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Not Now

The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988

Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly

of Texas lay north of that line" [p. 218]). Destined to stir debate, Manifest
Design is a provocative and welcome addition to the literature on American
Purdue University ROBERT E. MAY
Religion in the South. Edited by Charles Reagan Wilson. (Jackson: Univer-
sity Press of Mississippi, 1985. Pp. viii + 200. Preface, introduction,
notes, selected bibliography, index. $15.00, cloth; $8.95, paper.)
The essays in Religion in the South, with the exception of Wayne Flynt's
compilation of evidence of a social gospel within southern Presbyterianism,
offer broad generalizations by senior scholars on topics they have worked
before-- John B. Boles on antebellum evangelicals, C. Eric Lincoln on
black religion, David E. Harrell on dissenting sects, Samuel S. Hill on
religion and politics, and Edwin S. Gaustad on regionalism in religion.
They offer few path-breaking suggestions, save for Boles's argument that
the First Great Awakening never happened in the South and Harrell's
observation that "the decade of the 1890s was a watershed in southern
religious history" (p. 79). But editor Charles R. Wilson intends the essays,
originally presented at the Chancellor's Symposium on Southern History
at the University of Mississippi, to provide a "convenient overview of
southern religious development" (p. 5), an overview that acknowledges
religious diversity within the region but stresses the dominance of
evangelical Protestantism and its role in supporting a persisting southern
The essays do provide a helpful overview, but as often challenge as
confirm the idea of a unified southern evangelicalism sustaining regional
distinctiveness. Boles's tightly argued review of how the evangelical
dissenters of the 1790s became the religious establishment of the 1850s
makes the strongest case for unity and exceptionalism. Lincoln's essay,
however, reminds the reader that race constituted a fundamental divi-
sion within southern religion. Harrell doubts the existence of a theological
consensus among the major denominations and argues at length that deep
class tensions divided southern protestantism and helped shape its
denominational structure. If correct, Harrell's latter contention not only
questions the existence of a united evangelicalism but suggests southern
denominational development resembled that in the rest of the nation. Long
ago, H. Richard Niebuhr pointed to the crucial role of social class in
American denominationalism. Similarly, Flynt, though stressing regional
variations, still shows how a major movement within northern churches
influenced a southern denomination, and Hill emphasizes the southern


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 4, 2016.

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