Pioneer Prophet


John Turner

If you will excuse the shameless self-promotion, I was recently pleased to learn that my forthcoming biography of Brigham Young is available for advance purchase. In fact, it was rather surreal to have it appear while I was poring over page proofs. Just in case it sells out quickly, reserve your copy of Pioneer Prophet now! I am joking, of course.

If anyone is interested in a preview, Harvard has put together a podcast about the book, available here.

If you assign it for a class (sorry it's not shorter -- Brigham Young had quite a life), I'm very happy to do a conversation with your students, grade their papers, clean your office, etc.

Spirits Eat Ripe Papaya

I'm happy to introduce our newest contributor today! Jonathan Den Hartog teaches at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, up North in the land where, according to Garrison Keillor, "all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." Although he can't speak for all Minnesota children, he will unabashedly affirm that his three undoubtedly are. Jonathan spends his research time thinking about religion and politics in the Revolution and Early Republic, with a special focus on the Federalists. He will be spending the coming year as the Garwood Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He also maintains an interest in observing 20th and 21st century American evangelicalism, from whence this review grows.

Review of Bill Svelmoe, Spirits Eat Ripe Papaya
Dr. Jonathan Den Hartog, Associate Professor of History, Northwestern College

With the recent discussion of novels, I thought I would contribute an extended comment on one that hasn’t received much notice.

Recently I had the opportunity to read an outstanding novel related to American Religion: Bill Svelmoe’s Spirits Eat Ripe Papaya. I haven’t seen notice of it in the blogosphere, and that’s a shame because this is a book that those who study or want an “insider’s perspective” on modern evangelicals should read.

Spirits Eat Ripe PapayaSet in the late 1970s, the novel takes Philip Andrews—raised a pastor’s kid but questioning his relationship to evangelicalism—and plants him at a missions school in the Philippines. At the school, Philip confronts both the high ideals of the missionaries (who serve with the “Bible Translation Mission”) and the realities of disparate humans living in close quarters. The experience prompts questions about the nature of faith in the modern world and the character of religious community.

Svelmoe (history, St. Mary’s College) knows of what he writes, even though we should be clear this isn’t a roman à clef. Svelmoe has experience on the mission field—in the Philippines, no less—as well as having plenty of opportunities to examine the oddities of modern evangelicalism.

The book has the ability to shift gears—quickly—from very funny to very serious. Some of the funny passages left me gasping for breath. Svelmoe’s description of the film A Thief in the Night will resonate with anyone who has ever sat through it. After someone at the mission made the scandalous mistake of ordering Fiddler on the Roof the mission returned to a religious film with Thief. Philip’s internal monologue satirizes the entire plot and sketchy production values, leading to his observation that “The Antichrist did not appear to be well funded, as his forces consisted of about five people driving second-hand vans.”

Salvation on Sand Mountain Redux

John Turner

A fascinating and empathic obituary of a "serpent-handling pastor" in today's Washington Post:

The son of a serpent handler who himself died in 1983 after being bitten, Wolford was trying to keep the practice alive, both in West Virginia, where it is legal, and in neighboring states where it is not. He was the kind of man reporters love: articulate, friendly and appreciative of media attention. Many serpent-handling Pentecostals retreat from journalists, but Wolford didn’t. He’d take them on snake-hunting expeditions.

Read the entire piece here.

Blessed by Oil, Cursed with Crude

Paul Harvey
J. Howard Pew

As a lot of our readers know, historian Darren Dochuk, whose work From Bible Belt to Sunbelt has been featured here a number of times, is at work on a project on oil and evangelicalism, a book that seems destined to be one of the most important works in the history of religion and economics that one could imagine. Darren has just published, in the new Journal of American History, a small piece of his work: "Blessed by Oil, Cursed with Crude: God and Black Gold in the American Southwest; the link should take you to a free html version of the article. A bit more about the piece and an excerpt after the break.

The African American Roots of Memorial Day

Paul Harvey

Another Memorial Day, and another boring set of stories as to which town/place gets to claim credit for it -- in this case, Columbia, MS pits itself against Columbus, Georgia. Whatever.

Much more compelling are David Blight's reflections on "the first Decoration Day" in Charleston, South Carolina, May 1, 1865. This more celebratory piece, should be read together with Jim Downs, "Who Invented Memorial Day?," which discusses his important research on the devastating toll of disease on mobile African American populations during and just after the war. Short excerpts from each just after the jump break.

The Great Awakening of Scholarship on Religion and Race in Early America

Paul Harvey

Two new books -- one out recently, and one coming out in a couple of months -- are going to make a major impact in early American religious history. I'm delighted to promote them here a bit as I had the pleasure of reading one in manuscript form just prior to its publication, and the other in an earlier dissertation incarnation. Both have influenced my own thinking/work greatly already, and we'll feature interviews with both authors I hope just a bit down the road this summer or fall.

The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early AmericaThe first is from our contributor Lin Fisher, who just posted about Rhode Island's "birthday" and will be putting his review of John Barry's biography of Roger Williams up here soon. A little over a month ago Linford published his work The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America (Oxford University PRess, 2012). This work is really a masterful piece of research that moves work on New England Native Christianity (and resistance to Christianity) well beyond the focus on the "usual suspects" (Samson Occom et al) into figures hitherto little known even to scholars. The story Lin tells emerges from his patient research and recreation of the complex religious world of New England Natives in the 17th-18th centuries, and the ways in which the usual dichotomies of "conversion" and "resistance" break down. There are some other excellent books on this subject, by David Silverman and others, and Lin's will take its place right alongside theirs.

One of the "blurbs" on Amazon, from noted scholar Neal Salisbury, captures my own thoughts well: "Linford Fisher offers a compelling account of how Indian people in south-central New England and eastern Long Island embraced Christianity during the eighteenth century, not in hopes of becoming integrated into Anglo-American society and culture but rather of ensuring their survival and strengthening their distinct identities as Indians. Fisher's most important revelation is the extent of Indian Christians' separation from-and their criticism and even defiance of-Anglo-American Christians." 
The second comes from the pioneering blogger (under the name "Historianess") and historian at Rice University, Rebecca Goetz. Her much-anticipated work The Baptism of Early Virginia: How Christianity Created Race, is set to appear with Johns Hopkins University Press in September.

I read Rebecca’s dissertation upon its completion, and have used it and cited it extensively in my own work. The dissertation has been extensively revised over the past few years into the book manuscript, and I believe the book will establish Rebecca’s reputation as a powerful scholar of early American history.

The Baptism of Early Virginia: How Christianity Created Race (Early America: History, Context, Culture)Essentially, Rebecca argues that “race” as a concept arose earlier in American history than is commonly suggested in the literature, and that religion was key in defining early American concepts of race. By defining Indians and Africans first as potential converts to Christianity, but then as “hereditary heathens,” Anglo-Virginians turned their Christianity into a shaper of concepts of race. Goetz documents this through extensive, time-consuming, detailed, and rigorous research in the difficult and scant sources of the period, focusing especially on legal cases and statutes in individual Virginia counties. The book includes a wonderful “essay on sources” which will be mined by scholars for decades to come. Goetz also shows how, by adopting Christianity, Afro-Virginians fought back against these emerging concepts of race, insisting that they too had rights as Christians which were denied by slavemasters who were themselves of questionable religious stature. And ... so much else beyond just this. Just read the book; aside from the specific arguments being advanced, Rebecca gives us a wealth of new stories from the archives which are, if nothing else, just incredibly interesting to read.

My friend at Colorado State University, the inimitable blogger Historiann, is also an early American historian. At her blog, she often (and very humorously) decries the obsession with endless biographies of the same old founding fathers and pontifications about their meaning, and shouts from her blog for original writing mined from the archives of early America to get the attention overly devoted to overstudied questions and figures.

She writes: "Stop it!  Stop!  Go find something new, interesting, and utterly undiscovered in the archives, for a change!"

Well, Historiann, here you go: two books straight from the archives, with fresh insights, questions, and provocations. We'll have more about both books on this blog down the road. For now, congratulations to Lin and Becky for these important, provocative, and just pretty dang excellent new books. 

Q&A with Paul Gutjahr on the Book of Mormon: A Biography

Christopher Jones

Over at the Juvenile Instructor, Paul Gutjahr, professor of English at Indiana University, answers questions submitted by readers about his latest book, The Book of Mormon: A Biography (Princeton University Press, 2012). I haven't yet read the book, but based on the few reviews I've read and this interview, I plan to pick up a copy soon a dive in. It sounds like it would be a great text to use to introduce students to Mormonism's most famous religious text.

Included below is a brief excerpt from the Juvenile Instructor interview with Professor Gutjahr. The full Q&A can be read here.

Q. The Book of Mormon is often called the “Mormon Bible.” In your reception history, in what ways is this comparison apt, and in what ways does it fall apart? 

 A. Calling the Book of Mormon “the Mormon Bible” is apt because it stands as the fountainhead and chief credentialing document of the religious tradition.  It becomes less apt when one considers the long history of the Mormon Church not paying as much attention to its signature text as, let us say, American Protestants have paid to their Bible.  There are decades of Mormon history that seem to be less interested in the book than one might expect.  American Protestants have revered and used the Bible to a much higher degree since the time of the Puritans. That may be changing a bit now, but American Protestants have traditionally held a closer relationship to the Bible than Mormons have to their “Mormon Bible.”

New Resources in African American Religions

Edward J. Blum

I'm rushing out to NYC to see some old friends and their new babies (Enrights, here we come). But I wanted to draw your attention to a blog that I have been absolutely loving for a while and a new article on teaching W. E. B. Du Bois and religion by our own Phil Sinitiere.

First, you may want to check out "Rhetoric, Race, and Religion," edited by Professor Andre E Johnson, the Dr. James L. Netters Assistant Professor of Rhetoric & Religion and African American Studies at Memphis Theological Seminary. The contributors are some of the finest young minds in the study of race and religion, including Armondo Collins (PhD student at UNC Greensboro), Brian Foulks (church planter, missionary, and social activist), Cona' Marshall (PhD student at Michigan State University), Crystal S. Matie Lewis (blogger and writer), and a team of folks listed here. Not only does Professor Johnson edit this blog, but he also hosts a book club online where scholars interact with readers (they just had James Cone as their guest!).

Second is a wonderful new article at The History Teacher from Phil Sinitiere. It looks at how to include W. E. B. Du Bois when teaching US religious history and highlights some primary texts that are particularly useful. Those of you who know Phil know that he knows a lot about US religious history. His research and writing move far and wide, and this is an excellent example of using one person and his writings to illuminate a whole bunch of issues.

Big Ideas in a Small State: Roger Williams and the 375th Anniversary of the Founding of Providence, Rhode Island


Linford D. Fisher

Well, you missed it. But you’re not alone. I’m talking about the 375th anniversary of the founding of Providence that took place last year, in 2011. The city put forth a valiant effort to celebrate this historical moment, but frankly, even as someone who works in Providence, the year slipped by for me with relatively little fanfare. There was some elation back in June, however, when the city archivist re-discovered the 1648 charter for Providence, which had apparently been lost (mis-filed, really) for decades. Throughout 2011, the city also hosted a series of events, including the inauguration of the “Independence Trail,” a Boston Freedom Trail –esque line of paint circling the downtown of Providence (our paint is green, not red) with dozens of stops and information points at historical sites. The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown did its part by showcasing an exhibit on the material culture of early Rhode Island and—outside Manning Hall—commissioning a newly-constructed stone wall and dugout canoe courtesy of a few Narragansett tribal members. The city also solicited a series of essays written by local historians. It all culminated with a birthday party celebration hosted by the mayor of Providence on November 22, complete with a massive birthday cake, live music, and a “food truck faceoff.” Classy. 

In many ways, however, the celebration is just getting underway. Next year marks the 350th anniversary of the 1663 post-Restoration Rhode Island charter from Charles II. And, really, there is a lot to celebrate if you ask residents of “Little Rhody”; Rhode Island is a fun and quirky state, to be sure. We have our own official state drink (coffee milk, which is on tap in the Brown dining halls), the longest official state name in the Union (The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations), one of the smallest national parks in the nation (Roger Williams National Memorial), purportedly the highest number of beaches per capita, and more restaurants per capita in Providence than any other city in the nation (thanks to Johnson and Wales). And as anyone who lives here will tell you, there’s nothing quite like some Del’s lemonade on a hot day or even an Awful Awful to cool you off.

“Randy and the Flea, Still Straight Hood”: Lakewood Church’s Youth Camp and Racial Stereotyping

Charity R. Carney

I’m working on an article for the Southern Quarterly that includes a discussion of Lakewood Church’s youth program, Canvas. In sifting through my sources, I ran across an interesting piece of Lakewood culture that, to my knowledge, has not gotten much exposure. Randy and the Flea are a faux rap group that makes videos to entice young people to summer camp. They have been around for several years and are again expected to attend the “Hope and Life” conference in June.

Here is a sample performance (complete with Osteen cameo):

CFP: Networked Humanities


Networked Humanities: From Within and Without the University
A Digital Humanities Symposium
February 15-16, 2013
The University of Kentucky
Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Media Program

Keynote Speakers:
Kathleen Stewart, Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas

Malcolm McCullough, Professor of Architecture, University of Michigan

Of all the topics of interest to the digital humanities, the network has received little attention among digital humanities proponents. Yet, we live in a networked society: texts, sound, ideas, people, movements, consumerism, protest movements, politics, entertainment, academia, and other items circulate in networks that come together and break apart at various moments. While there exist networked spaces of interaction for digital humanities work – such as HASTAC or specific university centers - we still must consider how networks affect traditional and future goals of humanities work. Have the humanities sufficiently addressed the ways their work, as networks, affect other networks, within and outside of the humanities? What might be a networked digital humanities or what is it currently if it does, indeed, exist? Can an understanding of the humanities as a series of networks affect – positively or negatively - the ways the public perceive its research, pedagogy, and mission?

The University of Kentucky’s Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Media Program invites proposals for a two day symposium devoted to discussion of the implications of a networked digital humanities. The symposium will bring together academic and professional audiences in order to rethink the taxonomy of humanities so that we emerge with a network of people and ideas beyond the traditional taxonomy of “humanities” work. Thus, talks will not be limited to traditional humanities areas of study.

The Church of Donna Summer

David W. Stowe

News of the death of disco diva Donna Summer broke just as I was finishing my review copy of Pop Cult: Religion and Popular Music, by British popular music scholar and musician Rupert Till.  Summer plays a small but not inconsequential role in Till’s book, which argues that popular music has established itself as the functional successor to organized religion in the postmodern era (or as Till frequently writes, “liquid times.”)  He has a nicely varied background for researching this project, from singing in church choirs and attending Pentecostal services to becoming a cultish teenage fan of Adam Ant before working as a “DJ, musician, promoter and clubber” in Electronic Dance Music Culture (EDMC)--a scene that Till traces to Summers’ pioneering techno music collaborations with Giorgio Moroder that yielded such disco anthems as “Love to Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love.” 

Perhaps because it’s the scene he knows best, Till finds in electronic dance music the strongest support for his thesis that pop music cults are actually fertile New Religious Movements for youth turned off by traditional faiths:

“EDMC spirituality involves many elements including the creation of sacred spaces; the emulation of images of heaven using clouds of smoke and moving lights; out of body, otherworldly experiences; opposition and transgression; subcultural authority and authenticity; ecstatic journeys; ritual possession trance practices triggered by dancing, drugs and music; no reference to an external deity that has an absolute right to obedience; and the replacement of priests by DJs, drug dealers and promoters whose jobs are to facilitate and enhance the mystical experiences of clubbers.” (162)

Nembutsu, Ya'll: A Review of Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South

By Michael J. Altman

What is American Buddhism?

Is it this Zen writer?

This poet?

Maybe even this actor.

Or, better yet, where is American Buddhism?

Often we think it's out West, the land where alternative religions flourish. A couple of weeks ago we were reminded that it can be in New York too. But what about the South? Well, there's this congressman from Atlanta. And this guy is from Georgia too. Maybe there is Buddhism in the South, but is there Southern Buddhism?

Jeff Wilson's short answer would be"yes." In Dixie Dharma, Wilson takes the first whacks at chiseling out a more nuanced view of Buddhism in America. Through his in-depth ethnographic field work at the Ekoji Buddhist Sangha of Richmond, Virginia Wilson presents an impressive view of a plural Buddhism finding a place in the midst of the evangelical South.

Wilson begins his book by highlighting the blind spots in American Buddhist studies. For the most part, studies of American Buddhism have focused on immigrant groups or the Tibetan and Zen Buddhism popular among white converts. Furthermore, these studies have been located either on the West Coast or in the Northeast. These biases in region and tradition have skewed how scholars imagine "American Buddhism." After a deep consideration of the ways region effects religion in America, Wilson proposes eight geographical regions for American Buddhism. By paying close attention to region and seeking out an example outside the regions usually studied, Wilson presents a pluralist Buddhism taking shape in the American South.

The Ekoji Buddhist Sangha is the home to five different Buddhists groups (Zen, Vipassana, Pure Land, Tibetan, and Meditative Inquiry), each with their own aesthetics, practices, and doctrinal emphases. Wilson spends a couple of chapters explicating the history of the temple and the five different groups now housed there. The heart of the book is chapters four and five where Wilson analyzes the hybrid and plural nature of Buddhist practice at Ekoji and then argues that this pluralism occurs because of its regional location. Southern Buddhists lack the large scale institutions available elsewhere, there are less teachers and Buddhist resources, and they are surrounded by a culture at best indifferent and at worst hostile to their existence. In such a regional context, Buddhists draw on whatever resources are available regardless of what Buddhist tradition they stem from, band together across lines of lineage, and often practice their Buddhism "in the closet," hiding it from family and friends. In the final chapter of the book Wilson analyzes a fascinating ritual, a slave trade meditation vigil," wherein Ekoji members meditated in downtown Richmond at the site of a slave trade reconciliation memorial. Wilson's recent interview with the Journal of Southern Religion provides a more detailed summary of these chapters, for those that are interested.

“Looking” at Appalachia, Stereotyping the South

Kelly Baker

In his lovely Flashes of Southern Spirit, Charles Reagan Wilson seeks to understand the "construction" and the "performance" of "southern spirit," an evocation of the interstitial relationship between region, race and dominant evangelical Protestantism. Spirit, Wilson notes, is by its very definition ephemeral, fleeting, transitory and abstract. In this edited collection, Wilson documents the presence of spirit in folk art, the music of Hank Williams, and Lost Cause religion to only name a few. Included with his essays are David Wharton’s photographs of the variety of forms spirit takes in the American South with churches and signs, baptisms, memorials, re-enactors and worship. The photographs illuminate religious practice by both white and black Southerners. His book is as much about spirit as it is about haunting, the presence of the Civil War and its discontents still haunts the South. Yet rather than dwell of the common stereotypes of the South and southerners as backward, uneducated, and dramatically religious (the list can go on), Wilson illuminates the complexities and contradictions of the region, its people and its religions.

I was thinking of Wilson when both Ed Blum and Chris Baker brought my attention to CNN’s photo essay, Life in Appalachia. This collection of photos subtitled, “Regression to the Mean,” by Stacy Kranitz, was supposed to “demystify stereotypes,” but the images seemed to only support stereotypes. The opening images were of a burning cross and a snake handler with the suggestion that these images were representative of “everyday” life for Appalachia. When CNN originally published the photos, their presentation of Kranitz’s work suggested that Appalachia was a place of “strange” religion, dramatic racism, and poverty. Kranitz, however, challenged CNN’s representation of her work. And now, the photo essay is now in a different order, with some of the original images replaced (significantly there is one less Klan image too).

How did White Protestant Hegemony Fail?: James Barrett's _The Irish Way_


by Janine Giordano Drake

People usually laugh when I tell them that, though I went to public school all my life, I didn't meet a white, self-identifying Protestant until I got to college. Nobody ever "witnessed" to me; there were no "youth groups" around to my knowledge, and certainly nobody told me to read (or adhere to) the Bible.  There were no "Christian groups" at my high school, and school prayer was never an issue. I usually don't know what to say when people think I'm exaggerating. No, I'm not from an Old World immigrant community. I'm a fourth generation New Yorker, and I'm from the suburbs of New York City.

So much of the teleology of our historical narratives assumes (whether to promote or critique) the fact that white Protestants are and always have been culturally hegemonic in most parts of the United States.  We know this was so in the eighteenth century, and we know that in many spheres of the country--geographic as well as cultural--this is still so today. However, to make such assumptions leaves us unable to explain how we arrived at American cities and their surrounding suburbs that today not only overflow with people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds, but which are filled with powerful people who are decidedly not Anglo and Protestant.

Review of Emerging Evangelicals


For today's guest post, FSU graduate student Charlie McCrary,who previously posted on evangelical heavy metal and Rob Bell reviews James Bielo's Emerging Evangelicals (2011).

James S. Bielo, Emerging Evangelicals: Faith, Modernity, and the Desire for Authenticity. New York: New York University Press, 2011. $75.00 cloth; $25.00 paper. 256 pp.

Charlie McCrary

James Bielo’s new ethnography, Emerging Evangelicals, is a welcome addition to the steadily-growing body of scholarly literature on contemporary American Evangelicals.  This work is exceptionally valuable, since it is among the very earliest scholarship on the “Emerging Church,” an intentionally amorphous group of (post-)Evangelicals.  Through fluid prose and descriptions of perfect thickness, Bielo’s most significant contribution is his demonstration of what it feels like to be an Emerging Evangelical.

Bielo describes his study as “an ethnographic analysis of identities fashioned, practices performed, discourses articulated, histories claimed, institutions created, and ideas interrogated in this cultural field” of Emerging Evangelicalism (5).  Moreover, this is a “person-centered ethnography—an ethnography focused on individual lives and intersubjective gatherings, not on any super-organic version of Evangelicalism” (27).  It is this focus that gives the book both its strength and its shortcomings.  It’s a fitting way to write about Emerging Evangelicals.  Rather than analyzing the movement’s seminal texts or constructing taxonomies into which he can emplace various groups, churches, and individuals, Bielo instead—drawing on “lived religion”—takes us inside the daily lives of house-church members, “new monastics,” “church planters,” and pastors.

A Titillating Presence

I'm happy to introduce to you our newest contributor today. Rachel McBride Lindsey has recently completed her Ph.D. at Princeton University. Her current book project, based in large measure on her dissertation research, examines the material and sensory cultures of vernacular photography and nineteenth-century American religion. Welcome to Rachel! 

A Titillating Presence

Rachel McBride Lindsey

As a graduate student writing on vernacular photography in nineteenth-century America, I’ve thought long and hard about the power of images as material artifacts over the course of the last several years. And as a mother of two young children, I’ve also thought a lot about boobs. Naturally, the recent Time magazine cover photograph of a twenty-something mother breastfeeding her three-year old son piqued my curiosity. The photograph has sparked a flurry of media attention, from an incredulous Saturday Night Live tirade to more nuanced reactions from self-professed “attachment” mothers who heartily disagree with Kate Pickert’s (the Time staff-writer who authored the relevant article) indictment of attachment parenting—Palo Alto Software CEO and mother of three Sabrina Parson’s article is particularly illustrative of the latter camp. 

Although Time used the highly provocative image to shore up a critique of modern parenting, Jill Lepore of the New Yorker has demonstrated how photographs of breastfeeding mothers were used throughout the twentieth century to critique models of motherhood and were even an underrecognized genre of studio portraiture during the 1840s and early 1850s.

Southern Buddhists, 19th-Century Anti-Mormons, and American Missionaries: Buffet Selections from UNC Press

Paul Harvey

Our friends at the University of North Carolina Press are putting out a wonderful assortment of religious history, and in the second of my "new and coming attractions" posts, I wanted to alert you to one brand new book (to be reviewed here more extensively soon) and two other September baby books which will be covered here in more detail down the road.

First, Jeff Wilson's Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South (UNC Press) is going to get much more extensive coverage and a review by our contributor MIke Altman in the near future. But for now, just a note about the new book, from the book's website, for those interested:

The Moral Minority: Blog and Book


Paul Harvey

In the midst of finishing the semester and moving, I wanted to sneak in a couple of quick posts here to alert you to some good stuff to check out. So, first, congratulations to David Swartz, who studied with George Marsden at Notre Dame and now teaches at Asbury University, on the new blog accompanying his forthcoming book of the same name Moral Minority: The Evangelical Left in an Age of Conservatism (University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming in September). This is a much-anticipated book that should get a lot of discussion. In one of his initial posts, David explains his plans for the blog, so click over there, bookmark it, put it on your blogrolls, etc.

Welcome! The immediate purpose of this site is to publicize my upcoming book, Moral Minority, which will be released in September by Penn Press. If you continue to visit (and I hope you do!), you’ll see updates as the publication date approaches, and I’ll let you know when and where the book is on sale.
I’ll also use this space to introduce characters–such as Sharon Gallagher, Samuel Escobar, Richard Mouw, Ron Sider, and Jim Wallis–who appear in the book. Many of them continue to work on behalf of peace, the environment, immigrants, women, and the poor. I’ll periodically make note of their activities, as well as those of a vibrant set of younger moderate and progressive evangelicals, such as Rachel Held Evans, Jonathan Merritt, Matthew Soerens, Shane Claiborne, and many others. And as the 2012 election nears, I’ll offer general commentary on the ever-intriguing role of faith in American culture and politics. But I’ll focus primarily on non-rightist sectors.
So stay tuned for links, book excerpts, photos, videos, and the like. Please feel free to interact by commenting and following the activity here via Facebook, email, and Twitter. You can link and follow and like in the panel on the right.

Thinking about the "Y" and Finding the "U" in "Community"

Ed Blum

one of the many murals in los angeles:
Inspired by Matthew Frye Jacobson’s The Historian’s Eye project, Darren Grem’s work on and photographs of Chick-Fil-A, and Thomas Tweed’s new book on the Basilica of the National Shrine, I’ve been mass-transiting around southern California (mostly San Diego, but getting into Los Angeles and the Inland Empire some too) and looking for signs (literal, physical signs) of church and religious life. What has most drawn my attention, aside from the big, gigantic Jesus murals, has been the word “community.”

“Community” seems ubiquitous in church signage, even though I know many of these congregations are gigantic. Reverend David Jeremiah’s Shadow Mountain Community Church is huge and the service is broadcast on cable television. Heck, Shadow Mountain is robust enough to have Tim Tebow visiting for father’s day (to talk about not being a father, I guess?) Journey Community Church is not too far away and it has at least one thousand regular attenders. Both Journey and Shadow Mountain are also deeply committed to the idea of “you.” Shadow Mountain’s current campaign is “God loves you, He always has, He always Will.” Journey’s motto is “You Matter to God. You Matter to Us.”

Someone help me out here and explain the rage for “community” for churches that clearly are many, many communities within one large organization? Sure, this is a marketing strategy on one hand. Sure, this is an appeal to a world where people “bowl alone” (although I’ve never seen that in my nights of bowling with friends) on the other. If I had a third hand, I'd say 'and then on the next hand', sure, this is a cry for connection in a time of seeming social anomie and atomization. But is there more happening with the focus on “community.” Can anyone provide any meaning to these, to quote Charles Long, “significations, signs, and symbols”?

Pardon the Interruption

Paul Harvey

Grading 300 papers (ok, not that many, but seems like it) and moving 30 years worth of stuff out of a house (only to move back it in later this year after some renovations bankrupt me) will be occupying my attention for another week or so -- so I'm going to declare a blog "stay-cation" and we'll be right back with you with more blogging fun and games hopefully in a week or less. Perhaps in the meantime a few of our contributors here could put up some of their latest thoughts -- hint hint!

In the meantime, three little announcements and congratulations. First, congratulations to friend-of-the-blog Amy Koehlinger, the wonderful religious historian lately of Florida State, who will be loading up the truck and moving to Oregon State University in the fall -- we wish her all the best. Next, blog contributor Matt Sutton will be self-deporting just next year to Ireland on a Fulbright, so congratulations to Matt! Then, on a more permanent basis, my co-blogmeister Randall Stephens will be "self-deporting" to England starting next school year, to take a position as a Reader in History at Northumbria University! He will be making some heavy sacrifices to do so, being forced to take more salary for about half as much of a teaching load, and, even worse, being dragooned into taking a sabbatical next fall during his first semester there. Somehow, I think he'll be able to put up with all that to join a department that includes some stellar younger scholars in American history. Here's the announcement, in Randall's own words:

Hello friends, colleagues, family, facebookers: Just a note to let you know that I've accepted a position as a Reader in American Studies and History at Northumrbia University, Newcastle, UK. Really excited about this new job and all it promises. For those who don't know what a "Reader" is, here's a bit on that:

Congratulations to Matt and Randall! Back with you soon, as soon as I answer all those urgent messages from students who have discovered that a D on your senior thesis project really messes with your graduation party plans. 

Elijah James Blum Memorial Update

Jen and Elijah cheering on the mighty Aztecs
[Cross posted from Teaching United States History (Tush.0)]

The final slide of the first half of my US history survey is also the first slide for the second half of the survey. It juxtaposes the photograph of a dying Union soldier from the Civil War with a digital image of Elijah James Blum, our little champ. It is a preview for how much changed from 1865 to now. The soldiers' clothes were probably made locally; Elijah's were made in China; the Civil War picture took hours and days to develop; Elijah's was taken in seconds, uploaded and sent to family in minutes, and put into the slide show right after. Most Americans in 1865 rarely traveled 50 miles from their homes. Elijah had been 50 miles from his home within 2 weeks of being born. In 1860, 3.5 million African Americans were owned by someone else and women could not vote. In 2012, an African American was president, a woman was Secretary of State, and a Mormon was about to become the Republican Party's nominee. Wow how the nation has changed.

Readers of this blog will know that for all that was different about Elijah's life and that of this Union soldier, they know that they shared something as well. They both died too young. Thankfully, San Diego State University has established an award in his name. Thank you to the hundreds who have  already contributed!

It has been amazing to see how much love has poured in to honor our little guy. San Diego State has received about $15,000 as of May 1, 2012. When the fund achieves $21,000, it will create a permanent annual award in Elijah’s honor for a student dedicated to some form of history or social studies education. The award winner will also receive a copy of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race, which Ed and Elijah’s Uncle Paul revised during his lifetime. The book is dedicated to Elijah and the final paragraph of the acknowledgments reads:

The saga of this book’s completion coincided with another saga, the life and journey of Elijah James Blum. You and your struggle gave so much. You were a good friend who swayed happily in your swing at Dad’s office (sometimes at 4 a.m.) so this book could be revised. As cataracts dimmed your vision, we longed for new ways to see this world and ones beyond. As your oral muscles degenerated and as you fought to eat and to breathe, we contemplated with greater depth the“bread of life” and the spirit moving in the wind. And as you giggled with your mom while playing peek-a-boo, you offered a vision of what it meant to laugh amid terrible loss. Elijah endured everything we asked, and we’re so proud of you. When the lights went out, we were grateful to have you in our arms. This book is for you.

We are hoping that the book will serve as a living testimony of words that will join the memorial award to remember our wonderful son. We have decided that any individual or family that has (or does) contribute $100 or more to the Elijah fund will receive a free copy of The Color of Christ. To donate, see the contact information below.

With love and gratitude,
Ed and Jen Blum

<Tax-deductible contributions to the fund may be made by writing a check to “The Campanile Foundation,” referencing the Elijah James Blum Memorial Fund on the memo line and sending it to Bonnie Akashian, SDSU Dept. of History, 5500 Campanile Dr.,San Diego, CA 92182-6050. Please contact Beth Pollard (Associate Prof. of History, or Nancy Lemkie (Senior Director of Development in CAL at SDSU, or 619-594-8569), if you have any questions.>

Religion and Politics Hits your Online Newstand

Religion & Politics

Paul Harvey

A short while ago we blogged about the new online journal Religion and Politics, and its first issue went live on May 1. As promised, the inaugural postings feature a diverse array of essays, reflections, and commentary. R. Marie Griffith, director of the Danforth Center at Washington University in St. Louis, welcomes readers to the journal; Molly Worthen writes about the fascination of American evangelicals with C. S. Lewis and other Brits; and the ubiquitous Matt Bowman visits with some Mormon libertarians. Also, 3 journalists, including Amy Sullivan, take up the question about what is and isn't fair game in assessing political candidates' religious beliefs in an election year.

Finally, the journal will be running an ongoing series, the States of the Union Project, featuring writers reflecting on the confluence of religion and politics in individual states. Matt Bowman's piece linked above is one, and in the inaugural issue as well public radio religion host Krista Tippett, who grew up in the town where I went to college, looks back on the little-known radical political history of what is now the reddest state in the Union, Oklahoma (the only state that in 2008 defeated Barack Obama in every single one of its 77 counties -- the same counties that in 9th grade I got to memorize in alphabetical order while we were supposed to read an execrable textbook that, among other things, failed to mention the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, but did manage to cover the Sooners' football history with considerable detail).

Sometime later, the journal will have a really inventive piece by religion scholar Sean McCloud on Indiana, and my reflections on religion and politics in the Front Rage of Colorado -- focusing on the yin of Colorado Springs and the yang of Boulder -- will also be up.

Congratulations to friend-of-the-blog Max Mueller and to Tiffany Stanley for putting together such an excellent venue; we wish it great success.

All Publicity is Good Publicity?

Randall Stephens

When you're actually getting hate mail and watching conservative Christians rail against you on-line, it is . . . not fun.  But now looking back on how my co-authored book and a couple op-eds Karl Giberson and I wrote were received is sorta entertaining, in a bizarre way.

The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age (Harvard, 2011) dealt with the rise and popularity of conservative evangelical experts.  These figures have served as go-to thought leaders on human origins, psychology, end-times theology, history, and more. We looked at the parallel culture of evangelicalism that has helped certain views thrive. And still evangelicalism in modern America is anything but monolithic. We also focused on a collection of evangelical scholars and scientists who are engaged with the fields they represent and tend to have a presence in the academy.

Sure, we did get some very positive reviews in Christian Century, the Wilson Quarterly, Jesus Creed, the Nation, the New York Times, Inside Higher Ed, and Booklist.  Yet, those did not have that red-faced, veins bulging-out-of-the neck, barking jeremiad passion that the haters put out there. 

So, I thought it would be interesting to put together excerpts from the "best of the worst" coverage, criticisms of both our opinion pieces and the book. 

Caveat: I apologize for what might seem like gross self indulgence.  Bear with me here.  No one threw a brick through my window.  No one wired my bicycle with explosives or put a severed horse head in my bed.  I have a great life and I love that I get to write and teach about some very interesting, controversial subjects.  Besides, we knew going into this project that it would ruffle some of the saints angel feathers.  (It would be nearly impossible to write about evangelical pseudo-expertise without stirring some kind of reaction.)

I post the bits below as a kind of therapy and to air some of the vitriol. We all get bad reviews now and then.  And maybe, just maybe, all publicity is good publicity.  (I doubt that.)  If folks want to buy our book just to burn it, or to read it in agitation, scribbling angry notes in the margins, and spilling coffee on the pages before firing off an ALL CAPS email to me, that's fine!

• Albert Mohler, "Total Capitulation: The Evangelical Surrender of Truth," blog, October 25, 2011

Stephens and Giberson's view "hardly represents an honest or respectful approach to dealing with the Bible’s comprehensive and consistent revelation concerning human sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. . . . Evangelical Christians will either stand upon the authority and total truthfulness of the Bible, or we will inevitably capitulate to the secular worldview. Giberson and Stephens force us to see, and to acknowledge, the consequences of the evangelical surrender of truth."

"Arrogance, Intellectual Elitism, Rejection of Scripture, Karl Giberson," Reformed Nazarene blog, October 24, 2011

"Only God knows how many students have had their faith shaken or shipwrecked because of [Giberson's] unbiblical teachings.  Sadly, it seems Dr. Stephens has taken up his mantle at the school and will continue to propagate false notions of the Bible to our students there.  Since they co-wrote this attack on fundamental Bible believers, it goes without saying that they share the same basic contempt for us.  It is a piece brimming with intellectual snobbery, in my opinion."

• Ken Ham, "New York Times Review Fails to Recognize Poor Scholarship," Answers in Genesis blog, January 8, 2012

"Well the New York Times today has published a book review of The Anointed.  But, because the book attacks people like me who have a high regard for Scriptural authority but supposedly lack any scholarship, I find it highly ironic that the review does not bother to point out the poor scholarship or mistakes in The Anointed. But as usual for such books that attack God’s Word, the Times’ review speaks of it in glowing terms."  AiG's main point--that we said "Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, is a young-earth creationist"--is not true.  In the chapter referred to (pg 19) we said that Dobson "enthusiastically promotes" young-earth creationism.  He did.  I saw it, and actually took pictures of some young earth creationist materials, at the Focus on the Family bookstore while I was out in God's country doing research in 2008.  (It's also Paul Harvey's country. Not that those are mutually exclusive.)

This next one is my favorite, by far! Here Ken Ham tries to turn the fundamentalist thumbscrews on me.  What he doesn't know is that I love thumbscrews.  A pressure point massage for the fingers I always say.

• Ken Ham, "What Does This Nazarene U. Professor Believe," March 15, 2012

"After reading the article, I have come to many conclusions about what Stephens and his coauthor are stating. I hope every Nazarene understands what this Nazarene professor believes—and therefore we assume his beliefs are being transmitted to the students he teaches and influences:

- Biological evolution is fact.

- If you don’t believe in biological evolution, you are anti-knowledge, anti-intellectual, and anti-science.

- Secularists should be believed over the Bible.

- The Bible is not God-breathed.

- “Gay” marriage and homosexual behavior are natural and should not be spoken against.

- Anyone who believes in six literal days of creation and a young earth is anti-intellectual.

- Francis Schaeffer was not a scholar, and his biblical worldview was wrong.

- Absolute Christian morality based on the Bible is wrong."

• Dennis Prager, "Are Evangelicals or University Professors More Irrational? This Jew prefers evangelicals’ values to those of left-wing intellectuals," National Review, October 25, 2012

"With regard to man-made global warming, the charge that all skeptics are anti-science is despicable and indeed, anti-science. . . . With regard to those evangelicals — and for that matter those ultra-orthodox Jews — who believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old and either that there were no dinosaurs or that they lived alongside human beings, my reaction has always been: So what? . . . If these professors typify the views of Eastern Nazarene College, which is officially listed as a Christian university, it is reason for despair. Once left-wing values enter the evangelical bloodstream, there is almost no hope for America."

• Joe Carter, "A Different Type of Fundamentalist," First Things blog, October 19, 2011

Giberson and Stephens "published an embarrassingly simple-minded op-ed in the New York Times . . . . The irony is that Giberson and Stephens are denouncing their fellow evangelicals when they themselves are as 'anti-intellectual' as Ham or Barton. But while the Hams and Bartons of the world may be merely annoying, the Gibersons and Stephens are completely insufferable."

• And . . . finally, the epic last sentence of an email sent to me on October 25, 2011: "I sincerely hope that some day before you die you will have a change of heart back to the truth."

Religion in America Census

by John Turner

Mormons up a lot, mainline Protestants down quite a bit, and the overall rate of church affiliation falling.

The Association of Religion Data Archives recently released its 2010 Religion Census, providing yet another snapshot of the changing face of American religion.

Among the most interesting findings:

1) The robust growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I frequently read on LDS blogs that Mormon growth has stagnated. If so, such stagnation is coming on the heels of an astouding increase in membership:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gained the most regular members in the last 10 years, growing by nearly 2 million a total of 6.14 million adherents in 13,600 congregations.

Some of the church’s largest percentage gains were in places such as Tazewell County, Virginia; Bath County, Kentucky; and Big Horn County, Montana.  As Romney makes his historic run to be the first Mormon president, there are few places on the 2012 campaign trail he will go where people are not close to a Latter-day Saint congregation or neighbors who share his faith.

2) The cratering of mainline Protestantism (an interesting story alongside Jason Lantzer's post below):

Mainline Protestant churches lost an average of 12.8 percent of adherents in the first decade of the 21st century.

3) A continuing disconnect between a Catholic church with an enormous membership and a small percentage of "active" members. Overall, Catholic membership declined slightly, to 59 million.

4) Increasing diversity across the entire country. Mormons are the fastest-growing religious group in some thirty states, but Salt Lake City has continued to become a more religiously diverse community.

In Search of the Mainline


I'm happy to put up this guest post today from Jason Lantzer, who teaches at Butler University and is the author of Mainline Christianity: The Past and Future of America's Majority Faith. just out with NYU Press. Here, Jason reflects on the "mainline" versus "mainstream," something Elesha Coffman has reflected on at this blog before. 

In Search of the Mainline
by Jason Lantzer

Some three years ago, while teaching a class on American Religious History, a student asked a question that transformed a project I was working on into a book:  What is the Mainline?  It was, and is, a simple question, and one that scholars all too often assume they know.  The Mainline are the Seven Sisters of Protestantism:  The Episcopal, Congregational/United Church of Christ, United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian, American Baptist, and Disciple of Christ denominations.  These churches dominated the religious landscape of the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries, in terms of both membership and cultural influence.  And talking about them in this way allows scholars to also discuss those outside the fold (Roman Catholics), those outside the “mainstream” (the Mormons), and of course the Mainline’s decline, all in a coherent narrative.

The problem with this analysis is manifold.  The first issue is that we, as scholars, assume that we know what the Mainline is to begin with.  Indeed, the consensus seems to be that the Mainline is static, or always has been.  We do not, and have not, spent much time looking at the origins or even the development of the Mainline as a collection of very diverse, different, and divergent denominations, much more so historically perhaps than at the present.  Still, their emergence should not be taken for granted.  And while a historic evaluation of the Mainline’s creation does get us to the Seven Sisters, it also opens the door for much more exploration of the religious landscape of the United States.

What we discover is that there has been more than one Mainline.  Or, to put it another way, the membership of the Mainline changed, or evolved, over time.  During the colonial period, the Mainline consisted of the Episcopal/Anglican Church and the Congregational/Puritan Church.  In the early nineteenth century, these denominations were joined by the evangelical churches of the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian persuasion, who grew in size and prominence because of the democratic impulse of the First and Second Great Awakenings.  Joined by the end of the century by the Disciples and Evangelical Lutherans, we have the Seven Sisters.  The point is that what constituted the Mainline during the colonial period is not the same by the mid-1800s, nor by the dawn of the twentieth.  And yet, all too often, its make-up has been assumed to be consistent, despite real doctrinal and theological differences, and the very real addition of members over time.

If historically then, the Mainline is not static, then there is no reason why its make-up today cannot change.  It has done so before after all. And that is why I am suggesting that we consider a new Mainline for the twenty-first century.  The heart of the Seven Sisters has always been found in the evangelical denominations.  That is why a modern Mainline must include the largest evangelical denomination in the nation, the Southern Baptist Convention, in addition to evangelicals regardless of denomination.  By this I mean not just those in non-denominational or Megachurches, but also those still worshiping in congregations affiliated with the Seven Sisters.  Doing this is not only more accurate at getting to where the majority of Protestants worship, but also forces us to contend with denominational decline in new and important ways.  The new Mainline must also include Roman Catholics.  Not only does this correct an historic wrong (that the story of American Religion is only a Protestant affair and that Catholics are marginal to it), but it also allows for analysis of the largest church in the nation, and its diverse membership (both modern and historic).  Lastly, the new Mainline must include Pentecostals.  Perhaps the fastest growing wing of Christianity, both in the United States and globally, not only does their inclusion force scholars to once again (and in new ways) confront issues involving doctrine and theology, but it shakes us out of our Seven Sister comfort zone as well.  That decline has occurred is not the issue.  Continuing to claim the Seven Sisters as the Mainline is.  In many ways, it is simply inaccurate.

One of the benefits of doing this kind of change over time analysis is that we can then have a better understanding of the complex nature of the decline of the Seven Sisters and what that means for the reformulation of the Mainline.  Looking at the Mainline in this way helps us understand the dynamics of denominations better, including thinking broadly about cultural engagement, worship style, and use media, and how those things affect churches at both the local, national, and even international levels.  And perhaps more importantly, it gets us beyond talking just about “liberal” and “conservative” (whether politics or theology), for while such discussion is important, it is far from the only thing that ultimately matters when it comes to Mainline Christianity.

I believe the term “Mainline” is important, useful, and historically correct.  “Mainstream” does neither those grouped in or outside of it justice.  In short, I want to salvage or update the term to keep it as a viable way to talk about religion in the United States.  My hope is that this study is the start of much more scholarship. Seeing the Mainline in a new way will force scholars, students, and those interested in matters of faith to think in new ways, and to appreciate the majority faith once again in all its complexities.

A New Look (And Podcast) for the Journal of Southern Religion


The Journal of
Southern Religion

Art Remillard

What's new with the Journal of Southern Religion?  Actually, I should say, what isn't new?  After the release of Volume 13 last summer, Emily Clark stepped into her new role as managing editor and handed off the web editing duties to Lincoln Mullen.  Thanks to Lincoln's boundless creativity and diligent efforts, the site has a new look and a bunch of cool features.  You'll find links to our Facebook and Twitter pages.  Our blog is up and running.  And, if you want regular announcements, join our e-mail list or subscribe to our feed.

You can also click around Volume 13 to see how it has changed.  Make sure to open Chad Seales's fine article, "An Old Love for New Things," and behold the awesomeness of our new footnotes.  I won't ruin the surprise.  Let's just say that it resolves many of those pesky first world problems associated with online articles and footnotes. You might also read the excellent review of Patrick Mason's The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South.  After that, find us on iTunes or click over to our New Media page and download my new podcast interview with the author.  In our conversation, Patrick explains what initially drew him to this unique project, offers insights into how he conceptualized violence to frame his narrative, and compares anti-Mormonism to the prejudices faced by Jews and Catholics. He also discusses future projects and shares his thoughts on what Mitt Romney's candidacy might mean for Mormons in the South and nationally.

We have more podcasts on the way.  JSR co-editor Mike Pasquier will be interviewing Jeff Wilson on his new book Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South.  After that, I will be talking with Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter about his new book, God's Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right.  Meanwhile, if you haven't listened to my interview with our own Paul Harvey on his book, Moses, Jesus, and the Trickster in the Evangelical South be sure to check it out.

I want to again thank Lincoln for his outstanding work.  With him on our team, we can continue contributing to the conversation on southern religion in new and interesting ways.

Novels, Memoirs, and More for American Religion Courses

Randall Stephens

Do you teach a course on American Religion, or have you taken a course on the subject? If you answered yes to either, then maybe you read a novel alongside your chief textbook and that avalanche of primary source documents.  (See Everett Hamner's post from summer 2011.)

I think that when I assign a novel in my American Religion and Culture course it is like throwing the students a bone.  (No, I've never taught The Lovely Bones, but maybe that would work.)

In prep for teaching the class again, I went back through an email thread from the H-AmRel discussion list. I asked subscribers what novels and memoirs they liked to use in their courses.  I received a flood of responses.  Not knowing too much about all the valuable books out there, this was extremely helpful.  So, I list here many of the suggestions list members offered up, and I add some others of my own as well. 

In no order at all:

Harold Frederic, The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896)

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)

James Carroll, An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us (1996)

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004)

Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2007)

Nellie McClung, Purple Springs (1921)

Shirley Nelson, The Last Year of the War (1978)

Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me Ultima (1972)

John Steinbeck, To A God Unknown (1933)

Charles Monroe Sheldon, In His Steps (1897)

Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston (1975)

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale (1986)

Maryse Conde, Crossing the Mangrove (1995)

O. E. Rolvaag, Giants in the Earth (1927)

Louise Erdrich, Tracks (1988)

James Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)

Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, The Account: Alvar Núñez Cabeza De Vaca's Relación (1542)

Erskine Caldwell, Deep South: Memory and Observation. The Story of a Minister's Son and his Religion (1980)

Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of Dorothy Day (1952)

Will Campbell, Forty Acres and a Goat (1986)

Harry Crews, A Childhood: The Biography of a Place (1978)

Samuel S. Hill, Southern Churches in Crisis (1966)

Eli N. Evans,

The Provincials: A Personal History of Jews in the South (1973)

John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux (1932)

Albert J. Raboteau, A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History (1995)

Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry (1927)

Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)

Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood (1952)

Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, The Gates Ajar (1868)

Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (1977)

Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

Annie Clark Tanner, A Mormon Mother (1941)

Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers (1925)

Lis Harris, Holy Days: The World of the Hasidic Family
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