Devout Racism



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Paul Harvey

Many of you will be interested to read our contributing editor Randall Stephens's joint review of Mark Noll, God and Race in American Politics: A Short History, together with Charles Irons, The Origins of Proslavery Christianity: White and Black Evangelicals in Colonial and Antebellum Virginia. The succinct and insightful review, from the Christian Century, is here. A brief excerpt:

Like all skilled historians, Irons and Noll expertly track change over time. C. Vann Woodward did the same in his classic The Strange Career of Jim Crow (1955), a work that showed how a new, crippling racism developed in the post-Civil War years. Race was not an eternal, changeless force, asserted Wood ward. History is contingent. Its course is not set. Good history can raise consciousness and inspire activism. Martin Luther King Jr. called Wood ward's book the "historical Bible of the civil rights movement." Like Woodward, Irons and Noll reveal the changing dynamics of race, politics and religion. They show how groups and individuals adapt to new currents and reevaluate and sometimes reify tradition.

Irons and Noll prompt readers to think historically about the hope of racial reconciliation and the tragedy of church-sanctioned race hatred. It's almost impossible to read these two books and not ponder what might have been or what could be in store for America's future.

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