[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Slavery]: Rothera on Holm, 'A Kingdom Divided: Evangelicals, Loyalty, and Sectionalism in the Civil War Era'
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> From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
> Date: January 30, 2020 at 12:48:16 PM EST
> To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-Slavery]: Rothera on Holm, 'A Kingdom Divided: Evangelicals, Loyalty, and Sectionalism in the Civil War Era'
> Reply-To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> April E. Holm. A Kingdom Divided: Evangelicals, Loyalty, and
> Sectionalism in the Civil War Era. Conflicting Worlds: New
> Dimensions of the American Civil War Series. Baton Rouge Louisiana
> State University Press, 2017. 288 pp. $47.50 (cloth), ISBN
> Reviewed by Evan C. Rothera (University of Arkansas - Fort Smith)
> Published on H-Slavery (January, 2020)
> Commissioned by Andrew J. Kettler
> Most people today, April E. Holm contends, do not blame churches for
> the coming of the US Civil War. However, plenty of people did at the
> time. According to Holm, Robert L. Stanton's _The Church and the
> Rebellion_ (1864), for instance, claimed that future historians would
> take notice of the "'agency of the Church' and the 'zeal of the
> ministers of religion' in promoting secession." Holm cautions readers
> against brushing such accusations aside as marginal or irrelevant. _A
> Kingdom Divided_ employs religion "as a critical lens through which
> to analyze sectionalism, war, and reunion. More than simply gazing at
> the church's role in causing secession, it examines how religion,
> politics, and morality interacted in a time of political crisis to
> create lasting institutional and cultural divisions in American
> Christianity" (p. 1). Holm begins with the Second Great Awakening,
> ends in the Gilded Age, and focuses on three denominations: Baptists,
> Methodists, and Presbyterians. These groups experienced tremendous
> growth during the early nineteenth century, but by the 1850s, the
> issue of slavery divided each denomination into sectional branches.
> As the northern and southern branches of each denomination became
> increasingly politicized, people living on the border between North
> and South, the region that interests Holm, employed a strategy of
> neutrality to navigate through the difficulties of sectional
> Holm defines the border as "the area in which, when faced with
> divisive political conflicts, evangelicals struggled with the
> question of whether they were northern or southern" (p. 7).
> Geographically, it encompassed Delaware, Maryland, western Virginia,
> Kentucky, Missouri, and portions of every neighboring state. _A
> Kingdom Divided_ charts the expansion of the three religions during
> the Second Great Awakening, noting that all three shared the same
> imperative to evangelize. As one might expect, the western members of
> each of the denominations wanted their own religious institutions.
> They established newspapers, seminaries, and publishing houses and
> accumulated a considerable amount of property. This did not pose a
> major problem until the three churches split into sectional branches.
> Evangelical denominations were national organizations and, therefore,
> brought people from across the nation into contact with each other.
> Consequently, regional differences of belief about slavery,
> abolition, and the nature of sin could not be ignored. Churches, like
> other US institutions, soon felt the divisive power of the slavery
> question. Slavery did not cause the Presbyterian fracture into Old
> School and New School branches in 1837, and Holm does not find either
> branch explicitly proslavery or antislavery, but most antislavery
> Presbyterians ended up in the New School. The Methodists and Baptists
> split into northern and southern branches in 1844-45, largely due to
> slavery and questions about clergymen owning slaves. The Methodist
> Plan of Separation, designed to ease the transition, led instead to
> acrimonious property disputes that heightened tensions on the border.
> Making a choice about whether to affiliate with the northern or the
> southern branch proved comparatively easy for people who lived in
> northern or southern states, but for westerners, it was often nearly
> impossible and fraught with difficulty. Holm describes how these
> sectional divisions created an ecclesiastical border.
> Problematically, for border evangelicals, division did not mean the
> end of the disputes, as both the northern and southern branches of
> each denomination laid claim to the border region. Border
> congregations evaluated ministers by their position on the slavery
> question. Disputes over property became legion. Holm includes several
> fascinating accounts of churches that proved more than willing to use
> the courts to resolve their disputes. Critically, to turn to the
> courts, evangelicals had to make their peace with violating the
> separation of church and state and committing the sin of schism.
> Courts, interestingly enough, often proved hesitant about wading into
> denominational squabbles. Some congregations left questions about
> affiliation and slavery unresolved. They embraced a doctrine of
> spirituality, which emphasized "political neutrality in the pulpit
> over expressions of support for the secular government" (p. 81).
> Border evangelicals also considered slavery a political issue and
> argued that clergy should not express opinions about the subject. At
> a time when sectional political debate dominated civil society,
> border evangelicals attempted to maintain neutrality. Their problem
> became maintaining unity in the face of a deepening rift over
> slavery, a task made even more challenging by the events of the
> Decade of Crisis.
> The real problem of neutrality became readily apparent during
> wartime. Military authorities "enacted measures designed to ensure
> the emotional loyalty of the people, not just the political loyalty
> of the state" (p. 102). In other words, border clergy maintained that
> preaching could be neutral, Union authorities said it could not, and
> the results were usually unpleasant. Evangelicals came to represent a
> loyal opposition within the northern branches of each of the three
> denominations and army officials came to see disloyal ministers as
> more threatening than disloyal citizens. Provost marshals wanted
> active, not passive, loyalty and they did not hesitate to compel
> displays of allegiance. However, attempts to police loyalty often
> backfired and arresting clergy generated considerable animosity.
> Debates over loyalty, union, and neutrality continued into religious
> reconstruction, which began in the final year of the war and lasted
> through the end of the decade. "Attempts to redistribute church
> property and ensure the loyalty of ministers in occupied areas," Holm
> asserts, "not only impeded sectional reunion, they also did much to
> alienate border moderates" (p. 125). By the end of the 1860s, border
> moderates no longer identified with the northern churches and
> established their independence. Although the war ended slavery and
> destroyed the Confederacy, it did not mean that many evangelicals
> cared any less about these issues.
> Border evangelicals in each of the three denominations moved away
> from the northern branch of their respective denominations and
> drifted ever closer to the southern churches of their denomination.
> Southern branches had to justify their continued independence and an
> alliance with the border churches offered benefits. Northern
> evangelicals attempted to initiate reunion--and never gave up hope of
> reunion--but their overtures produced few results. Decades after
> abolition, slavery continued to dominate the discussion and divide
> each of the three denominations. In polemical histories, "southerners
> downplayed their defense of slavery before the war while northerners
> exaggerated their antebellum opposition to slavery" (p. 176). Holm
> argues that postwar interactions between evangelicals "provide an
> arresting counterpoint to the narrative of postwar reconciliation"
> (p. 192). In contrast to other areas of society, which experienced a
> growing blue-gray fraternalism, the three denominations remained
> _A Kingdom Divided_ is a well-written and thought-provoking book.
> Holm notes that while the book is principally concerned with
> ministers and lay leaders, she nevertheless examined "material from
> all ranks of church organizations" (p. 10). At times, her analysis
> can seem like a conversation among elites, and one wonders whether
> Holm might have brought in more voices from church members and
> contemporary observers. In addition, the author notes that white
> southern evangelicals complained about northern missionaries
> "stealing" black southern evangelicals. These white southerners even
> anticipated freedpeople joining their churches. Obviously, this did
> not happen, and Holm might have woven more African American voices
> into her story of border evangelicals. Nevertheless, this volume is
> well worth reading and will interest all students of religion and
> politics in the nineteenth-century US.
> . For other incisive accounts of evangelicals, see Richard
> Carwardine, _Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America_
> (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1997); and Christine Leigh
> Heyrman, _Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt_ (New
> York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997).
> . Holm's book contributes to a rich historiography on religion and
> the US Civil War. For other examples, see Mitchell Snay, _Gospel of
> Disunion: Religion and Separatism in the Antebellum_ _South_ (New
> York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Mark Noll, _The Civil War as a
> Theological Crisis_ (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina
> Press, 2006); Harry S. Stout, _Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral
> History of the American Civil_ War (New York: Viking, 2006); George
> C. Rable, _God's Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the
> American Civil War_ (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina
> Press, 2010); and Timothy Wesley, _The Politics of Faith during the
> Civil War_ (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013).
> Citation: Evan C. Rothera. Review of Holm, April E., _A Kingdom
> Divided: Evangelicals, Loyalty, and Sectionalism in the Civil War
> Era_. H-Slavery, H-Net Reviews. January, 2020.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54597
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
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