From Mounds to Megachurches

From Mounds to Megachurches: Georgia's Religious Heritage

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 240
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    From Mounds to Megachurches
    Book Description:

    In From Mounds to Megachurches David S. Williams offers a sweeping overview of the role religion has played in Georgia's history, from precolonial days to the modern era. Williams shows that colonial Georgia was a remarkably diverse place, populated by mainline colonial congregations that included Anglicans, Roman Catholics, German- and Spanish-speaking Jews, Salzburg Lutherans, and Scottish Presbyterians. It wasn't until much later that evangelicalism triumphed and Baptists became the overwhelmingly dominant denomination. Williams uses the stories of such important figures as Tomochichi, John Wesley, Jesse Mercer, Henry McNeal Turner, Lillian Smith, Martin Luther King Jr., and Clarence Jordan to portray larger historical narratives and denominational battles. Race and religion were intertwined not only in such key movements as abolition and civil rights but also throughout Georgia's history. "In order to fully grasp the religious heritage of Georgia," Williams says, "we must return again and again to racial matters." Recently, Georgians have seen racial, ethnic, and religious diversity grow as Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Baha'i, and other communities have settled in the state. Williams explores how Georgians have dealt with contemporary issues of tolerance and how, at times, the state has taken center stage in our nation's culture wars. Firmly rooting religious history in a social, cultural, and political context, Williams presents a representative and balanced account of Georgia's religious heritage. From Mounds to Megachurches sheds new light on what it means to be a Georgian by exploring an issue that remains central to life in the Sunbelt South.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3638-1
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 1-4)

    Given the vital role that religion has played in Georgia, it seems appropriate that the oldest public building in the state is Jerusalem Lutheran Church, located in Effingham County.¹ Close inspection shows that some of the church’s bricks still bear the imprints of the hands that made them more than two hundred years ago. The persons who shaped those bricks spoke the German language, yet their community was an integral part of the British colony of Georgia, a vivid illustration of the diversity that has marked the state since its beginnings.² Indeed, one historian of colonial Georgia has observed that...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Before Georgia
    (pp. 5-17)

    In 1818, having returned from “a tour of considerable extent in the United States,” New York minister Elias Cornelius wrote to the editor of the American Journal of Science regarding various geological and other natural features he had examined. Near the end of his report Cornelius discussed a few curiosities he had also encountered. The last items he mentioned were three earthen mounds beside the Etowah River in northwest Georgia, near modern Cartersville. Cornelius had seen such mounds before but never of such dimensions as the largest of the three, which he described as a “stupendous pile.” Accompanying him at...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Seeds Are Sown
    (pp. 18-30)

    During the initial decades of the eighteenth century, European powers bordered what would become Georgia, involved in an intricate political dance. Above the Savannah River sat the British colony of Carolina, and below the St. Mary’s River was Spanish Florida. Each claimed at least partial possession of the land between, leading some historians to dub the coast of Georgia at that time “the debatable land.”¹ In the 1720s a lone military outpost sat between them, Fort King George, which was built in 1721 at the mouth of the Altamaha River.² The English troops who garrisoned the fort were unable to...

  7. CHAPTER THREE God Is Calling Ev’ry Nation
    (pp. 31-48)

    Alone figure rode on horseback throughout eastern Georgia in March 1791 to observe the status of religion in the region. The rider was Francis Asbury, a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church and the “father of American Methodism.”¹ Methodism arose following an experience that John Wesley had in May 1738, just a few months after returning to England from Georgia. Wesley, an Anglican minister, had undergone a profound religious experience in which he felt his heart “strangely warmed.” This event changed him and made him feel that Anglicanism needed to be reinvigorated in order to awaken emotional as well as...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Crucible of Slavery
    (pp. 49-69)

    In the final month of 1860, newly elected president Abraham Lincoln corresponded with Georgian Alexander H. Stephens, with whom he had served during the 1840s in the U.S. Congress.¹ In the course of their communication, each man drew attention to slavery as the main issue dividing the South and the North. On December 22, Lincoln wrote from Springfield, Illinois: “You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; while we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us.”² In his reply, written on...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE A Racial Pas de Deux
    (pp. 70-83)

    On the morning of November 16, 1864, Union major general William Tecumseh Sherman set out from Atlanta, which he had recently captured, and headed for Georgia’s coast with his troops. As they advanced toward Savannah, Sherman and his forces cut a swath through the heart of Georgia.¹ White Georgians reacted with horror to Sherman’s march to the sea, “the Civil War’s most destructive campaign against a civilian population.”² Dolly Sumner Lunt, who lived on a plantation near Covington, kept a wartime diary and recorded on November 19 that “Sherman with a greater portion of his army passed my house all...

  11. CHAPTER SIX In the Shadow of Jim Crow
    (pp. 84-103)

    Atlanta audiences were in tears watching heart-wrenching scenes of the Civil War era played out before them on the movie screen, including a nighttime depiction of the city burning. A contemporary review in the Atlanta Journal held that “there has been nothing to equal it—nothing. Not as a motion picture, nor a play, nor a book does it come to you; but as the soul and spirit and flesh of the heart of your country’s history, ripped from the past and brought quivering with all human emotions before your eyes.” The opening night audience was completely spellbound: “It swept...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Things Are Stirring
    (pp. 104-122)

    In the mid-1930s, a young black boy in Atlanta discovered the existence of a race problem in America. When he and a white friend he had known for three years entered the city’s segregated school system, the friend’s father would no longer let the two boys play together. “I never will forget what a great shock this was to me,” he later recalled. He discussed the matter with his parents and they told him about some of their own negative racial experiences. He later recounted: “I was greatly shocked, and from that moment on I was determined to hate every...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Culture and Worship Wars
    (pp. 123-144)

    A twenty-two-year-old indigent Georgia woman, who came to be known by the pseudonym “Mary Doe,” applied to the Abortion Committee of Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital in March 1970. She was nine weeks pregnant and already had three children, the youngest of whom she had given up for adoption, while the older two were in foster care. She had received advice that “an abortion could be performed on her with less danger to her health than if she gave birth to the child she was carrying.” After her application to have a therapeutic abortion was denied, she sued the attorney general...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 145-150)

    The Civil War stands almost at the midpoint between James Oglethorpe’s colony and today’s state of Georgia. It also represents a dividing line for Georgia’s churches. Before the war, black slaves worshipped with whites in biracial settings, albeit ones controlled and dominated by whites. After the war, free blacks established their own churches and denominations. Segregation of worship mirrored the segregation of society. Following the demise of enforced societal segregation in the 1950s and 1960s, selective segregation of worship largely continues.

    Prior to the founding of the colony of Georgia, English-sponsored Indian slaving had developed, which in time gave way...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 151-192)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-212)
  17. Index
    (pp. 213-219)