August 7, 2014

Hard Shell Baptists

I’ve begun reading To Kill a Mockingbird, which I should have read a long time ago. In Chapter 5, I was surprised to encounter a reference to “foot-washing Baptist” and to this sentence: “‘My shell’s not that hard, child. I’m just a Baptist.’”

As a child, I remember my father’s referring to “hard shell Baptists.” I thought this simply referred to very conservative Baptists who disapproved of such activities as card-playing and dancing. Harper Lee caused me to check Wikipedia, however, where I discovered that Primitive Baptists (also Anti-Mission Baptists, and Old School Baptists), also known as Hard Shell Baptists are an identifiable group with specific doctrines and practices.

Who knew?


  1. Those of us who had them as ancestors!
    My paternal grandmother's people in East Texas (who had arrived there from Alabama) were of that persuasion. After she married my grandfather, who apparently was "just a Baptist" (not that hard a shell), he gave some thought to his new responsibilities as a family man and bought a life insurance policy, whereupon her church threw them out. Investing in life insurance was considered to be concrete proof of not placing one's trust in God. So they joined the local (Southern) Baptist church., which was severe enough! My dad and his brothers, brought up in that congregation, all married Methodists and never looked back. But there's a lot that's interesting about the Primitive / Hardshell Baptists.

  2. Who is credited with coinage of the expression "Hardshelled Baptist?"


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