Before the Bible Belt fastened itself across the South, competing factions of evangelicals fought over the faith’s future, and a contrarian sect, self-named the...

Before the Bible Belt fastened itself across the South, competing factions of evangelicals fought over the faith’s future, and a contrarian sect, self-named the Primitive Baptists, made its stand. In Strangers Below: Primitive Baptists and American Culture (University of North Carolina Press, 2016) Joshua Guthman tells the story of how a band of anti-missionary and anti-revivalistic Baptists defended Calvinism, America’s oldest Protestant creed, from what they feared were the unbridled forces of greed and power. In their harrowing confessions of faith and in the quavering uncertainty of their singing, Guthman finds the emotional catalyst of the Primitives’ early 19th century movement: a searing experience of doubt that motivated believers rather than paralyzed them. Strangers Below demonstrates the unlikely but enduring influence of Primitive Baptists on American religious and cultural life.


Phillip Sherman is Associate Professor of Religion at Maryville College in Maryville, TN.

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