The Sacred Mirror

Evangelicalism, Honor, and Identity in the Deep South, 1790-1860

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Robert Elder
  • Chapel Hill, NC: 
    The University of North Carolina Press
    , May
     288 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by James C. Ungureanu forthcoming.


Most histories of the American South describe the conflict between evangelical religion and honor culture as one of the defining features of southern life before the Civil War. The Sacred Mirror is a comprehensive reinterpretation of that relationship that examines how the success of evangelicalism during this period actually depended on its ability to address and draw on this vital part of the traditional culture of the South. Evangelical churches embraced the same understanding of communal authority that nourished a culture of honor in the South, serving as a kind of cultural bridge between old and new ways of understanding the self, and ushering in a southern modernity. Previous accounts of the rise of evangelicalism in the South have told the tale as a tragedy in which evangelicals initially opposed but eventually capitulated to many of the central tenets of southern society in order to win souls and garner influence. But through an examination of evangelical language and practices, The Sacred Mirror shows that evangelicals always shared honor’s most basic assumptions about how to shape individual identity, making it clear that evangelical beginnings and eventualities in the South were more closely linked than we have understood.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Robert Elder is assistant professor of history at Valparaiso University.

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