Evangelizing the South

Hardcover | December 21, 2007

byMonica Najar

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Although many refer to the American South as the "Bible Belt", the region was not always characterized by a powerful religious culture. In the seventeenth century and early eighteenth century, religion-in terms both of church membership and personal piety-was virtually absent from southernculture. The late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, however, witnessed the astonishingly rapid rise of evangelical religion in the Upper South. Within just a few years, evangelicals had spread their beliefs and their fervor, gaining converts and building churches throughout Virginiaand North Carolina and into the western regions. But what was it that made evangelicalism so attractive to a region previously uninterested in religion? Monica Najar argues that early evangelicals successfully negotiated the various challenges of the eighteenth-century landscape by creating churches that functioned as civil as well as religious bodies. The evangelical church of the late eighteenth century was the cornerstone of its community,regulating marriages, monitoring prices, arbitrating business, and settling disputes. As the era experienced substantial rifts in the relationship between church and state, the disestablishment of colonial churches paved the way for new formulations of church-state relations. The evangelicalchurches were well-positioned to provide guidance in uncertain times, and their multiple functions allowed them to reshape many of the central elements of authority in southern society. They assisted in reformulating the lines between the "religious" and "secular" realms, with significantconsequences for both religion and the emerging nation-state. Touching on the creation of a distinctive southern culture, the position of women in the private and public arenas, family life in the Old South, the relationship between religion and slavery, and the political culture of the early republic, Najar reveals the history behind a religious heritagethat remains a distinguishing mark of American society.

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Although many refer to the American South as the "Bible Belt", the region was not always characterized by a powerful religious culture. In the seventeenth century and early eighteenth century, religion-in terms both of church membership and personal piety-was virtually absent from southernculture. The late eighteenth century and earl...

Monica Najar is an Associate Professor of History at Lehigh University. She specializes in the histories of gender, religion, and the South
Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 6.1 × 9.21 × 1.1 inPublished:December 21, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195309006

ISBN - 13:9780195309003

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"Evangelizing the South is thoughtfully researched, carefully and convincingly argued, and engagingly written. Through close study of dozens of congregational and associational records and almost four thousand disciplinary cases, Monica Najar demonstrates that the Baptist "transformation" ofthe South was well under way by 1815. Equally important, it clarifies the process whereby the South's "transformation" of the Baptists left few congregations willing to challenge the morality of slave-owning. This is an accomplished piece of scholarship that will inform and enlighten scholars inreligious and church-state history, gender history, and the history of the Revolutionary and Early Republic eras." --Anne M. Boylan, Professor of History at the University of Delaware, author of The Origins of Women's Activism