Adapting to Dixie
My dissertation examines the process of cultural adaption and change. Nineteenth-century Lutherans in many ways were cultural outsiders and a religious minority. They were confessional in a land of evangelicals. A fundamental divide between Lutherans and their evangelical neighbors was that Lutherans did not believe that an emotionally charged conversion experience was necessary in order to obtain salvation. Whereas evangelicals believed individuals had to decide to accepted Jesus as their personal lord and savior in order to receive salvation and grace, Lutherans believed that God made the decisions to save individuals, and they received God's grace and salvation as a totally free and unmerited gift. Lutherans, therefore, had to decide how to respond to the revival movement that swept across the antebellum south. While Lutheran theological tradition focused on a mystical and yet intellectual relationship with God obtained by studying the Bible, the popularity of revivals forced Lutherans to negotiate their religious differences with their evangelical neighbors. Moreover, since Lutherans placed such value on an intellectual relationship with God, they emphasized the importance of education even when those around them were hostile to education. Unlike evangelicals, Lutherans did not have church courts, but they were still very interested in public morality. My dissertation examines how they negotiated their response to the moral dilemmas of their day such as drinking, dancing and dueling, which were important components of honor culture. Lutherans also found themselves separated from their evangelical neighbors due to the fact that they spoke German while the evangelicals spoke English. For many Lutherans the German language and Lutheranism were inseparable. This language barrier not only separated Lutherans from their neighbors but also acted as a wedge between the older Lutheran generations who spoke German and the younger generations that grew up speaking English. Lutherans had to decide whether to give up German, the language of Luther, or risk losing the youth. Upon arriving in North Carolina, they were confronted with the issue of slavery. While evangelicals at first rejected slavery and only slowly embraced it, Lutherans appeared to have no moral qualms with the institution. Finally, North Carolina Lutherans were members of a national Lutheran church at a time when national evangelical churches were being torn apart due to sectional tensions. It was only after the country was at war that a schism finally occurred in the national Lutheran church. My dissertation examines how North Carolina Lutherans and Lutherans across the country were able to hold their church together as long as they did and how this division finalized North Carolina Lutherans' southernization. This project begins with the Lutherans' arrival in North Carolina just prior to the Revolutionary War and concludes with the aftermath of the Civil War. The majority of German Lutherans lived in the piedmont region of North Carolina, and this study focuses geographically on this region. As a social history this project explores questions of how German Lutherans eventually transformed from outsiders to proud members of the Confederate nation. "Adapting to Dixie" examines the dynamics of rapid cultural change in which Lutherans struggled to retain a sense of their separateness while still conforming to the region's mores.