Democratic Religion

Democratic Religion : Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South, 1785-1900

3.65 (100 ratings by Goodreads)
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No American denomination identified itself more closely with the nation's democratic ideal than the Baptists. Most antebellum southern Baptist churches allowed women and slaves to vote on membership matters and preferred populists preachers who addressed their appeals to the common person. Paradoxically no denomination could wield religious authority as zealously as the Baptists. Between 1785 and 1860 they ritually excommunicated forty to fifty thousand church members in Georgia alone. Wills demonstrates how a denomination of freedom-loving individualists came to embrace an exclusivist spirituality-a spirituality that continues to shape Southern Baptist churches in contemporary conflicts between moderates who urge tolerance and conservatives who require belief in scriptural inerrancy. Wills's analysis advances our understanding of the interaction between democracy and religious authority, and will appeal to scholars of American religion, culture, and history, as well as to Baptist more

Product details

  • Paperback | 208 pages
  • 154.94 x 228.6 x 12.7mm | 340.19g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0195160991
  • 9780195160994
  • 1,659,065

Review quote

"Wills's work is excellent, both in its scholarship and presentation...Wills has effectively shown that most of what we think we know about Baptists in nineteenth-century America is probably not true and is certainly open to reexamination...this work is one which will appeal equally to professional scholars and the academic laity, especially anyone interested in the Baptist tradition in America."-Mississippi Quarterly "...this book is well worth the reading time. Wills provides clear but succinct paragraphs in each chapter to explain the historical background of the issue....The book should appeal to a professional and a lay audience of Arkansans and southerners at large and indeed to anyone interested in southern history and culture."-Arkansas Historical Quarterly "Wills has produced a splendid study that should long serve as a model of how to research and to write religious history."-Baptist History and Heritage "This book is the definitive study of nineteenth century Southern Baptist church discipline to date."-Journal of American History "Wills is at his best in explaining the theological roots of the disciplinary process and its function and practise within the churches. His research in the primary records is strong..."-Journal of Southern History "...Democratic Religion is an important revision to Hatch's work....Will's labors will go far in enabling historians to nuance the picture of Southern religion, particularly in the antebellum period."-Church History "Breaking new conceptual ground."-The Southern Quarterly "This is a fascinating book, characterized by detailed research...and challenging conclusions.... This book deserves a wide reading. It has a significant contribution to make."-Faith & Mission "[T]his book is an important contribution to Calvinistic Baptist life, prmarily in Georgia, during the nineteenth century."-Georgia Historical Quarterly "This important study is going to generate a lot of rethinking and debate regarding the contested history of the Southern Baptist Convention."-George Marsden, University of Notre Dame "Wills uses the prism of church discipline to examine critical questions of race, theology, the role of women, and the nature of the church as addressed by nineteenth-century Georgia Baptists. His well-written work offers a critical case study in Baptist polity and popular religion. The book is a valuable contribution to studies in grassroots Christianity in the South."-Bill J. Leonard, Wake Forest University "It is excellent, a real breakthrough in the use of local church records. His impressively documented and compelling argument brings to light the practice of Baptist 'democratic' culture during the century in which the South took shape.... Structured as it is on an imaginative exploitation of rich local Baptist records, especially in Georgia, this innovative work will be welcomed by students of American religion and Southern culture alike." -Donald G. Mathews, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill ".will make a significant contribution to the field of American religious history."-Paul Harvey, Colorado College "Well written, this book is a model of using church records as key sources. Important for students of southern religion and culture and American religious life more generally."-Choice "Wills' work is a thoughtful analysis of an historical practice with decidedly contemporary implications."-Journal of Southern Religionshow more

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100 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 15% (15)
4 42% (42)
3 37% (37)
2 5% (5)
1 1% (1)
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