Slaveholders’ Paradise: Conceptions of heaven in antebellum southern Presbyterian thought

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2020-01-01
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Dawdy, Matthew
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Lawrence T. McDonnell
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History
The Department of History seeks to provide students with a knowledge of historical themes and events, an understanding of past cultures and social organizations, and also knowledge of how the past pertains to the present.

History
The Department of History was formed in 1969 from the division of the Department of History, Government, and Philosophy.

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Heaven is mankind’s place of eternal rest. In the years surrounding the Civil War, Southern clergymen and intellectuals interpreted heaven within the framework of their beliefs about and aspirations for the South. This study examines Southern Presbyterian conceptions of heaven. Studying the Southern Presbyterian Review, a Charleston-based denominational journal, this thesis explores what heaven meant to these authors, and how these views aligned with social reform efforts. Heaven focused Southern Presbyterian attempts to build an “almost-heavenly state” on earth. Intellectual leaders such as James H. Thornwell advanced connections between heavenly and terrestrial society that shaped discussion in the Southern Presbyterian Review. Although they did not claim a large membership in the Old South, Southern Presbyterian leaders were powerfully influential and strove to reconcile the fallibility of social order with their beliefs about the nature of the afterlife. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Presbyterian clergy seized the chance to guide society in a godlier direction, within the framework of their beliefs in a slaveholders’ paradise.

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Sat Aug 01 00:00:00 UTC 2020