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This study examines the rise of the holiness movement in Georgia following the Civil War. Employing a blend of social and intellectual historical methods, the study pays particular attention to the shifting cultural conditions occurring in Georgia and the rest of the Southeast around the turn of the century and shows how these changes influenced the movement.
The study offers two major theses regarding the Wesleyan-Holiness movement in the United States. First the Holiness movement which emerged in the North after 1830 emphasizing the speedy attainment of human perfectibility failed to attract receptive audiences in the South due primarily to the cultural conditions of the region. Southern Christians were deeply affected by the culture of honor and the frequent violence it spawned. Moreover, Southerners were reluctant to subscribe to the Northern formula of Phoebe Palmer's "quick and easy" means to achieve perfect love when they recognized the ambiguities of the slave system -- a system most Southerners understood as a necessary evil.
Second, during the Reconstruction period, at a time when most Southerners were searching for new beginnings, the Wesleyan doctrine of immediately acquired "perfect love" began attracting widespread support in the Southeast. The study examines the Holiness movement's emergence in Georgia, and demonstrates that contrary to the views of several historians, a significant number of Wesleyan Holiness advocates in the New South were not drawn from the ranks of the dispossessed, but were in fact members of the region's burgeoning middle class.
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