Friday, 25 April 2014

The Beginning of Summer Break

Having administered and graded my last final exam yesterday, I am now officially on Summer break! My immediate plan is to work on my upcoming Fall 2014 course, "Religion in Southern Culture," before I travel to Worcester, MA for a month fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society.

For the past week, I have been reading several great books for "Religion in Southern Culture." I have taught this course once before at UTC, but I want to make some substantial revisions. While I hope to have lots of good discussion on various topics pertaining to religious life in the South, I determined that I should give some lectures that will complement the class reading list. 

So far, I have narrowed down the required reading list to the following books: Christine Heyrman's Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt, Albert Raboteau's Slave Religion: The 'Invisible Institution' in the Antebellum South, Randall Stephens's The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South, Charles Reagan Wilson's Judgment and Grace in Dixie: Southern Faiths from Faulkner to Elvis, and The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, edited by Samuel Hill I am also considering Mark Noll's The Civil War as a Theological Crisis and Charles Marsh's God's Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading the entries in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. I liked the idea of having the students learn several topics and key people who have influenced religion in the South. I have yet to figure out, however, how to use this book in my course. I may create online quizzes for each of the entries and require the students to complete these during stages in the course, and/or have them choose a topic in the New Encyclopedia and write a research paper and/or present on that subject.

I had a difficult time choosing among so many excellent books on Religion in the South. I love Cynthia Lynn Lyerly's Methodism and the Southern Mind, 1770-1810, but ultimately concluded that it would be best to integrate the material in this book, and related information on the Baptists in the South, into some lectures that correspond with readings from Heyrman's Southern Cross. I had a similar problem when considering whether to choose Stephens's The Fire Spreads or Ralph Hood's Them That Believe: The Power and Meaning of the Christian Serpent-Handling Tradition. Hood teaches at UTC, is an expert on the snake handling tradition in the Appalachian region, and has appeared on several documentaries. Although the snake handling tradition has roots in the Chattanooga area, and may be more exciting to students than a general study of Pentecostalism in the South, I decided that it would be better to have them read Stephens's engaging book, and to limit our discussion to snake handling in the South to a single lecture.

On African Americans in the South, I struggled again to limit the class reading to one book. I debated using Come Shouting to Zion: African American Protestantism in the American South and British Caribbean to 1830, by Sylvia Frey and Betty Wood, as well as Paul Harvey's new book, Through the Storm, Through the Night: A History of African American Christianity. But I decided to go with Raboteau's Slave Religion, and use the material in Frey, Wood, and Harvey for complementary lectures on the subject of African American religion in the South.

I found the essays in Wilson's Judgment and Grace in Dixie incredibly interesting, and so I couldn't resist adding this book to the required reading list. The variety of essays that he offers on topics ranging from the "Lost Cause" myth to the subject of "Sacred Southern Space" appealed to me. I found his chapter on "The Death of Bear Bryant" particularly interesting.

Finally, I want to heed the advice of ESRH commentators and consider incorporating Erik Gellman's and Jarod Rolls's The Gospel of the Working Class, essays in Mike Pasquier's edited volume, Gods of the Mississippi, Tracy Thompson's The New Mind of the South, as well as various essays in the Journal of Southern Religion.

As one can see, I have a lot of work to do in the next month. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, I will have a good idea of how to teach "Religion in Southern Culture" this Fall.


Steve Finnell said...


Is it possible to seek God? Calvinists teach that none seek God. They believe God selects all who will be saved, making it an impossibility to seek HIM. Man-made doctrines are always contrary to Scripture. God's word is always, the last word.

Acts 15:15-17 With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, 16 After theses things I will return, And I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, And I will restore it, 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,

Prophets of God agree that all mankind may seek the Lord; a sharp contrast to Calvinistic teaching.

Psalm 10:4 The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, "There is no God."

The wicked can seek God, however, they choose not to. Pride destroys the desire to seek God.

Acts 17:26-27 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

Mankind is to seek God. He is there for whoever is willing to find Him.

Psalm 53:1-2 The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God.".....2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks God,

If God selects men to be saved against their will, He would not have to look down to see who seeks Him.

Proverbs 8:17 "I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.

God says diligently seek Him. Calvinists proclaim that no man can seek God. Who do you believe?

2 Chronicles 19:3 But there is some good in you, for you have removed the Asheroth from the land and you have set your heart to seek God."

Men need to prepare their hearts to seek God.

Psalm 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

The writer of the Psalms says God will not forsake those who seek God. Those who preach, the John Calvin view of predestination, strongly disagree.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first His kingdom......

Jesus says seek God's kingdom. John Calvin says men cannot seek God.

Hebrews 11:6 ....for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

God rewards those who seek Him.


(All Scripture quotes from:NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)


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