Pete Daniel devotes a fair portion of his rich, stylish portrait of theSouth at mid-century to religion. He is especially interested in therelationship between religion and the defense of segregation. ManySouthern preachers, he says, were complicit in segregation--but, notingJesus' willingness to mingle with poor folks, women, and lepers, anumber of progressive ministers challenged Jim Crow. After the 1954Brown decision, the Southern Baptist Convention urged its flock toaccept desegregation. Southern Presbyterians called for thedesegregation of all-white churches and colleges.

Daniel realizes that integration wasn't the only thing on SouthernProtestants' minds. In the late '50s, evangelical college studentsopenly flaunted their denominations' bans on dancing. ("Some of thewomen students dressed in black and pinned a red 'D' on their sweaters.'It's my scarlet letter,' one explained; 'I dance. I'm a sinner.'")Religion even shaped how Southerners thought about atomic weapons andthe Cold War-ruminating on possible annihilation,apocalyptically-inclined Christians read up on biblical prophesies thatGod would destroy the world in flames.

If you're interested in religion and American culture, don't miss "LostRevolutions."