Religion in the South: a review of seven recent books

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Date: Winter 1996
From: The Mississippi Quarterly(Vol. 50, Issue 1)
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Document Type: Book review
Length: 3,692 words
Lexile Measure: 1370L

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The Sanctified South: John Larkin Brasher and the Holiness Movement, by J. Lawrence Brasher. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994. 260 pp. $29.95; Appalachian Mountain Religion,, A History, by Deborah Vansau McCauley. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995. 552 pp. $24.95; Taking Up Serpents: Snake Handlers of Eastern, Kentucky, by David L. Kimbrough. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. 232 pp. $34.95; Our Southern, Zion: A History of Calvinism in the South Carolina Low Country, 1690-1990, by Erskine Clarke. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1996. 430 pp. $47.95; Religion and Race: Southern hesbyterians, 1946-1983, by Joel L. Alvis, Jr. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1994. 198 pp. $19.95; Religion in Antebellum Kentucky, by John B. Boles. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1995. 148 pp. $9.95; Judgment and Grace in Dixie: Southern, Faiths from Faulkner to Elvis, by Charles Reagan Wilson. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995. 202 pp. $29.95.

THREE OF THESE VOLUMES: THE SANCTIFIED SOUTH, APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN RELIGION, AND TAKING UP SERPENTS ARE CLOSELY RELATED in that each devotes attention to the Holiness movement in the Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, southwest Virginia, east Tennessee, and western North Carolina. This movement emerged, principally, from the Methodist Church in the nineteenth century and grew into a national movement.

The Sanctified South is a biography of one of the Holiness leaders, John Larkin Brasher. Brasher (1868-1971) was a Methodist clergyman in Alabama when he became associated with the Holiness movement. He left his Methodist congregation in 1902 to become a traveling evangelist and Holiness preacher; however, he never severed all connections with the Methodist Church. In subsequent years he traveled over 700,000 miles throughout the United States and preached in more than 650 Holiness camp meetings. Not discussed in this volume are Brasher's careers as an educator, editor, denominational official or university administrator; nor is there any mention of his family life. It is a biography limited to his activities as a holiness preacher.

The Sanctified South is a sympathetic but not altogether uncritical account of Brasher by his grandson, who is a professor of religion and philosophy at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina. In addition to data gathered by the author and others through the process of oral history, this biography rests upon research in the more than 25,000 documents in the John L. Brasher Papers in the Duke University Library and some forty-eight sound recordings of Brasher's sermons and lectures. Considerable attention is given to an analysis of Brasher's sermons, which the reader is informed might vary from thirty minutes to an hour and a half in length. It is asserted that the sermons of Brasher were designed to "stir the passions of his audience" yet they were "not excessively emotional." Brasher continued to preach past his one hundredth birthday.

The biography of Brasher concludes with an extended appendix and fifty-seven pages of notes. The younger Brasher states in the preface that he hopes this book "may begin to fill a gap in the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A168292198