Serving two masters: Methodism and the negotiation of masculinity in the antebellum South

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This dissertation examines the development of a distinct southern Methodist masculinity from the 1830s to the 1860s. More than a church history, this study explores the relationship between non-religious and religious society, the tensions inherent in to relationship, and the ethical questions that emerged from that tension. As Methodism evolved in the South, it took on regional social practices and affectations while also maintaining a denominational identity that opposed southern culture. Southern Methodists served two masters—the church and society—and both demanded obedience to divergent visions of masculinity and manhood. Although they rejected many manly pursuits, ministers adopted a proslavery ideology and patriarchal practices and reflected southern attitudes in their church doctrine and structure. My study argues that the ethical shift that occurred in the southern Methodist Church in the 1840s resulted from the dual demands of southern and denominational culture, which led them to construct their own vision of masculine identity. This study uses the Methodist Church as an example of the friction caused and questions raised by the intersection of gender, religion, and ethics in a constricted, patriarchal society.

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History, United States, Religion, History of, Gender studies