The Great Depression and White Evangelicalism Article Review

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Article Review:

Religion for the Blues: Evangelicalism, Poor Whites, and the Great Depression

White evangelical religion is often conceptualized as a solely conservative force inhibiting social change. The purpose of the article “Religion for the Blues: Evangelicalism, Poor Whites, and the Great Depression” by Wayne Flynt is to contextualize the type of religious faith that sustained many poor whites during difficult economic circumstances in the early half of the 20th century in America. Rather than a source of repression, Flynt argues the religion provided a sense of purpose and a way of making sense of senseless circumstances.

Flynt is interested in giving voice to his subjects on an individual basis to humanize them and present their unique perspectives. He begins his article not with a theoretical overview but with a description of May Jordan, a congregant at the Buck Hill Baptist Church, the daughter of a faith doctor. Jordan left a series of journal articles specifically making sense of her conception of the origins of suffering, which she saw as only relieved by trusting in Christ as one’s savior. Flynt details the trials and tribulations experienced by Jordan, one of eight children, as a way of challenging the academic view of white, Southern evangelicalism as one of “politicized emotionalism, anti-intellectualism, exclusivity and intolerance” (Flynt 5). Jordan’s Baptist faith in particular is often subsumed under such a broad-brushed depiction.

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Flynt sees this as very much a product of contemporary conceptualizations of white, Southern evangelical movements. This is in stark contrast to how the black churches of the South are frequently viewed as vehicles of social change. Still, Flynt argues that it is mistaken to portray white evangelicalism solely in a negative light as a reactionary force. He is particularly vociferous in arguing that evangelicalism is solely represented by the so-called megachurch movement, which tends to focus on a gospel of wealth and prosperity, rather than championing the poor. The greatest counterweight to the dominant, negative conception of white evangelicalism has not been found in politics but frequently in novels and anthropological studies (hence the focus on May Jordan at the beginning of Flynt’s own essays). Many novelists have instead stressed “religious ecstasy and preoccupation with heaven” as the only anecdote to despair” (Flynt 7).

Evangelicalism, argues this view, provides hope for the future in light of the hopelessness of the present. It is still, in contrast….....

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Work Cited

Flynt, Wayne. “Religion for the Blues: Evangelicalism, Poor Whites, and the Great Depression.”

The Journal of Southern History, vol. 71, no. 1, 2005, pp. 3–38. JSTOR, JSTOR,

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