"This interesting and valuable study breaks new ground in Reconstruction and New South history. . . . What makes this volume significant is both the demonstrated usefulness of the theory of civil religion in the hands of a historian and the fresh substantive contribution to the history of the South's tragic experience." --American Historical Review
"If the South cannot escape its history, perhaps it is because it does not want to. Wilson's magnificent book on the religion of the Lost Cause drives that point home forcefully. . . . He skillfully weaves together the strands of thought that produced the Lost Cause and shows that evangelical ministers had a large hand in the process." --Theology Today --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From the Inside Flap
"Civil religion" has been defined as the religious dimension of a people that enables them to understand a historical experience in transcendent terms. In this light, Wilson explores the role of religion in postbellum southern culture and argues that the profound dislocations of Confederate defeat caused southerners to think in religious terms about the meaning of their unique and tragic experience. The defeat in a war deemed by some as religious in nature threw into question the South's relationship to God; it was interpreted in part as a God-given trial, whereby suffering and pain would lead Southerners to greater virtue and strength and even prepare them for future crusades. From this reflection upon history emerged the civil religion of the Lost Cause. While recent work in southern religious history has focused on the Old South period, Wilson's timely study adds to our developing understanding of the South after the Civil War.
The Lost Cause movement was an organized effort to preserve the memory of the Confederacy. Historians have examined its political, literary, and social aspects, but Wilson uses the concepts of anthropology, sociology, and historiography to unveil the Lost Cause as an authentic expression of religion. The Lost Cause was celebrated and perpetuated with its own rituals, mythology, and theology; as key celebrants of the religion of the Lost Cause, Southern ministers forged it into a religious movement closely related to their own churches. In examining the role of civil religion in the cult of the military, in the New South ideology, and in the spirit of the Lost Cause colleges, as well as in other aspects, Wilson demonstrates effectively how the religion of the Lost Cause became the institutional embodiment of the South's tragic experience. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.