Divided Hearts: The Presbyterian Journey through Oklahoma History

Article excerpt

Divided Hearts: The Presbyterian Journey through Oklahoma History. By Michael Cassity and Danney Goble. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, c. 2009. Pp. [xx], 340. $24.95, ISBN 978-0-8061-3848-0.)

This volume is a broadly defined denominational history within the boundary of one state. Similar volumes about religious groups, often mainline Protestant denominations, are common. They tend to be chronological narratives confined by geography. Such works usually demonstrate progress by focusing on denominational leaders perceived as courageous, influential missions and later congregations, splits and unifications, and theological controversies from the time of the first denominational representative in the state to the decade in which the book is written. In this tradition, Michael Cassity and Danney Goble explore Presbyterianism in its several and changing institutional guises in Oklahoma from the state's territorial beginnings until the turn of the twenty-first century.

The authors mitigate a purely progressive portrayal of Oklahoma Presbyterianism by illustrating some theological and practical complexities and ironies. As their title, Divided Hearts: The Presbyterian Journey through Oklahoma History, suggests, Cassity and Goble argue that "Presbyterians in Oklahoma history have been torn, as individuals and as a denomination, between opposing forces: between theology and practice, between what they called 'civilization' and 'heathenism,' between reforming society and redeeming the individual, between tradition and modernization, between faith and science--and more" (pp. xv-xvi). The book concludes by saying that this is inevitable, for a denomination that values introspection, vigorous discussion, and social responsibility is forever "in the anxious seat" (p. 286).

Cassity and Goble hint at some unique features of Presbyterianism in Oklahoma--relations with Native Americans, education, and commitment to social justice. The Oklahoma Presbyterian story actually begins in the southeastern United States with a late-eighteenth-century mission outreach to the Five Nations--the Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles--located in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida. …