A Genealogy of Dissent: Southern Baptist Protest in the Twentieth Century

Article excerpt

A Genealogy of Dissent: Southern Baptist Protest in the Twentieth Century. By David Stricklin. Religion in the South. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, c. 1999. Pp. xviii, 229. $36.00, ISBN 0-8131-2093-4.)

This book appears at an important time in American religious life. Representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) currently occupy center stage in the attempt of a major denomination to provide a countercultural response to the American "public square." Their efforts are generally representative of a radical right agenda. David Stricklin, an assistant professor in the division of fine arts at Lyon College, addresses Southern Baptists' history of dissent throughout the twentieth century. His focus, however, is on those whose concerns moved them more left of center. Stricklin contends that a "genealogy of dissent" led certain individuals and groups of Southern Baptists to respond against the grain of southern culture, refusing to be "at ease in Zion" (p. 19) when it came to significant issues of the social gospel such as race, civil rights, war and peace, women in ministry, and certain theological debates.

Stricklin recounts the activities of well-known dissenters, including the founder of Koinonia Farms, Clarence Jordan; noted SBC ethicists T. B. Maston, Henlee Barnette, and Foy Valentine; outspoken pastor Carlyle Marney; and educator Edwin McNeill Poteat. One of the great services of the book is the information it provides about certain lesser known "prophets" such as Walter Johnson, a pastor and denominational administrator who wrote extensively on issues of economics and politics, constantly urging Southern Baptist churches to develop radical methods for community service and Christian discipleship. …

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