Rough Country

Rough Country: How Texas Became America's Most Powerful Bible-Belt State

Robert Wuthnow
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 664
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    Rough Country
    Book Description:

    Tracing the intersection of religion, race, and power in Texas from Reconstruction through the rise of the Religious Right and the failed presidential bid of Governor Rick Perry,Rough Countryilluminates American history since the Civil War in new ways, demonstrating that Texas's story is also America's. In particular, Robert Wuthnow shows how distinctions between "us" and "them" are perpetuated and why they are so often shaped by religion and politics.

    Early settlers called Texas a rough country. Surviving there necessitated defining evil, fighting it, and building institutions in the hope of advancing civilization. Religion played a decisive role. Today, more evangelical Protestants live in Texas than in any other state. They have influenced every presidential election for fifty years, mobilized powerful efforts against abortion and same-sex marriage, and been a driving force in the Tea Party movement. And religion has always been complicated by race and ethnicity.

    Drawing from memoirs, newspapers, oral history, voting records, and surveys,Rough Countrytells the stories of ordinary men and women who struggled with the conditions they faced, conformed to the customs they knew, and on occasion emerged as powerful national leaders. We see the lasting imprint of slavery, public executions, Jim Crow segregation, and resentment against the federal government. We also observe courageous efforts to care for the sick, combat lynching, provide for the poor, welcome new immigrants, and uphold liberty of conscience.

    A monumental and magisterial history,Rough Countryis as much about the rest of America as it is about Texas.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5211-6
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. 1-13)

    On Sunday, May 11, 1845, Nicholas and Anton Riedel, recent arrivals with their family from Germany, penned a letter from their new home in Texas. The journey had been long and filled with anticipation. But what stood out more than anything else, now that they were here, was the freedom and the fact that people were treated equally. “This is a free land,” they wrote, “and the poorest is regarded and respected as the richest. Here no one has priority.”¹

    The previous day a group of nearly three hundred Baptist leaders gathered in Augusta, Georgia. They too valued freedom. The...

  4. CHAPTER 1 IN ROUGH COUNTRY Bringing Order to the New Frontier
    (pp. 14-50)

    On Tuesday, November 30, 1869, a well-respected businessman named B. W. Loveland failed to show up for the 7:00 p.m. meeting of the Lone Star Odd Fellows lodge of which he was a member. Loveland operated a grocery store one block from Main Street in the heart of the city, only a few doors from the present-day site of Christ Church Cathedral and the Magnolia Hotel in downtown Houston. He was a quiet, unassuming man, a Confederate veteran who attended lodge and church meetings faithfully. And that made his absence puzzling. In fact, just that afternoon he had mentioned to...

  5. CHAPTER 2 FOR THE ADVANCE OF CIVILIZATION Institution Building and Moral Character
    (pp. 51-87)

    In 1866 Martha Ann Otey moved from Mississippi to Huntsville, Texas, where she became a teacher and assistant principal at the Andrew Female College. She was well educated, having graduated from Bascom Seminary at Grenada, Mississippi, and Sharon Female Academy near Canton, Mississippi, and she had previously taught school at Lexington, Mississippi. Her brother, James Hervey Otey, was also well educated and was currently serving as an Episcopal clergyman in Columbia, Tennessee. With her husband, Colonel Armistead George Otey, a lawyer who was widowed with two young sons, she had founded a private school for girls at Castillian Springs near...

  6. CHAPTER 3 WITH LIBERTY OF CONSCIENCE Defining the Separation of Church and State
    (pp. 88-120)

    By the 1920s the opportunity to practice one’s faith with liberty of conscience was a theme expressed increasingly by Texas religious and political leaders. Emphasis on liberty of conscience implied freedom from any monopoly over religion by government or of government by a religion. It also favored the right and duty of the individual to make a decision about his or her faith and to relate accordingly to God. In practice, liberty of conscience deterred clergy and lay leaders from bringing their faith in an official or organized way into the political arena. This was to be the dominant understanding...

  7. CHAPTER 4 THE FUNDAMENTALIST BELT Coming to Terms with Science
    (pp. 121-153)

    It was a minor kerfuffle freighted with meaning. In 1930 Governor Dan Moody of Texas responded to news of gangster-led violence in Chicago by asserting that a few rangers from his state could clean up the mess in no time. Incensed at the governor’s audacity, theChicago Daily Tribuneeditorialized that Texas should try cleaning up its own act first, starting by ridding itself of bootleggers and lynch mobs. The state’s greatest contribution to science was paralysis, the paper said, and to public morality “the hypocrisy of the bottle nosed saint in the garb of the Ku Klux.” Texas was...

  8. CHAPTER 5 FROM JUDGE LYNCH TO JIM CROW Celebrating Limited Inclusion
    (pp. 154-195)

    On Friday June 19, 1936, the prominent Dallas pastor Reverend Dr. George Washington Truett greeted one of the largest gatherings ever assembled for worship in that city. The well-dressed crowd that day included fellow pastors, business leaders, and dignitaries from as far away as Kansas City and St. Louis, churchwomen, students, housewives, domestic servants, day laborers, and sharecroppers. Nearly all were African American.¹

    Truett spoke briefly, offering a warm Texas welcome, and then introduced the main speaker, Reverend Dr. Lacey Kirk Williams. Truett, who was white, headed Dallas’s massive First Baptist Church, where he had served since 1897, steadily growing...

  9. CHAPTER 6 A LOAD TOO HEAVY Religion and the Debate over Government Relief
    (pp. 196-224)

    For a nation that prided itself on individual initiative and freedom from federal government intervention, the Great Depression presented a significant challenge not only in sheer economic terms but also in self-understanding. Was it possible for individuals, families, churches, and local community organizations to provide sufficient relief for the hungry and unemployed? Or was it necessary to turn to the government for help?

    During the 1930s religious leaders and public officials debated all sides of this question. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and dealing mercifully with the poor and downtrodden were clearly mandated in the scriptures that most Americans...

    (pp. 225-268)

    The assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and Lyndon Johnson’s succession to the White House put Texas in the national spotlight as never before. However, the state was already gaining greater attention in national affairs. Whatever else observers thought about it, they agreed that it was big. Texas was not only a large state that covered hundreds of thousands of square miles and had a colorful history. It was an increasingly important player in shaping American culture. Since the 1940s journalists had been describing it as a paradise for adventuresome commercial entrepreneurs, brimming in new wealth...

    (pp. 269-302)

    Johnson’s frustration in making this remark to running mate Hubert Humphrey at the conclusion of the 1964 election was palpable. Since mid-October the campaign against the Democratic presidential ticket by challenger Barry Goldwater had become increasingly vicious. The Citizens for Goldwater organization had produced a thirty-minute film accusing the president of drinking and driving, running a corrupt administration, and leading the nation to moral ruin. In Johnson’s home state of Texas, rumors circulated that Johnson’s henchmen had prevented the film from being broadcast. Humphrey had been dispatched to shore up the administration’s image by speaking about the importance of public...

  12. CHAPTER 9 POWER TO THE PEOPLE Framing the Issues, Taking Sides
    (pp. 303-324)

    Hundreds of protesters squared off against heavily armed riot police in the largest civil rights demonstration in Dallas history. The date was Saturday, October 21, 1972. The march began that morning in South Dallas, gathering momentum for five miles along Harwood Street as it approached Corinth, where police hoped it would end, and then proceeded another mile to City Hall Plaza. Along the way marchers sang “We Shall Overcome,” raised clenched fists, and shouted “Black power.” From the steps of city hall, Southern Christian Leadership Conference head Reverend Ralph Abernathy urged the crowd to defend itself against violence and discrimination....

  13. CHAPTER 10 GOD CAN SAVE US The Campaign for a Moral America
    (pp. 325-368)

    On Friday evening, August 22, 1980, Ronald Reagan spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of seventeen thousand evangelical leaders and laypeople at Reunion Arena in Dallas. Criswell opened the two-day conference the previous day, challenging the audience to fight humanism and homosexuality and calling on them to renew their faith in the “God who can save us.” Television preacher Jerry Falwell flew in from Virginia to appear on stage with Reagan and shake his hand. Reagan told the audience, “I know you can’t endorse me. But I want you to know that I endorse you.” That fall Reagan won 51 percent...

  14. CHAPTER 11 IN A COMPASSIONATE WAY Connecting Faith and Politics
    (pp. 369-408)

    By the time Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush ran for the nation’s highest office in 1988, the lines separating liberals and conservatives and Democrats and Republicans were as clearly drawn as they had been at any time since 1964. This was as true in Texas as it was nationally. Republicans had moved sufficiently to the right that fiscal conservatism with respect to public welfare and opposition to abortion had become signature issues, while Democrats took pride in championing the needs of the poor and the rights of minorities and women. The division within religion that emerged in the 1970s...

  15. CHAPTER 12 AN INDEPENDENT LOT Religion and Grassroots Activism
    (pp. 409-447)

    While Republicans and Democrats jockeyed in gubernatorial and presidential races, religious organizations at the grass roots were mostly tending to business as usual. Pastors were preaching Sunday services, presiding at weddings, and burying the dead. It might be encouraging to hear office-seekers speaking of faith-based compassion, but the daily concerns of the churchgoing public centered more on families and personal life than on politics. The exceptions were community activists who cared about the ways in which moral principles they held dear were or were not being upheld.

    The twenty-first century marked a turning point in Texas politics and religion. Republicans...

  16. CHAPTER 13 AFTERWORD Religion and the Politics of Identity
    (pp. 448-482)

    In these closing pages I want to reflect on what the particularities of religious history in the one location we have been considering may have to offer for thinking about similar questions in other contexts. To do this, we will need to shift to a more speculative mode that ventures beyond what can be established from the empirical evidence and focuses on the concepts and theoretical arguments that may be suggested by some of the developments we have considered.

    I mentioned at the outset that there are certain opportunities for thinking about religion’s relationships with its social context by focusing...

    (pp. 483-484)
  18. NOTES
    (pp. 485-592)
    (pp. 593-626)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 627-654)