Religion has been a powerful political force throughout American history. When race enters the mix the results have been some of our greatest triumphs as a nation--and some of our most shameful failures. In this important book, Mark Noll, one of the most influential historians of American religion writing today, traces the explosive political effects of the religious intermingling with race.
Noll demonstrates how supporters and opponents of slavery and segregation drew equally on the Bible to justify the morality of their positions. He shows how a common evangelical heritage supported Jim Crow discrimination and contributed powerfully to the black theology of liberation preached by Martin Luther King Jr. In probing such connections, Noll takes readers from the 1830 slave revolt of Nat Turner through Reconstruction and the long Jim Crow era, from the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s to "values" voting in recent presidential elections. He argues that the greatest transformations in American political history, from the Civil War through the civil rights revolution and beyond, constitute an interconnected narrative in which opposing appeals to Biblical truth gave rise to often-contradictory religious and moral complexities. And he shows how this heritage remains alive today in controversies surrounding stem-cell research and abortion as well as civil rights reform.
God and Race in American Politics is a panoramic history that reveals the profound role of religion in American political history and in American discourse on race and social justice.
"Mark A. Noll is one of our leading historians of religion. . . . [God and Race in American Politics] tells us a lot about how we talk about God in politics, yesterday and today. As he does so often, Noll here writes serenely about volatile subjects."--Martin E. Marty, Chronicle of Higher Education
"[Noll] has produced yet another admirable synthesis of a huge body of American history and historiography. . . . [T]houghtful Christian readers will find this work indispensable in understanding the big picture of race, religion, and politics in American history."--Paul Harvey, Christianity Today
"Noll's incisive history offers a significant introduction to the tangled relationship of race, religion, and politics in America."--Henry L. Carrigan, Jr., Foreword
"[T]his work is just the sort of introduction that those unfamiliar with the contours of politics, race and religion need. . . . Concerning the struggle for civil rights, Noll makes a powerful argument. While acknowledging the importance of the courts and community organizing, he aptly points out that religion was the indispensable foundation of the civil rights movement. The conviction that God was on the side of the black freedom struggle was powerful."--Randall J. Stephens, Christian Century
"[Noll's] work will be a must read for scholars of U.S. religious and political history."--Choice
"With the self-assurance of a skilled painter, Noll applies a series of brushstrokes that define five political alignments, each influenced by the comparative strength of the state, the market, and religion. . . . Noll's is a tragic vision but one that nevertheless brings welcome clarity to the nation's primary moral dilemma."--Andrew Rojecki, Journal of Church History
Table of Contents:
List of Illustrations ix
Chapter I: The Bible, Slavery, and the "Irrepressible Confl ict" 13
Chapter II: The Origins of African-American Religious Agency 47
Chapter III: The Churches, "Redemption," and Jim Crow 60
Chapter IV: Religion and the Civil Rights Movement 102
Chapter V: The Civil Rights Movement as the Fulcrum of Recent Political History 136
Theological Conclusion 176
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