Baptists and the American Civil War: Crucible of Faith and Freedom by Bruce T. Gourley (Macon, Ga.: Nurturing Faith, 2015) is a month-to-month summary of the online digital Baptists and the American Civil War: In Their Own Words project.
Originally appearing as a series of articles in Baptists Today, this volume includes updated articles plus an introductory essay on “The War Long Coming.”
The book is available in print and digital formats. Click here to buy your copy. Use discount code (AUTHOR15) to receive a discount of 15% of your purchase.
From a review in the Journal of Southern Religion:
“In less than 150 pages, one of America’s most respected scholars of nineteenth-century American religion offers a succinct analysis of the Civil War, told from a particular religious viewpoint yet revealing greater and broadly applicable truth. No matter its denominational distinction or earnest spiritual intent, organized religion is in the end a human endeavor. In considering the rationalizations and ideological contortions that some Baptists of the Civil-War-era realized in championing human bondage and the righteous indignation that others of the faith fomented in pursuing slavery’s demise, Bruce T. Gourley reminds us of the bad and good ways that religious traditions like Baptistism shape, yet are shaped by, their adherents.”
From the book:
“Suspended precariously in the middle of this epic struggle is freedom itself. Yet only one God can prevail: either the creator of a new future envisioned by an enslaved people and their Northern allies, or the lord of a dark past to which white Southerners are fiercely devoted. For Baptists, the dividing line runs right through the Bible. Southern biblical conservatism is firmly rooted in America’s racist past, while a future of racial equality hinges upon a newer understanding of scriptural interpretation unfettered by the chains of biblical literalism.”
Diverging Loyalties: Baptists in Middle Georgia During the Civil War by Bruce T. Gourley (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2011) is an examination of the varying views of Baptists of Georgia regarding slavery and the Confederacy.
Baptists in the South, rapidly rising to challenge Methodists numerically, helped align Southern religion with the South’s culture of white supremacy and black slavery. The birth of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, formed in order to preserve God’s eternal will of African slavery, signaled the inevitability of war.
During the war, Baptists in local church and associations responded to the Confederacy in a myriad of ways. Patterns of responses emerged and evolved as the war progressed, while differences between Southern and Primitive Baptists stood out.
“[Gourley’s] conclusions will force a reassessment of the relationship between church and the Confederacy. Grounded in a close study of local and regional records, this is revisionist history of the best kind.” (Dr. Kenneth Noe, Draughon Professor of Southern History, Auburn University)
“… an engrossing, enlightening exploration of our nation’s greatest trauma … presents new evidence and provides a new argument for the impact of religion on the war, the institution of slavery, and for southern identity.” (Civil War Monitor)
“… exhaustively and meticulously researched … the kind of detailed analysis that complicates previous answers to some very important questions.” (Dr. Lee L. Willis, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point)
“… lucid presentation, exhaustive research … this is essential reading for scholars interested in religion and the Civil War, southern religious history, and Baptist history.” (Dr. Arthur Remillard, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Saint Paul Francis University)
“… clearly focused … This book succeeds on every level …” (Dr. John G. Crowley, Valdosta State University)
“… provocative and comprehensive … A well written, well documented and insightful analysis of an important epoch.” (Dr. Bill Leonard, James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Church History and Baptist Studies, Wake Forest University)