Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century is a collection of fifteen essays by award-winning scholar Wayne Flynt that explore and reveal the often-forgotten religious heterogeneity of the American South.

Throughout its dramatic history, the American South has wrestled with issues such as poverty, social change, labor reform, civil rights, and party politics, and Flynt’s writing reaffirms religion as the lens through which southerners often understand and attempt to answer these contentious questions. In Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century, however, Flynt gently but persuasively dispels the myth—comforting to some and dismaying to others—of religion in the South as an inert cairn of reactionary conservatism.

Flynt introduces a wealth of stories about individuals and communities of faith whose beliefs and actions map the South’s web of theological fault lines. In the early twentieth century, North Carolinian pastor Alexander McKelway became a relentless crusader against the common practice of child labor. In 1972, at a time of segregated churches led by men, Rev. Dr. Ruby Kile took the helm of the eight-member Powderly Faith Deliverance Center in Jefferson County, Alabama, and built the fledgling group into a robust congregation with more than 700 black and white worshipers. Flynt also examines the role of religion in numerous pivotal court cases, such as the US Supreme Court school prayer case Engel v. Vitale, whose majority opinion was penned by Justice Hugo Black, an Alabamian. These fascinating case studies and many more illuminate a religious landscape of far more varied texture and complexity than is commonly believed.

Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century offers much to readers and scholars interested in the South, religion, and theology. Writing with his hallmark wit, warmth, and erudition, Flynt creates a vital record of gospel-inspired southerners whose stories revivify sclerotic assumptions about the narrow conformity of southern Christians.

Wayne Flynt is a distinguished university professor emeritus at Auburn University and the author or coauthor of many books, including Alabama in the Twentieth Century; Alabama Baptists: Southern Baptists in the Heart of Dixie; Poor but Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites; Taking Christianity to China: Alabama Missionaries in the Middle Kingdom, 1850-1950; and a memoir, Keeping the Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives. His numerous awards include the Lillian Smith Book Award, the Clarence Cason Award in Non-fiction Writing, the James F. Sulzby Book Award (twice), the Alabama Library Association Award (twice), the Judson-Rice Award by the national news journal Baptists Today, and induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor.

Southern Religion and Christian Diversity in the Twentieth Century is a spendid retrospective of a great scholar’s career. Flynt dismantles generalizations, shows individual complexity, and, as the title suggests, reveals ‘diversity’ as well as any scholar I know.”
—Paul Harvey, author of Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identities among Southern Baptists, 1865-1925 and coauthor of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America 

“Flynt is one of the top scholars of southern religion, and his collected essays constitute an important contribution to the field. Always clearly written, solidly researched, and analytically vigorous, they represent a fine scholar working at the top of his form. This book should be on the mandatory reading list of anyone wishing to understand the nature of southern religion.”
—John B. Boles, author of The Great Revival, 1787-1805: The Origins of the Southern Evangelical Mind and The South Through Time: A History of an American Region

Cloth, 400 pp
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1908-3 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8971-0 Ebook
Price: $39.95