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Evangelizing the SouthA Social History of Church and State in Early America$
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Monica Najar

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195309003

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195309003.001.0001

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 We, the Male and Female

 We, the Male and Female

(p.35) 2 We, the Male and Female
Evangelizing the South

Monica Najar

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that during the 1760s and 1770s, distinctly evangelical visions of manhood and womanhood emerged which became structured into early church membership. In the late colonial era, Baptist ministers and converts to the faith found the South a hostile and often dangerous place. Colonial authorities attacked and imprisoned preachers; Anglican ministers denounced Baptists from their pulpits; mobs disrupted Baptist services and dragged ministers from their congregations. This era of conflict acted as a defining moment for the Baptists and helped them to construct an identity for themselves as a heroic and martyred people. Baptist ministers began to write and collect firsthand accounts of persecution and new conversions in the 1770s. The stories that Baptists told about the disputes centered on gender, and gender became an integral part of the conflicts between dissenting sects and the established church. In particular, embracing new gender norms became a chief strategy for countering opposition and spreading the faith. Women and men were constantly praised for discarding conventional gender roles and assuming new behaviors to serve the evangelical cause. Not only did the Baptists explore distinctly evangelical visions of manhood and womanhood, but they structured them into church membership.

Keywords:   Baptists, womanhood, manhood, religious, church membership, American South

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