by Steve Longenecker
University of Alabama Press, 2023
Cloth: 978-0-8173-2149-9 | eISBN: 978-0-8173-9437-0
Library of Congress Classification E668.L848 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 976.04

A comparison of the faith and politics of former Confederate chaplains with intriguing insights about the evolution of their postwar beliefs and the Lost Cause
Pulpits of the Lost Cause: The Faith and Politics of Former Confederate Chaplains during Reconstruction is the first in-depth study of former chaplains that juxtaposes their religion and politics, thereby revealing important insights about the Lost Cause movement. Steve Longenecker demonstrates that while some former chaplains vigorously defended the Lost Cause and were predictably conservative in the pulpit, embracing orthodoxy and resisting religious innovation, others were unexpectedly progressive and advocated on behalf of evolution, theological liberalism, and modern biblical criticism.

Former Confederate chaplains embodied both the distinctive white, Southern, regional identity and the variation within it. Most were theologically conservative and Lost Cause racists. But as with the larger South, variation abounded. The Lost Cause, which Longenecker interprets as a broad popular movement with numerous versions, meant different things to different chaplains. It ranged from diehard-ism to tempered sectional forgiveness to full reconciliation to a harmless once-a-year Decoration Day ritual.

This volume probes the careers of ten former chaplains, including their childhoods, wartime experiences, Lost Cause personas, and theologies, making use of manuscripts and published sermons as well as newspapers, diaries, memoirs, denominational periodicals, letters, and the books they themselves produced. In theology, many former chaplains were predictably conservative, while others were unexpectedly broad-minded and advocated evolution, theological liberalism, and modern Biblical criticism. One former chaplain became a social-climbing Harvard progressive. Another wrote innovative, liberal theology read by European scholars. Yet another espoused racial equality, at least in theory if not full practice. Additionally, former chaplains often exhibited the fundamental human trait of compartmentalization, most notably by extolling the past as they celebrated the Lost Cause while simultaneously looking to the future as religious progressives or New South boosters. The stereotypical preacher of the Lost Cause—a gray-clad Bible thumper—existed sufficiently to create the image but hardly enough to be universally accurate.