Stand, the American political, religious,rnand social experience largely stemmedrnfrom Puritan New England. In thernhands of the divines, the “Puritan ethic”rnwas incorporated into the American understandingrnof politics.rnThe New England ethic eventuallyrndeveloped into a civil theology which accordedrnspecial status to the Americanrnregime. America was regarded as thern”New Israel,” a providential gift offered tornthe world, a city on a hill, a light amidstrnthe darkness of political despotism. However,rnalongside New England, therernarose a less dogmatic and more explicitlyrnpastoral America, one associated withrnthe other great colonial settlement,rnJamestown, which was founded morernthan 20 years before the MassachusettsrnBay colony.rnThe Southern agrarian tradition producedrna very different understanding ofrnreligion and politics. Against the tendencyrnto endorse a theocratic and unitaryrnform of life, the Southern experience accommodatedrndivergent theological andrnpolitical understandings of order. Libertyrnwas conceived in corporate terms thatrnincluded the family and community.rnWhile New England enforced rigorousrnmoral codes, the Southern colonies werernmore dependent upon the English modelrnof ecclesiastic and civil subsidiarity, relyingrnon those closest to the situation tornprovide order and preside over the deliberationrnof disputes. In essence, the religiousrnand political developments withinrnthe South were founded upon a spirit ofrnlocalism. For example, the movement tornestablish state-sponsored churches metrnwith great success in New England,rnwhile in the South a decentralized theoryrnof control and the habit of localism inrnmatters of church and state ensuredrngreater autonomy and forbearairce betweenrnthe associations of the faithful andrngoverning authorities.rnAs M.E. Bradford explained, thernSouthern “spirit” looked to Eden afterrnthe Fall as a model, with “the best of therngifts of this life,” believing that a fruitfulrnsocial and political existence was possiblernonly when “pursued with prudence, energy,rnhonor, and regard for a wise prescription.”rnContrary to the New Englandrnunderstanding of precision in all religiousrnand political arrangements, thernSouthern agrarian worldview identifiedrnthe ancient imperfections of civilizationrnwith the need for constant improvementrnand refinement within human nature. Arnsociety grounded upon historical realit)’rnwas less likely to be distorted by ideology;rnconversely, it was also more reluctant tornreform the defects of a worldview inheritedrnfrom previous generations. Distantrnand overbearing sources of ecclesial andrnpolitical authority were viewed with skepticism.rnFrom the colonial period, we can witnessrnthe divergence of two understandingsrnof religion and politics, promptingrnhistorian Nathan Hatch to suggest thatrnone “could draw upon precious few commonrntraditions in defining their Americanness.”rnJohn Randolph, a cousin ofrnThomas Jefferson and an importantrnmodel of statesmanship for the Agrarians,rneloquently defended the Southernrnworldview in response to a confidant’srnquery about his attendance at a religiousrngathering:rnI was born and baptized in thernChurch of England. If I attend thernConvention at Charlottesville,rnwhich I rather doubt, I shall opposernmyself then and always at every attemptrnat encroachment on the partrnof the church, the clergy especially,rnon the rights of conscience. I attribute,rnin a very great degree, myrnlong estrangement from Cod to myrnabhorrence of prelatical pride andrnpuritanical preciseness; to ecclesiasticalrntyranny.. .. Should I fail tornattend, it will arise from a repugnancernto submit the religion, orrnchurch, any more than the libertyrnof my countr)’, to foreign influence.rnWlien I speak of my country, Irnmean the Commonwealth of Virginia.rnI was born in allegiance tornGeorge III; the bishop of Londonrn. . . was my diocesan. My ancestorsrnthrew off the oppressive yoke of thernmother country, but they neverrnmade me subject to New Englandrnin matters spiritual or temporal;rnneither do I mean to become so,rnvoluntarily.rnRandolph affirmed, as would Tate andrnthe other Agrarians a century later, the visionrnof a moral regime based upon subsidiarityrnin political and religious concerns.rnSubsidiarity served to dividernpublic authority and political power,rnhelping to perpetuate the republic. Yet itrnwas dependent upon the virtue of the citizenry.rnThe inculcation of virtue requiredrna sustained effort to allow eachrngeneration to hear the “voice of tradition,”rnas Patrick Henry urged. If citizensrnfailed to “inform posterity,” social and politicalrnlife would suffer the consequencesrnof a collective loss of memory and purpose.rnTate and the Agrarians also urged arnspirit of prudence toward adopting radicalrninnovation. They accepted the imperfectionsrnof American society and acknowledgedrnthe decline of religious faithrnand the concomitant growth of governmentalrnpower.rnEven though the Agrarians representedrnmany theoretical positions and geographicalrnregions, they were united byrntheir opposition to consolidation, and insistedrnupon protecting a decentralized,rngroup-oriented society and preservingrnAmerica’s republican roots.rnAs an agrarian republican, Tate recognizedrnthat, if government could not be restrictedrnand faith encouraged, Americarnwould lose her liberty. Tate also appreciatedrnthe limits of human experience, acknowledgingrnthe shortcomings of hisrnown perspectives and disdaining utopianism.rnThe South had lost its heroicrnstruggle partly because it separated its religionrnfrom its politics. In fact, Tate’s essayrnrightiy notes that tradition, devoid ofrnthe impact of religion, tends to promoternviolence rather than spiritual empowerment.rnTate’s own life, his political andrnspiritual confusion, bore witness to his inabilityrnto overcome just such a struggle.rnToday, the Agrarians’ devotion to thernpreservation of an inherited worldviewrnand way of life serves as a remarkable testimonyrnfor the risiirg generation. At arntime when efforts to create and impose arnfalse and destructive sense of communityrnare widespread, we should revisit thernAgrarian defense of an older, organic socialrnorder.rnH. Lee Cheek, ]r., who teaches pohticalrnscience at Lee University in Cleveland,rnTennessee, is a United Methodistrnclergyman and the author of thernforthcoming Calhoun and Popular Rulern(University of Missouri Press).rnM O V I N G ?rnSend change of address andrnthe niaiHng label fromrnyour latest issue to:rnCHRONICLES Subscription Dept.rnP.O. Box 8(M), Mount Morris, IL 61054rn46/CHRONICLESrnrnrn