Religion in the Contemporary South: Changes, Continuities, and Contexts

Article excerpt

Religion in the Contemporary South: Changes, Continuities, and Contexts

EDITORS: CORRIE E. NORMAN AND DON S. ARMENTROUT

UNIVERSITY TENNESSEE PRESS, 2005

PRICE: $21.95

ISBN-10: 1-57233-361-8 PAPER

Religion in the Contemporary South is a collection of essays concerning the current state of religious affairs in the South. Unlike comprehensive studies, collections of essays are generally limited in size and coverage. At best, they offer a dozen to two dozen samples from what is commonly a diverse and complex field. Although it is a relatively new field, Southern religious studies has already become too large for one collection to handle. Proper selection of material is important if a representation is to depict the whole. The editors of this volume have mostly chosen wisely, and the result is a solid introduction to the variety that characterizes contemporary Southern religion. It's not just the Baptists anymore.

Religion in the Contemporary South is a collection of fourteen essays in religious studies based on a 1999 conference at the University of the South. It has a great deal of information about the changed landscape of Southern religion. The new immigration of the past 30 years has brought in Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and large numbers of South American Catholics. Those are just the obvious changes. The Baptists and other denominations that characterize that old time religion are changing too. This modest volume attempts to show the varieties of religion while at the same time bringing up to date the stories of the older groups-Baptists, Pentecostals, and Jews. It's ambitious, and mostly it works.

There is one major deficiency that probably will put off the WJB S reader--there's not really any decent treatment of black religion. Oh, there's a section in the essay on women in Southern religion (one of two essays on women in religion, it is a really solid piece of writing that makes the whole volume worthwhile), and there's a discussion of race history in the third essay on the Episcopal Church (yes, the Episcopalians get three, and the AMEs get nothing.) There's also the attempt to deal with Voodoo through a discussion of a book and a film. But there is no essay devoted to the state of the black churches in today's South, and that is almost inexcusable.

The volume also lacks a decent essay on Hispanic religion in the South. …