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Southern Crossroads

Southern Crossroads: Perspectives on Religion and Culture

Walter H. Conser
Rodger M. Payne
Walter H. Conser
James R. Curtis
Matthew Day
Marcie Cohen Ferris
Paul Harvey
Samuel S. Hill
Barbara Lau
Bill J. Leonard
William Martin
Donald G. Mathews
William D. Moore
Charles E. Orser
Diana Pasulka
Celeste Ray
Randall J. Stephens
Charles Reagan Wilson
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 390
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  • Book Info
    Southern Crossroads
    Book Description:

    The South has always been one of the most distinctive regions of the United States, with its own set of traditions and a turbulent history. Although often associated with cotton, hearty food, and rich dialects, the South is also noted for its strong sense of religion, which has significantly shaped its history. Dramatic political, social, and economic events have often shaped the development of southern religion, making the nuanced dissection of the religious history of the region a difficult undertaking. For instance, segregation and the subsequent civil rights movement profoundly affected churches in the South as they sought to mesh the tenets of their faith with the prevailing culture. Editors Walter H. Conser and Rodger M. Payne and the book's contributors place their work firmly in the trend of modern studies of southern religion that analyze cultural changes to gain a better understanding of religion's place in southern culture now and in the future. Southern Crossroads: Perspectives on Religion and Culture takes a broad, interdisciplinary approach that explores the intersection of religion and various aspects of southern life. The volume is organized into three sections, such as "Religious Aspects of Southern Culture," that deal with a variety of topics, including food, art, literature, violence, ritual, shrines, music, and interactions among religious groups. The authors survey many combinations of religion and culture, with discussions ranging from the effect of Elvis Presley's music on southern spirituality to yard shrines in Miami to the archaeological record of African American slave religion. The book explores the experiences of immigrant religious groups in the South, also dealing with the reactions of native southerners to the groups arriving in the region. The authors discuss the emergence of religious and cultural acceptance, as well as some of the apparent resistance to this development, as they explore the experiences of Buddhist Americans in the South and Jewish foodways. Southern Crossroads also looks at distinct markers of religious identity and the role they play in gender, politics, ritual, and violence. The authors address issues such as the role of women in Southern Baptist churches and the religious overtones of lynching, with its themes of blood sacrifice and atonement. Southern Crossroads offers valuable insights into how southern religion is studied and how people and congregations evolve and adapt in an age of constant cultural change.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2928-0
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    Walter H. Conser Jr. and Rodger M. Payne

    Crossroads are places of power and transformation. The traveler at a crossroads may suddenly change directions or transgress established boundaries; at the crossroads, different worlds come into contact, and perhaps conflict, with one another. In some religions, such as the African diasporic religion of Vodun, the guardian of the crossroads must always be first addressed and propitiated before the beneficence of the supernatural world may be accessed. Similarly, in Christianity, the cross is a powerful symbol that connects the mundane human world with the realm of the divine; but this dynamic can, however, move equally well in the opposite direction....

  4. Religious Aspects of Southern Culture

    • “Just a Little Talk with Jesus”: Elvis Presley, Religious Music, and Southern Spirituality
      (pp. 9-26)
      Charles Reagan Wilson

      In December 1956 Elvis Presley dropped in at Sun Studios in Memphis, just as a Carl Perkins recording session was ending. Presley was now a national star, having transcended earlier that year his previous status as a regional rockabilly performer. That special day became known as the Million Dollar Session because of the supposed “million dollars” worth of talent that included Presley, Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and, briefly, Johnny Cash. An open microphone recorded a lively jam session. For the student of southern religious music, it was an especially revealing moment. In addition to improvising with country, blues, and early...

    • Miami’s Little Havana: Yard Shrines, Cult Religion, and Landscape
      (pp. 27-38)
      James R. Curtis

      In the summer of 1978 a brief article entitled “Neighbors Irate over Family’s Shrine” appeared in theMiami Herald.¹ The story told of a group of residents in the predominantly non-Latin city of South Miami who feared that a newly erected seven-foot shrine in the front yard of a Cuban neighbor would lower property values. City officials called in to investigate found that the shrine was located too close to the front property line and thus was in violation of municipal building and zoning laws. Confused and saddened by the turmoil created, the Cuban family stated that the shrine had...

    • The Archaeology of African American Slave Religion in the Antebellum South
      (pp. 39-62)
      Charles E. Orser Jr.

      The archaeology of African slavery in the New World has expanded exponentially within the past twenty years.¹ During this time, several historical archaeologists have diligently set about reconstructing slave life and history at numerous rural and urban archaeological sites. The questions explored by these scholars have been varied, but generally they have been focused on slave diet, the location and size of slave cabins, and the nature of slave material culture. Only a few archaeologists have been bold enough in their analyses to consider ideological issues, such as the role of racism in shaping slave-master relations.²

      Thus, most historical archaeologists...

    • Prime Minister
      (pp. 63-88)
      William Martin

      For most preachers, Monday is a day of rest. For Joel Osteen, the forty-two-year-old pastor of Houston’s mammoth Lakewood Church and the face of the world’s most popular religious television program, Mondays have become devoted to meeting his public. On this particular Monday in mid-December 2004, his first book,Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, had just hit the top spot on theNew York Times’s “Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous” best-seller list. To show its appreciation, the book’s publisher, Warner Faith, had provided Joel with a private jet and liveried town cars to ease...

    • Contextualizing the Apocalyptic Visions of McKendree Robbins Long
      (pp. 89-132)
      William D. Moore and Walter H. Conser Jr.

      The Reverend McKendree Robbins Long (1888–1976), a native of Statesville, North Carolina, who spent much of his adult life as an itinerant preacher, produced a large and compelling oeuvre of religious paintings during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.¹ These works of art have received significant national attention, largely because collectors and curators have classed them with “outsider art.” Created in the American South and addressing religious themes, Long’s paintings have been compared to those by celebrated figures such as Howard Finster (1915–2001) and Minnie Evans (1892–1987). Finster and Evans, however, were artists without formal academic training who...

    • Flannery O’Connor and the Southern Code of Manners
      (pp. 133-144)
      Matthew Day

      Lionel Trilling worried that the United States would never produce a classic novel because we lacked the basis for writing one—a European-styled struggle between the ancien régime and the nouveau riche. Since the novel is a historical by-product of the clash between the emerging middle class and the entrenched aristocracy, he reasoned, it is essentially a cultural archive for the vocabulary of manners distinguishing these two classes. Thus, any country lacking economic theater on this grand scale will also lack the catalog of social distinctions that serious literature demands. “American fiction,” he wrote inThe Liberal Imagination, “has nothing...

  5. Encounters in Southern Religion and Culture

    • Meetings at the Buddhist Temple: Signposts to a Changing South
      (pp. 147-163)
      Barbara Lau

      Wood for sale. It is a small sign made of plywood, painted white with red letters. Nailed to a short stake, it is stuck in the ground next to the driveway. Across the pavement a larger sign, mounted on much taller posts, reads: greensboro buddhist center. wat greensboro. Made of carefully joined pine boards, its raised letters are painted gold. Above it, the stars and stripes of an American flag fly next to an orange Buddhist wheel of life on a background of yellow. Straddling the driveway, these simple identifying markers signify an intriguing, perhaps unexpected, set of invitations to...

    • Feeding the Jewish Soul in the Delta Diaspora
      (pp. 164-193)
      Marcie Cohen Ferris

      Mention “The Delta” and vivid images come to mind of a dramatic, flat landscape etched by rows of cotton and bounded by the Mississippi River. One imagines catfish, juke joints, barbecue, and pickup trucks in a world inhabited by white planters, poor white sharecroppers, and black blues musicians. Although the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta is largely populated by black and white working-class laborers and upper-class white landowners, the region is also shaped by a small group of Jewish southerners, now numbering no more than three hundred, whose families first arrived in the Delta in the late nineteenth century as peddlers...

    • “There Is Magic in Print”: The Holiness-Pentecostal Press and the Origins of Southern Pentecostalism
      (pp. 194-230)
      Randall J. Stephens

      Testimonials similar to these flooded Holiness and Pentecostal periodicals throughout the United States from 1906 to 1910, making the religious press instrumental in the revival’s formation and perpetuation.¹ As correspondents penned their sentiments, Pentecostalism entered the South through the enthusiastic reports of an unconventional revival occurring in Los Angeles. William Seymour, an African American holiness preacher originally from Louisiana, began his revival with integrated meetings in a rundown former African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church on Azusa Street. Soon after the revival began in April 1906, the gatherings received the attention ofLos Angeles Timesreporters, who lampooned the attendants for...

    • Scottish Heritage, Southern Style
      (pp. 231-248)
      Celeste Ray

      During the past four decades, growing interest in Americans’ cultural and ancestral ties to Scotland has produced hundreds of new clan and heritage societies and a steadily increasing number of Scottish Highland games. Scottish American ethnic awareness and organization has had other, briefer, periods of popularity in our nation’s history. However, the growth of Scottish cultural groups and gatherings has proved most dramatic in the late-twentieth-century South, where a unique and distinctly regional style flavors events and perceptions of Scottish origins. Today, approximately half of all Scottish American societies base their associations in the South and more than one-third of...

    • “These Untutored Masses”: The Campaign for Respectability among White and Black Evangelicals in the American South, 1870–1930
      (pp. 249-272)
      Paul Harvey

      Historians of white and black religious culture in the post–Civil War American South have heretofore focused on the rebuilding of white southern churches, the religion of the Lost Cause, and the rise of African American denominations. Scholars have ignored the ways in which leaders of regional religious organizations of both races lumped together ordinary white and black believers, thus creating (and condemning) the concept of southern “folk religion.” In the twentieth century, anthropologists, folklorists, and intellectuals transformed these pejorative categories into scholarly work on folk culture in the American South. Much of this analysis arose from antimodernist reveries of...

  6. Religion and Markers of Identity

    • Purgatory in the Carolinas: Catholic Devotionalism in Nineteenth-Century South Carolina
      (pp. 275-302)
      Diana Pasulka

      During the nineteenth century, Charleston, South Carolina, was a major site of Catholic activity in the South. The Diocese of Charleston served the states of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia, and although throughout most of these states Catholics lacked churches and other forms of centralized locations for devotion, the Charleston diocese promoted a uniformity of religious practice through publications, societies, and material culture. An analysis of two forms of source material reveals a similar conclusion. The evidence of diocesan and church publications such as prayer manuals, catechisms, and society guides, as well as material culture like stained-glass windows, church...

    • Baptist Women and the South: From the “Woman’s Sphere” to the Pulpit
      (pp. 303-317)
      Bill J. Leonard

      This article from theStatement of Faithof the Baptist Bible Fellowship International, an organization of Independent Baptist churches, summarizes the twofold approach of many, perhaps most, Baptist groups regarding the role of women in the church. On one hand, it acknowledges spiritual equality of men and women “before God” and recognizes that each have specific “spiritual functions” that are ordained by God in the world. On the other hand, the statement closes the door to any consideration of females as pastors or deacons of Baptist congregations. In this way Independent Baptists perpetuate what is sometimes known as the “woman’s...

    • Lynching Religion: Why the Old Man Shouted “Glory!”
      (pp. 318-353)
      Donald G. Mathews

      On an April Sunday afternoon in 1899, a crowd of five hundred men and boys in Coweta County, Georgia, seized by an “intense feeling of right and justice,” forced a black day laborer to the outskirts of the county seat of Newnan and burned him alive.¹

      Newspaper reports never effectively captured the moment that they had helped to ignite. Fantasized rumor fed by folk myth and alarmist stories printed during a manhunt of over ten days sustained a widespread belief among citizens in the area southwest of Atlanta that an aroused manhood had sufficient cause to blend carnival, brutality, and...

    • Fundamentalism in Recent Southern Culture: Has It Done What the Civil Rights Movement Couldn’t Do?
      (pp. 354-368)
      Samuel S. Hill

      In fair weather and foul, the South is reputed; that is, it has reputation. Asking whether its reputation for this, that, or the other quality is justified has fascinated analysts—both Dixie admirers and detractors—for a very long time. One property long attributed to it, that it is religiously fundamentalist, has been incorrect until quite recently. In the same season that the South, in favor of becoming more like the rest of the country, was shedding some characterizations as too distinctive, the region has come to deserve description as fundamentalist, significantly if far from totally. Despite the South’s reputation,...

  7. Copyrights and Permissions
    (pp. 369-370)
  8. List of Contributors
    (pp. 371-374)
  9. Index
    (pp. 375-382)