The Southern Baptist denomination is a branch extending off from the main branch of Christian Baptist. Although the actual branch of Baptists originated in England around 1644 the branch of Southern Baptists did not come forth until much later. The monotheistic (one God) Baptist religion spread all over England due to the efforts of Thomas Helwys and John Smyth, and then spread to America with the help of Roger Williams who went there to escape religious persecution. In 1638, he established the First Baptist Church in America in Providence, Rhode Island. Then, by the mid 18th century the number of Baptists increased immensely as a result of the Great Awakening pioneered by Jonathan Edwards. And in 1755 Shubael Stearns began to spread his Baptist belief throughout North Carolina, leading to the creation and establishment of 42 churches in the North Carolina area. After that, throughout the late 1700’s and early 1800’s as Baptists began to organize and expand, they began to notice huge differences amongst themselves. These main differences lay mostly between location and the issue of slavery. They noticed social, cultural, economical, and political differences between the businessmen of the North, the farmers of the West, and the planters of the South. A lot of these differences then led to different interpretations of the Baptist religion, such as whether it was appropriate to have slaves or not. Because of this, the religion split into various sub-religions, one being the denomination of Southern Baptists. This denomination was created after a meeting in the hearth of Augusta, Georgia in May, 1845 by the Baptists in the South.
After the denomination was first formed, the Southern Baptists wanted to find a way to unite all the Baptist churches in the south, without affecting any local cultures. Even though this would be difficult, they
still continued to move toward the idea of an associational-type body until 1931. At the start of the Southern Baptist religion spreading, there was an amazing growth and expansion of their ministries. This huge growth last approximately until 1891, and was mainly due to the southern areas going from a Baptist region to a Southern Baptist region. Although the differences between these two religions were not huge, many people living in the south wanted to separate from northern beliefs, and this was one way how. The continual expansion went from areas within Georgia and its Baptist churches to other southern states’ Baptist churches, spreading amongst both congregations and slaves. After the Southern Baptist faith had fully spread all throughout the south, a lot of the churches focused on sending out missionaries and universalizing the religion. Places considered and later traveled to, were China, Africa, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, and Japan. Most of these countries now have a strengthening Christian influence, especially China. The main spread of Southern Baptism throughout the south only took about half a century, but the spread to other countries is still an ongoing process. By spreading through both ideas of separation from the north and missions trips, the faith of Southern Baptism spread all throughout the south and other parts of the world.
From about 1845 to 1861, the Southern Baptist religion spread throughout the south, and in 1861, the Baptist organization came to be identified with the South. It soon became the dominant religious denomination within the southern region. However, due to the separation from the original main Baptist religion, Southern Baptists could not really spread their religion to the north or west. This prevention kept the Southern Baptists and their religion in a confined area with little room to continual to spread. One major event that both helped spread the Southern Baptist religion as well as prevented its movement was the Civil War. The civil war unified the Southern region as its own “country” and therefore spread the Southern Baptist religion all throughout the region, unifying the region with the religion. However, due to previous and continual political and social problems with the north, the Southern Baptist religion was prevented from spreading to the north. Throughout the southern region, the Southern Baptist religion also spread to different segments of the population. It first spread to various churches throughout the south and their congregations, most were very accepting of the denomination. This spread of the religion was so accepted due to the strong desires to separate from the north. Then with the congregations accepting the Southern Baptist religion, masters started to convert their slaves. Even though a lot of slaves already respected and followed the Christian religion, they were not as willing to completely convert to Southern Baptists as their masters. Even with the fact they were less willing, the Southern Baptist religion still spread amongst slaves, and fully became the religion of the South.
Specifically with the diffusion of the Southern Baptist religion, it was quite a simple route. There was so much hatred towards the north, that the hatred then fueled the expansion of the Southern Baptist religion. The spread was mostly hierarchical and contagious. For contagious, at the beginning of the diffusion the religion spread from the churches in Augusta, Georgia near the place where the religion began to other local churches. Then for hierarchical, later, within some areas the religion spread from church to church and then diffused within those areas to the congregations and slaves. Other places out west like Nevada, Washington, and Alaska have small areas due to missionaries, but besides areas where missionaries went, like China, the Southern Baptist religion only diffused within the south of the United States. Throughout the south, the religion stayed pretty much the same in that, the region was so unified that the religion did not need to be altered to better fit their way of life or culture. However, once the religion left the south and diffused to the west and other countries, it was altered a little. The west did not have a slave problem, and therefore the whole background of the religion to them was altered to more of a Baptist religion than a Southern Baptist. Plus, when the Southern Baptist religion spread to various countries like Italy and China, the religion was altered so that the teachings were just basic Christianity instead of a sub-religion under Christianity. All in all, the diffusion of the Southern Baptist religion was contagious and hierarchical in the south, and from there, missionaries spread the religion to other places.
In summary, the Southern Baptist religion originally came from the Baptist religion of England. It did not actually become its own religion until a meeting in Augusta, Georgia in May of 1845. This religion then spread, for about a half a century, all throughout the southern part of the United States through hierarchical and contagious diffusion. It claimed both congregations and slaves as it followers throughout the spread. Even though the Civil War helped the spread of the Southern Baptist religion, it also hindered the spread and minimized the amount of places to which the religion could be further spread. With both the past and present help of missionaries the religion also diffused to and is spreading to the western states of the United States and other countries such as China and Mexico. Although the religion was actually diffused and spread to these places, it was also altered to general forms of original Baptist or even Christianity.
Here is an example of the cultural landscape of the Southern Baptist religion: Southern Baptist