"Ain't Gonna Lay My 'Ligion Down" reveals the ways that African Americans have "put flesh on their Christian beliefs," adapting the faith of their European American masters and creating distinctive forms of religious expression. Contributors to the volume examine specific examples of African American religious practice and church leadership to show the remarkable degree to which newly imported slaves preserved their African spiritual heritage while simultaneously meshing it with Western symbols and theological claims.
The first essay in the volume explains the historical implications and continuing significance of two distinctive, often misunderstood components of African American folk religion: the pray's house spirit and the distinctive conversion ritual known as seekin' the Lord. Other essays consider the morality of African American folktales, specifically the Brer Rabbit tales; the symbolic and literary connections between African traditional religions and the religious experiences of African American women as found in the "motherwit" tradition; and the central place "rhythm" holds in African American life as a thread of continuity connecting life in Africa with life in the diaspora. Two final essays explore African American folk religion by examining the contributions of prominent nineteenth- and twentieth-century church leaders.
Alonzo Johnson is a systematic theologian who holds a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He is assistant professor of religious studies at the University of South Carolina and an ordained minister in the Church of God in Christ.
Paul Jersild is professor of theology and ethics and co-director of the Center on Religion in the South at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina.
"It represents the fruit of a creative and well-conceived collaborative effort that makes a significant scholarly contribution. It is also an excellent model for those who wish to do similar research in the coming millennium."—Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion