When Podcasts Get Edgy

Art Remillard

After a short break, the JSR podcast returns with two edgy installments. OK, they aren't edgy in any trollable sense. But they do bring us to the edges of southern religious history, to places that generally escape our attention.

To begin, we have Andrew Stern talking about his book, Southern Crucifix, Southern Cross: Catholic-Protestant Relations in the Old South. One might expect from the title an account of anti-Catholicism, with healthy doses of random violence and church burnings. Not quite. Tensions certainly existed between Catholics and Protestants in the Old South. But as Stern explains, members of these faiths formed meaningful bonds that led them to heal, learn, worship, and rule together. Among the many surprises in the book, we discover that Protestants donated money not only to Catholic schools and hospitals, but also to the building of Catholic churches. Stern admits that the sources don't fully reveal the motivations behind these donations. But we can conclude that the boundaries separating Catholics and Protestants were anything but impermeable.

Next, I talked with Nora Rose Moosnick about her new book, Arab and Jewish Women in Kentucky: Stories of Accommodation and Audacity. In our discussion, she recalls how her family history brought her to this project. Moosnick then offers an overview of the unique women featured in the book, some of them mentioned in her guest post on RiAH back in May. The podcast ends with Moosnick reflecting on her postscript, "On Being a Documentarian." Anyone interested in oral history needs to buy and read this book for this section alone. Here, the author wrestles with the challenges of gathering Kentucky's "untold stories" in an age of instant celebrity.

As I stand back and look at the JSR's collection of podcasts, I see Stern and Moosnick complimenting the work of Patrick Mason, Jeff Wilson, and Maura Jane Farrelly. Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists--all numerical minorities in the Bible Belt who, despite this, have left their mark along the region's religious landscape. We don't find too many "central themes" or lists of common traits in these books. Instead, these edgy historians carve up our settled assumptions about the South, and challenge us to reassemble more complicated narratives.


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