Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster in the Evangelical South

Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster in the Evangelical South

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 200
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    Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster in the Evangelical South
    Book Description:

    Paul Harvey uses four characters that are important symbols of religious expression in the American South to survey major themes of religion, race, and southern history. The figure of Moses helps us better understand how whites saw themselves as a chosen people in situations of suffering and war and how Africans and African Americans reworked certain stories in the Bible to suit their own purposes. By applying the figure of Jesus to the central concerns of life, Harvey argues, southern evangelicals were instrumental in turning him into an American figure. The ghostly presence of the Trickster, hovering at the edges of the sacred world, sheds light on the Euro-American and African American folk religions that existed alongside Christianity. Finally, Harvey explores twentieth-century renderings of the biblical story of Absalom in William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom and in works from Toni Morrison and Edward P. Jones. Harvey uses not only biblical and religious sources but also draws on literature, mythology, and art. He ponders the troubling meaning of "religious freedom" for slaves and later for blacks in the segregated South. Through his cast of four central characters, Harvey reveals diverse facets of the southern religious experience, including conceptions of ambiguity, darkness, evil, and death.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4374-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note on Illustrations and Endnotes
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION. What Is the Soul of Man?
    (pp. 1-5)

    When the pioneering gospel blues slide guitarist Blind Willie Johnson recorded “What Is the Soul of Man?” for Columbia records in the late 1920s, he challenged listeners to ponder a question central to the religious experience. The Texan used his growling voice to pose religious queries and challenges, as in “John the Revelator”:

    Who’s that writing? John the Revelator.

    Who’s that writing? John the Revelator.

    Who’s that writing? John the Revelator.

    Hey! Book of the Seventh Seal.

    Johnson’s evangelical self-examination, “Nobody’s Fault but Mine,” has been covered numerous times since.

    The gospel blues originating in the interwar years typically expressed...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Moses, Jesus, Absalom, and the Trickster: Narratives of the Evangelical South
    (pp. 6-53)

    When, how, and why did the South become the Bible Belt? And why are the states considered the Bible Belt also so closely associated with high rates of violence, incarceration, divorce, alcoholism, obesity, and infant mortality? Grappling with these two questions together illuminates some basic paradoxes of southern history and something about the soul of man as well. Most especially, these questions compel us to confront the rise of evangelicalism as a dominant social force in the region simultaneous with persistent poverty and violence. Juxtaposing rates of religiosity and measurements of social ills helps frame an understanding of the religious...

  7. CHAPTER TWO “Because I Was a Master”: Religion, Race, and Southern Ideas of Freedom
    (pp. 54-95)

    Charles Colcock Jones, a Presbyterian planter and minister in the low country of Georgia, scorned slavery when younger but eventually emerged as the most effective advocate for the mission to the slaves in the 1830s. His complex relations with his large family and his slaves emerge in memorable detail and sensitive prose in Erskine Clarke’s Dwelling Place, a beautiful work of southern history that shows how the insidious evil of slavery undermined the determined efforts of even the best-hearted people to redeem it. Jones saw his task as one of bringing light to those who came from pagan lands but...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Suffering Saint: Jesus in the South
    (pp. 96-158)

    As perfectly portrayed by Robert Duvall, the character Sonny in the film The Apostle stands as one of the most memorable creations of the cinematic history of American religion. A Holiness minister of a biracial church in a southeastern Texas city, Duvall’s Sonny exudes charisma, “Holy Ghost Power,” and raw sexuality. His wife has left him for a “puny-assed youth minister”; aligned with his estranged wife, some members of the church have staged a successful coup against Sonny, ousting him from his pulpit. Torn about losing his children, Sonny visits his church one last time. In an apparent act of...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 159-172)
  10. Index
    (pp. 173-182)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-183)