Forum on Southern Civil Religions

Today we release our first forum of 2015.

As part of a panel session and circle discussion at the Southern Intellectual History Circle in Edgefield, S.C. during late February, this forum sets a model for future forums. The brainchild of Art Remillard and Keith Harper, the scholars examined the way civil religious discourses can help us understand more broadly southern religious experience beyond monument building and the Lost Cause.

Remillard opens the panel with an examination of the Jackson-Jefferies prizefight for the heavy weight championship of the world in 1910. Keith Harper explores how denominational institutions muted explicit Lost Cause ideals in the formation of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the lives of John A. Broadus and James P. Boyce. Ed Crowther asks us to think about how civil religion in Confederate form helped explain why the Lost Cause came into existence even before the cause was lost. Chad Seales pushes the conversation beyond explicit religious experience to how advertisement marketers used a religious senisiblity to frame a cigarette ad in terms of race and purity ideas. All of the essays ask us to think about how civil religion may explain more than momunments and patriotism. Charles Reagan Wilson closes the forum with a reflection on both his own work, Baptized in Blood, and the essays presented here. Gratious as always, Wilson turnes his critical eye on his own work and those of the panelits. There is more work yet to do and graduate students would do well to read the forum for avenues of exploration.

For those unfamiliar with the Southern Intellectual History Circle, the group meets every February for a keynote and two panel presentations. On the Saturday of the meeting, the group holds what is essentially a workshop for the panelists in the forum of a circle discussion. The creation of Micahel O’Brien (most notably Conjectures of Order among other writings that set the field of southern intellectual history), SIHC has held some seminal panels on southern religion, which Seales noted, even as O’Brien remained exceptionally uninterested in religion. This past spring O’Brien passed away. In part to his health, he did not attend the meeting. In retrospect, I would enjoyed his observations and discussion contributions. For those who have not attended one of the meetings, please consider doing so in the coming years.

The panel on southern civil relgions, co-sponsored by JSR, created a way forward for forums. We do not have a dedicated annual conference that drives publication, but I would like to find a way to co-sponsor more conference panels that find their way into JSR.

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