Rebuilding Zion

Rebuilding Zion : The Religious Reconstruction of the South, 1863-1877

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Both the North and the South viewed the Civil War in Christian terms. Each side believed that its fight was just, that God favored its cause. Rebuilding Zion is the first study to explore simultaneously the reaction of southern white evangelicals, northern white evangelicals, and Christian freedpeople to Confederate defeat. As white southerners struggled to assure themselves that the collapse of the Confederacy was not an indication of God's stern judgment, white northerners and freedpeople were certain that it was. Author Daniel W. Stowell tells the story of the religious reconstruction of the South following the war, a bitter contest between southern and northern evangelicals, at the heart of which was the fate of the freedpeople's souls and the southern effort to maintain a sense of sectional identity. Central to the southern churches' vision of the Civil War was the idea that God had not abandoned the South; defeat was a Father's stern chastisement. Secession and slavery had not been sinful; rather, it was the radicalism of the northern denominations that threatened the purity of the Gospel. Northern evangelicals, armed with a vastly different vision of the meaning of the war and their call to Christian duty, entered the post-war South intending to save white southerner and ex-slave alike. The freedpeople, however, drew their own providential meaning from the war and its outcome. The goal for blacks in the postwar period was to establish churches for themselves separate from the control of their former masters. Stowell plots the conflicts that resulted from these competing visions of the religious reconstruction of the South. By demonstrating how the southern vision eventually came to predominate over, but not eradicate, the northern and freedpeople's visions for the religious life of the South, he shows how the southern churches became one of the principal bulwarks of the New South, a region marked by intense piety and intense racism throughout the twentieth century.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 147.3 x 228.6 x 20.3mm | 476.28g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0195149815
  • 9780195149814

Review quote

"The greatest strength of [the book] lies in the author's well-crafted narrative of the myriad conflicts that shaped the institutional forms and cultural commitments emerging by the middle of the 1870s...Not content to synthesize the wide array of recent secondary scholarship...he has supplemented existing studies with extensive work in manuscript sources from Georgia and Tennessee...His use of personal papers and local church records is particularly effective and should provoke similar investigations of other states...Stowell moves a giant step closer to a broader understanding of the role that religious faith played in the wake of Union victory."Journal of Interdisciplinary History "Clearly argued and carefully documented, this important book should be in every college library."-Religious Studies Review "...[the book] admirably complements the wealth of recent literature on religion and the Civil War by taking a small step forward in time to the Reconstruction period of the US South. For research on religious reconstruction in the US South, this volume will be a welcome addition."-Choice "This book should be an important contribution to understanding changes in religious institutions during a vastly confusing and conflicted time. The author is to be congratulated for leading us through a process that most historians have ignored. We will be able to understand the neligious history of the late nineteenth century much better now. Southern historians especially will benefit from his work, but students of American religious history, as well, should read it to their own advantage."-Donald G. Mathews, Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill "Essential reading. The best account we have of the impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction on southern Protestantism. Stowell's consideration of the three dominant southern white denominations, of the emergence of black denominations, and of the northern religious perspective, plus the detailed comparisons of developments in two states, Georgia and Tennessee, provide a multifaceted comparative perspective with attention to change over time. Well researched, clearly written, perceptive, and judicious in tone, this is an uncommonly rewarding work of primary scholarship."-John B. Boles, Managing Editor, Journal of Southern History, and William Pettus Hobby Professor of History, Rice University "...[an] ambitious work....in crafting a deeply contextualized account of Southern religious reconstruction, Stowell has also easily surpassed the conventional one-note denominational or biographical studies of Reconstruction religion and laid bare the real complexities of rebuilding the new even while the shadow of the old hung long over the land."-The North Carolina Historical Reviewshow more

About Daniel W. Stowell

Daniel W. Stowell is an Assistant Editor with The Lincoln Legal Papers, a project of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, in Springfield, Illinois.show more

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