/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 280
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Mitchell Snay is associate professor of history at Denison University.

Table of Contents

Introduction. Religion and the search for Southern distinctiveness; Part I. Religion and Sectional Politics: 1. The abolitionist crisis of 1835: the issues defined; Part II. Religion and Slavery: 2. Slavery defended: the morality of slavery and the infidelity of abolitionism; 3. Slavery sanctified: the slaveholding ethic and the religious mission to the slaves; Part III. Religion and Separatism: 4. Harbingers of disunion: the denominational schisms, 5. The religious logic of secession; 6. Religion and the formation of a Southern nationalism and the coming of the Civil War.

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From the Publisher

A major contribution to clarifying what increasingly seems like a fundamental cause of the war: the differing ideologies, North and South, with religious values playing a key part in providing moral meanings to both sides in a sectional struggle that would lead to war.—Charles Reagan Wilson, American Historical Review

Snay utilizes a broad range of primary sources to portray and analyze the religious dimension of this momentous rupture in the political landscape of the nation, and he does so with analytical precision. . . . [His] convincing interpretation is also written in clear, uncluttered prose. . . . The result is a work of interest and importance to most southern historians, not just specialists in religion.—John B. Boles, Georgia Historical Quarterly

Gospel of Disunion brings together all the recent scholarship in a most accessible and congenial synthesis. More important, the author has invested his own intelligence and interpretive skill to give the study a vital spirit of its own.—Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Reviews in American History

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