Politics and Religion in the White South

Politics and Religion in the White South

Politics and Religion in the White South

Politics and Religion in the White South


Politics, while always an integral part of the daily life in the South, took on a new level of importance after the Civil War. Today, political strategists view the South as an essential region to cultivate if political hopefuls are to have a chance of winning elections at the national level. Although operating within the context of a secular government, American politics is decidedly marked by a Christian influence. In the mostly Protestant South, religion and politics have long been nearly inextricable. Politics and Religion in the White South skillfully examines the powerful role that religious considerations and influence have played in American political discourse. This collection of thirteen essays from prominent historians and political scientists explores the intersection in the South of religion, politics, race relations, and southern culture from post--Civil War America to the present, when the Religious Right has exercised a profound impact on the course of politics in the region as well as the nation. The authors examine issues such as religious attitudes about race on the Jim Crow South; Billy Graham's influence on the civil rights movement; political activism and the Southern Baptist Convention; and Dorothy Tilly, a white Methodist woman, and her contributions as a civil rights reformer during the 1940s and 1950s. The volume also considers the issue of whether southerners felt it was their sacred duty to prevent American society from moving away from its Christian origins toward a new, secular identity and how this perceived God-given responsibility was reflected in the work of southern political and church leaders. By analyzing the vital relationship between religion and politics in the region where their connection is strongest and most evident, Politics and Religion in the White South offers insight into the conservatism of the South and the role that religion has played in maintaining its social and cultural traditionalism.


Glenn Feldman

There are few, if any, subjects that hold more intrinsic interest than the relationship between politics and religion: how religion affects, and is affected by, political thought and behavior. the interplay between the two, both capable of eliciting the most intense of emotions, may be found in virtually all time periods and every imaginable setting. That said, there is perhaps no area of the United States where this intersection is more important—both in daily life and at the ballot box—than the American South.

The South has always been a special place. the history of the South is the history of a place where adherence to courtesy and formal manners coexists with the most shocking outbursts of violence and the settlement of personal differences by resort to physical force; where a slower and easier pace of life is found alongside the most intense and passionate forms of religious and political expression; where a region blessed by bountiful natural resources and stunning physical beauty is beset by pockets of abject poverty, one-crop agriculture, systemic economic problems, and a stubborn strain of anti-intellectualism and indifference to the public and private advantages of education; where the personal warmth of the people and their capacity for private charity and goodwill is outmatched only by a staggering and unquestioning faith in the tenets of “rugged individualism,” laissez-faire, and even variants of the most callous forms of Social Darwinism. This is the South—all of these things, and more. It is a place of profound contradiction and, beneath its sunny exterior, of often the most serious struggle and tension between varying allegiances, competing philosophies, and divergent worldviews. Perhaps no other place in the nation is as inherently interesting a setting to study the ancient and ongoing interplay between spiritual beliefs and values, and realpolitik.

This book is an attempt to get at the intersection of politics and religion . . .

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