Politics and Religion in the White South

Politics and Religion in the White South

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 400
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    Politics and Religion in the White South
    Book Description:

    Politics, while always an integral part of the daily life in the South, took on a new level of importance after the Civil War. Today, political strategists view the South as an essential region to cultivate if political hopefuls are to have a chance of winning elections at the national level. Although operating within the context of a secular government, American politics is decidedly marked by a Christian influence. In the mostly Protestant South, religion and politics have long been nearly inextricable. Politics and Religion in the White South skillfully examines the powerful role that religious considerations and influence have played in American political discourse. This collection of thirteen essays from prominent historians and political scientists explores the intersection in the South of religion, politics, race relations, and southern culture from post--Civil War America to the present, when the Religious Right has exercised a profound impact on the course of politics in the region as well as the nation. The authors examine issues such as religious attitudes about race on the Jim Crow South; Billy Graham's influence on the civil rights movement; political activism and the Southern Baptist Convention; and Dorothy Tilly, a white Methodist woman, and her contributions as a civil rights reformer during the 1940s and 1950s. The volume also considers the issue of whether southerners felt it was their sacred duty to prevent American society from moving away from its Christian origins toward a new, secular identity and how this perceived God-given responsibility was reflected in the work of southern political and church leaders. By analyzing the vital relationship between religion and politics in the region where their connection is strongest and most evident, Politics and Religion in the White South offers insight into the conservatism of the South and the role that religion has played in maintaining its social and cultural traditionalism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7173-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Glenn Feldman
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Glenn Feldman

    There are few, if any, subjects that hold more intrinsic interest than the relationship between politics and religion: how religion affects, and is affected by, political thought and behavior. The interplay between the two, both capable of eliciting the most intense of emotions, may be found in virtually all time periods and every imaginable setting. That said, there is perhaps no area of the United States where this intersection is more important—both in daily life and at the ballot box—than the American South.

    The South has always been a special place. The history of the South is the...

  6. 1 That Which God Hath Put Asunder: White Baptists, Black Aliens, and the Southern Social Order, 1890–1920
    (pp. 11-34)
    Fred Arthur Bailey

    Emboldened by a distinctive religious fervor, Southern Baptists leaders called down divine blessings upon racial segregation as the nineteenth century merged with the twentieth.¹ “We think it may be safely asserted that God’s hand is in the clear-drawn line between the races,” pontificated a Virginia editor in 1901. “That which God hath put asunder, let not man attempt to join.” Representatives of the South’s largest Christian denomination, Southern Baptist ministers, editors, and lay leaders combined their belief in Calvinistic theology with the logic of Social Darwinism and the traditions of black slavery to affirm God’s will on ethnic policies. All...

  7. 2 Factionalism and Ethnic Politics in Atlanta: German Jews from the Civil War through the Progressive Era
    (pp. 35-56)
    Mark K. Bauman

    Most historians of Southern urbanization pay scant attention to ethnic or immigrant group politics.¹ It is generally assumed that, lacking the numbers and concentrations associated with Northern cities, such groups failed either to coalesce or to exert much impact. The presence and obvious persecution of African Americans also negated any appeal to ethnic identity by the Southern power structure. According to historian Thomas M. Deaton, blacks served as “surrogate immigrants,” allowing foreigners to rise at relatively the same rate as native whites and experience less “ethnic sensitivity.”²

    In this essay, I argue that a least one ethnic immigrant group formed...

  8. 3 Home and Hearth: Women, the Klan, Conservative Religion, and Traditional Family Values
    (pp. 57-100)
    Glenn Feldman

    Much has been written in recent years about race, some on the Klan, and still more on women. But little has been written about women, the Klan, and the intersection of the conservative theology that often served as the underpinning of various manifestations of the KKK.¹ This is so largely because the KKK was a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, male organization. Members had to be men, by the very definition of the organization itself. Not surprisingly, most historians have logically concentrated on the actual members of the organization—men, that is—until recently. Only in the last decade have scholars done...

  9. 4 Religion, Race, and the Right in the South, 1945–1990
    (pp. 101-124)
    Paul Harvey

    In the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, conservatives in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination staged a complete rout of moderates and assumed control over the convention’s numerous agencies and its $150 million budget. Conservatives had been caucusing and organizing over their grievances since the 1920s, but their anger at denominational leaders who endorsedBrown v. Board of Educationand the broader civil rights agenda forced them to coalesce. As they perceived it, therewasa denominational elite from which they were largely excluded. This elite, the conservatives believed, produced modernist books, endorsed integration,...

  10. 5 “City Mothers”: Dorothy Tilly, Georgia Methodist Women, and Black Civil Rights
    (pp. 125-156)
    Andrew M. Manis

    Sometime in the 1950s an editor of a large Southern newspaper advised a group of college students, “If you do not know what social action to take, watch the Methodist women, and where they lead, follow.”¹ Similar instructions were issued in 1982 when John Patrick McDowell pointed historians toward Methodist women if they wanted to see evidence of the Social Gospel in the American South.² Both the editor and the scholar were correct in isolating the women of the Methodist Church as the vanguard of Southern white church people’s efforts to sow seeds of racial change in the pre–civil...

  11. 6 Billy Graham, Civil Rights, and the Changing Postwar South
    (pp. 157-186)
    Steven P. Miller

    Billy Graham stands as one of the most recognizable religious figures in the United States and throughout much of the world. The remarkable duration of his tenure as an evangelist—which has lasted just over half a century—no doubt suggests something about both his consistency and flexibility. As Graham biographer William Martin noted, the evangelist has never lacked an understanding of the popular mind. As such, historians and other scholars of American religion have treated Graham as emblematic of, and contributing to, a number of national sociopolitical trends during the postwar era. Notable examples include a nationwide resurgence of...

  12. 7 Southern Baptist Clergy, the Christian Right, and Political Activism in the South
    (pp. 187-214)
    James L. Guth

    Religion has always played a part in Southern politics, although that role has often been obscured. The leaders of institutional religion, the clergy, have often been deeply enmeshed in critical political developments in the region, though often while denying any such involvement. In this chapter, I consider the nature of contemporary political activity among an important Southern religious elite, the clergy of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the region’s “Established Church.” The SBC is also the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, with almost 16 million members in over 39,000 congregations located in every state. The SBC’s membership growth, increasing conservatism, and...

  13. 8 The Religious Right and Electoral Politics in the South
    (pp. 215-230)
    Charles S. Bullock III and Mark C. Smith

    Perhaps no other topic surrounding religion and politics has received more attention of late than the role and activities of the Religious Right. In some quarters, it is generally assumed that the Religious Right has the political capital to run roughshod over virtually any opposition, within or without the Republican Party. However, a close examination of issues, constituencies, and electoral results in eleven Southern states between 1994 and 2000 suggests otherwise. The power of the Religious Right is not absolute or unfettered—although it is undeniably strong. This chapter will present a theory—“core constituency theory”—that seeks to shed...

  14. 9 Donald Wildmon, the American Family Association, and the Theology of Media Activism
    (pp. 231-254)
    Ted Ownby

    In December 1976, Donald Wildmon had what he describes as a life-changing experience. Frustrated and long enraged by things that offended his sensibilities, the Methodist preacher at a church in northern Mississippi launched a religious campaign, willing to work out a strategy as he went along. He rejected a religion that concentrates on saving souls, instead calling for church members, and especially church leaders, to give up their concerns for comfort, respectability, and fund-raising and urging Christians to join him in what he calls a “confrontational ministry.” That ministry demands frequent—even daily—activism, personal sacrifice, and the willingness to...

  15. 10 The Christian Right in Virginia Politics
    (pp. 255-270)
    Mark J. Rozell and Clyde Wilcox

    In Virginia, the Christian Right has evolved from a marginal player in the state’s once small Republican Party to a major faction in a party that now has firm control of the state legislature and has largely dominated statewide elections since the 1990s. The movement has developed from a small cadre of uncompromising activists into a strong but deeply divisive faction in the Republican Party, and finally into a skilled and successful partner in the GOP coalition. The Christian Right clearly played an important role in the rapid growth of the GOP in the state.

    In many ways, Virginia is...

  16. 11 The Mercedes and the Pine Tree: Modernism and Traditionalism in Alabama
    (pp. 271-286)
    Natalie M. Davis

    Over the past several years, literature has emerged to tackle the issue of transformations in the contemporary world. Basic to these transformations is the tension between modernism and traditionalism. Modernism is linked to secularism, rationalism, new technologies, globalism, tolerance, change, and a belief in the future. In contrast, traditionalism is defined by religiosity, faith, hierarchy, particularism, fundamentalism, experience, and recourse to the past. Modernists embrace change and the future; traditionalists are skeptical of both. Given the opportunities as well as dislocations associated with globalism and technological change, many see modernism and traditionalism in constant conflict.¹

    In assessing the impact of...

  17. 12 The Status Quo Society, the Rope of Religion, and the New Racism
    (pp. 287-352)
    Glenn Feldman

    The history of the South is, in many respects, the story of an ongoing clash—a centuries-old conflict now, between progress and tradition, change and continuity, reform opposed to reaction. In this way, and in many others, the South serves as a subset—albeit the most intense and concentrated subset—of the greater nation of which it is a part. A variety of our most insightful and revered American and Southern historians, over a long period of time, have written their histories of the South and understood the region from such a tableau. C. Vann Woodward made the change/continuity question...

  18. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 353-362)
  19. Contributors
    (pp. 363-364)
  20. Index
    (pp. 365-386)