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A Consuming Fire: The Fall of the Confederacy in the Mind of the White Christian South (Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures Ser.) Paperback – March 1, 2009
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From Kirkus Reviews
A remarkable and important contribution to southern history during its most critical period . . . Written with intellectual rigor and impressive scholarship . . . [This] book belongs on the required reading list of all seriously interested in southern history.(Civil War Book Review)
Always a superb essayist, [Genovese] develops a crisp and powerful argument about the religious strand in the pro-slavery argument, before, during, and after the war.(Times Literary Supplement)
Thoroughly researched and cogently argued . . . Gives historians of the pro- and antislavery causes much to think about.(American Historical Review)
Genovese makes a convincing, well-documented case that, although southern ministers supported the war for a slaveholding republic, they did not do so uncritically and repeatedly warned southerners that they had to conform to God's word on the treatment of their slaves if the Confederacy were to benefit from God's support and achieve victory.(Gaines M. Foster Civil War History)
Genovese has again essayed important questions that scholars need to address in more depth as they probe the many effects of the Civil War upon the South.(Journal of Southern History)
Tests the rhetoric of slave-holding as stewardship against a fearful reality many argued to reform. Both challenging and complementary to works by Drew Gilpin Faust, Mitchell Snay, and Jack P. Maddex, this book is characteristic Genovese--informative, insightful, and provocative.(Library Journal)
It should be viewed as a challenge to us all to try to understand the Old South in all its contradictory complexity, and especially to try to comprehend those southerners earnestly argued that slavery was a God-given trust.(Southern Cultures)
What seems most laudatory about Genovese is his attempt to try to see the white antebellum South in all its complexity and richness and to reaffirm the importance of religion in the region during the nineteenth century.(H-CivWar)
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Top Customer Reviews
According to Genovese, the slave owners of the South didn't believe that slavery was inhumane. In fact, they believed that it was God's will that slaves be owned. Southern pastors found many Biblical passages which convinced Southerners not only to own slaves, but how to treat them and what rights to give them, or not give them. Genovese says that many slave holders were torn between politics and Christianity by saying, "The efforts to recognize slave marriage, to keep slave families intact, and to repeal the literacy laws confronted slave holders with an uncomfortable choice between their religion and their political and socioeconomic interests," (pg. 23). One of the arguments Genovese makes is that since God wants people to own slaves, He would allow them to win the war. The first few battles of the Civil War supported this side, since the Confederacy seemed to be winning against such impressive odds. Later, when the South lost the war and slavery was non-existant, the Christian South claimed that it was because they did not live according to God's commandments of being good slave owners. Genovese's work, A Consuming Fire, is an excellent portrayal of the system of slavery in Southern eyes.Read more ›
Convinced by the scriptural story of "Noah's curse," that white men were superior and endowed with a divine duty to be God's stewards over their darker, accursed and heathen slave brethren, there was no way to undo the moral corruption that white supremacy and slavery had become in the collective mind of the religious south. To them, both white supremacy and slavery were divine causes sanctioned in the scripture by a jealous vengeful southern God. And as a result, southerners were blocked from ever getting beyond their own religiously reinforced denial (not to mention getting beyond the denial of the more worldly fact that the economic survival of their "slave run" plantations, depended on slaves), from ever seeing slavery and white supremacy for what they were: twin incestuous but unmitigated evil and sinful institutions.Read more ›