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Harry S. Stout
The Political Pulpits of Dixie
The subject of religion in the South is only now gaining the attention that it deserves outside the South. The reasons, I suspect, have very much to do with the recovery of the South generally, and its political, economic, and cultural integration into the larger nation-state. The home of the 1996 Summer Olympics and a number of new professional sports franchises is also the home region of two re cent presidents, a stampede of relocated corporations, retirement Meccas, real-estate booms, and, of special interest to us, a religio-political "Moral Majority" and "Christian Coalition." Once marginalized as the unwanted stepchild of the American republic, the South has emerged today as the most fertile field for scholarship on the American cultural and religious scene.
In accounting for the newfound prominence of the South, social analysts have pointed to many political and economic forces. Alongside these obvious structural explanations are cultural explanations located in recent southern history. Of these, none looms larger than the civil-rights movement and the eventual participation of southern cultural and religious institutions in the courageous movement for integration and reconciliation. Recent works by Samuel Hill, Robert Calhoon, and Charles Reagan Wilson have traced the gradual reconciliation of the southern churches to racial integration. In the course of participating in the dismantlement of the century's worth of Jim Crow legislation and structural racism, southern religious and cultural leaders earned a legitimacy they could not en joy as long as they remained in "cultural captivity" to the ideology of white supremacy. This legitimacy, in turn, set the stage for a second integration into national religious and political leadership. Once the transition began, white southern clergy increasingly spoke out on social and political issues. Instead of silence, clerical commentary on public and political issues grew increasingly strident through the 1970s, '80s and ...