Southern Religion, Southern Culture
Essays Honoring Charles Reagan Wilson
From the steeple to the stable to the goal posts and dinner table, a homily on southern religiosity
Contributions by Ryan L. Fletcher, Darren E. Grem, Paul Harvey, Alicia Jackson, Ted Ownby, Otis W. Pickett, Arthur Remillard, Chad Seales, and Randall J. Stephens
Over more than three decades of teaching at the University of Mississippi, Charles Reagan Wilson’s research and writing transformed southern studies in key ways.
This volume pays tribute to and extends Wilson’s seminal work on southern religion and culture. Using certain episodes and moments in southern religious history, the essays examine the place and power of religion in southern communities and society. It emulates Wilson’s model, featuring both majority and minority voices from archives and applying a variety of methods to explain the South’s religious diversity and how religion mattered in many arenas of private and public life, often with life-or-death stakes.
The volume first concentrates on churches and ministers, and then considers religious and cultural constructions outside formal religious bodies and institutions. It examines the faiths expressed via the region’s fields, streets, homes, public squares, recreational venues, roadsides, and stages. In doing so, this book shows that Wilson’s groundbreaking work on religion is an essential part of southern studies and crucial for fostering deeper understanding of the South’s complicated history and culture.
From Elvis’s shroud to toppled goalposts paraded through Oxford like religious relics on parade, with stops along the way to reexamine a diverse array of topics including the complicated racial legacy of John Lafayette Girardeau, the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church and higher education in Mississippi, and Pentecostal innovations in using media to reach and preach to the masses, this is a wonderful set of magnetically eclectic essays to celebrate the career and inspiration of Charles Reagan Wilson.- Charles A. Israel, author of Before Scopes: Evangelicalism, Education, and Evolution in Tennessee and associate dean of the Auburn University College of Liberal Arts
The authors of this elegant volume have pulled off a near-miracle: create a portrait of religion in the American South that captures the theoretical rigor and experimentation of one of its greatest historians, Charles Reagan Wilson. Like Wilson, the contributors challenge the boundaries traditionally circumscribing fields of inquiry and objects of study and instead search for the divine in the mundane, the unusual, and the wondrous. They find it in southerners’ relationships to football, Civil War reenactors and Civil War relics, the media, and education. Patiently listening to how different types of southerners—white and black and brown, denominational and charismatic—experience faith in their daily lives, they capture forgotten voices of spiritual experience that drift across the landscape. In their analytical innovation and sophistication, the authors offer a fitting tribute to one of the field’s most significant practitioners.- John M. Giggie, author of After Redemption: Jim Crow and the Transformation of African American Religion in the Delta, 1875–1915 and director of the Summersell Center for the Study of the South at the University of Alabama