The Bible Belt is an informal term for a region in the south-eastern and south-central United States in which socially conservative evangelical Protestantism is a significant part of the culture and Christian church attendance across the denominations is generally higher than the nation's average. The Bible Belt consists of much of the Southern United States. During the colonial period (1607–1776), the South was a stronghold of the Anglican church. Its transition to a stronghold of non-Anglican Protestantism occurred gradually over the next century as a series of religious revival movements, many associated with the Baptist denomination, gained great popularity in the region.
The region is usually contrasted with the mainline Protestantism and Catholicism of the northeastern United States, the religiously diverse Midwest and Great Lakes, the Mormon Corridor in Utah and southern Idaho, and the relatively secular western United States. Whereas the state with the highest percentage of residents identifying as non-religious is the New England state of Vermont at 34%, in the Bible Belt state of Alabama it is just 6%. Mississippi has the highest proportion of Baptists, at 55%. The earliest known usage of the term "Bible Belt" was by American journalist and social commentator H. L. Mencken, who in 1924 wrote in the Chicago Daily Tribune: "The old game, I suspect, is beginning to play out in the Bible Belt." Mencken claimed the term as his invention in 1927.
- 1 Geography
- 2 Buckle
- 3 Political and cultural context
- 4 Outside the United States
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
The name "Bible Belt" has been applied historically to the South and parts of the Midwest, but is more commonly identified with the South. In a 1961 study, Wilbur Zelinsky delineated the region as the area in which denominations are the predominant religious affiliation. The region thus defined included most of the Southern United States, including most of Texas and Oklahoma in the southwest, and in the states south of the Ohio River, and extending east to include central West Virginia and Virginia south of Northern Virginia; however, many Northern Kentuckians are Catholic, due to their German and Irish heritage. In addition, the Bible Belt covers parts of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. A 1978 study by Charles Heatwole identified the Bible Belt as the region dominated by 24 fundamentalist Protestant denominations, corresponding to essentially the same area mapped by Zielinski.
Tweedie (1978) defines the Bible Belt in terms of numerical concentration of the audience for religious television. He finds two belts: one more eastern that stretches from Florida, (excluding Miami and South Florida), through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and into Virginia; and another that is more western, moving from central Texas through the Great Plains to the Dakotas, and concentrated in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, (excluding New Orleans and Acadiana), Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and Mississippi.
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- Abilene, Texas a city of 117,000 home to three Christian universities: the Baptist affiliated Hardin-Simmons University, the Church of Christ's Abilene Christian University, and Methodist founded McMurry University.
- Dallas, Texas is home to several seminaries, including the Brite Divinity School of Texas Christian University, Dallas Theological Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (the largest Protestant seminary in the world), and Criswell College; Southern Methodist University; the conservative Catholic University of Dallas; and several of America's largest megachurches, including The Potter's House (pastored by T.D Jakes), Prestonwood Baptist Church (pastored by Jack Graham), and First Baptist Church (once, under the leadership of W.A. Criswell, the largest Protestant church in the world).
- Lynchburg, Virginia, home to Liberty University, the largest evangelical Christian university in the world, founded by Jerry Falwell in 1971.
- Nashville, Tennessee, sometimes referred to as "the Protestant Vatican", has over 700 churches, several seminaries, and a number of Christian schools, colleges and universities, including Belmont University, Trevecca Nazarene University, Lipscomb University, Free Will Baptist Bible College and American Baptist College. Nashville is the seat of the National Baptist Convention, USA, the National Association of Free Will Baptists, the Gideons International, the Gospel Music Association, and Thomas Nelson, the world's largest producer of Bibles. It is also the headquarters for the publishing arms of both the Southern Baptist Convention (LifeWay Christian Resources) and the United Methodist Church (United Methodist Publishing House), as well as a number of Christian record companies such as EMI Christian Music Group, Provident Label Group and Word Records.
- Tulsa, Oklahoma is home to a large presence of Christian establishments, such as Oral Roberts University and its symbolic Prayer Tower. It is also one of the few urban areas in the United States where over 60% of the population attends church.
- Charlotte, North Carolina, is the hometown of evangelist Billy Graham and the Billy Graham Library, as well as over 700 places of worship. Charlotte also served as the head seat of Southern Presbyterianism. It is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.
- Jacksonville, North Carolina and Camp Lejeune are in a largely Southern Baptist area also known for being very politically conservative due to its large military population.
- Springfield, Missouri is the international headquarters of the evangelical Pentecostal Christian denomination Assemblies of God and home to their school, Evangel University.
- Virginia Beach, Virginia, while not usually considered a buckle of the Bible Belt, is considered by many[who?] to be, along with Lynchburg, the eastern border. This is the headquarters of Pat Robertson and CBN, as well as the location of Regent University.
Political and cultural context
The term Bible Belt is used informally by journalists and by its detractors, who suggest that religious conservatives allow their religion to influence politics, science, and education. There has been research that links evangelical Protestantism with social conservatism. In 1950, President Harry Truman told Catholic leaders he wanted to send an ambassador to the Vatican. Truman said the leading Democrats in Congress approved, but they warned him, "it would defeat Democratic Senators and Congressmen in the Bible Belt."
In presidential elections, the Bible Belt states of Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas have voted for the Republican candidate in all elections since 1980. Other Bible Belt states have voted for the Republican presidential candidate in the majority of elections since 1980, but have gone to the Democratic candidate either once or twice since then.
Outside the United States
In Australia, the term usually refers to tracts within individual cities, for example the Hills District (including Baulkham Hills) in the north-western suburbs of Sydney. The north-eastern suburbs of Adelaide such as Paradise, Modbury and Golden Grove. There is a section of south-eastern Queensland comprising the towns of Laidley, Gatton and Toowoomba which is referred to as the Bible Belt. In Tasmania, the North-Western portion of the state is regarded in this context
In Canada, the term is also sometimes used to describe several disparate regions which have a higher than average level of church attendance. These include some rural areas of the Prairies, the rural and more traditional parts of the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and the Saint John River Valley of New Brunswick.
The Biobío and the Araucanía regions are the areas with the highest number of evangelical churches in the country. Several Conservative Christian movements have emerged from these regions. Moreover, Church Attendance is higher in these regions than in the rest of Chile.
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In Finland, the Ostrobothnia region has the highest birth rate and the lowest number of abortions in the country. Many Christian revival movements are present there. The largest revival movement in the area is Laestadianism. The other ones are The Awakening and Evankelinen herätysliike.
In India, the north eastern states of Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and the hill districts of Manipur form a continuous Bible Belt. In fact in Nagaland, Christians constitute 90.02% (2001 census) of the population, with 80% professing the Baptist faith and thereby earning the sobriquet of The most Baptist state in the world.
In the Netherlands, De Bijbelgordel stretches from the provinces of Zeeland to Overijssel. It was essentially the border between the Protestant and Catholic parts of the Netherlands after the Protestant Reformation (around 1560). The Dutch Bible Belt developed more explicitly in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the Bijbelgordel, the popular SGP favored a theocracy, and women were, until recently, denied full party membership and the ability to be political representatives, although this was changed in respectively 1996 and 2012 when women were allowed to be members of the SGP and the party granted passive suffrage to its female members. Many people in the Dutch Bible Belt oppose vaccinations. In 1971 this led to an outbreak of polio at Staphorst. Immigrants from this area to the U.S. formed the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
In Norway, the Bible Belt covers the south-western coast from Agder to Møre og Romsdal. In these areas the conservative branch of the Church of Norway has a stronghold and the members usually associate themselves with Indremisjonen (Inner Mission) and other inner and outer missions within the Church of Norway. There are also some Pentecostals and members of the Free Churches, but these movements are often more strongly represented in the rest of the country. The Bible Belt in Norway traditionally reflects the support for the Christian Democratic Party. However, especially since the 2000s, conservative Bible Belt Christians unhappy with the more liberal development of the party have increasingly turned to the Progress Party. Several locations are occasionally referred to as the "Buckle of the Bible Belt": Aremark, Audnedal, Birkenes, Bjerkreim, Bømlo, Evje og Hornnes, Fedje, Finnøy, Fitjar, Flekkefjord, Forsand, Giske, Gjesdal, Haugesund, Hjelmeland, Hægebostad, Hå, Iveland, Karmøy, Kautokeino, Kvitsøy, Lindesnes, Lund, Lyngdal, Marker, Rakkestad, Rødøy, Rømskog, Selje, Sokndal, Strand, Time, Vegårshei, Vennesla, and Åseral.
In Sweden, there is a Bible Belt covering the area between the cities of Jönköping and Gothenburg, with a particularly high concentration of non-conformists (Protestant congregations not affiliated with the Church of Sweden), especially Pentecostals and Congregationalists – and strong support for the Christian Democrats. In the 19th century, Jönköping became known as "Smålands Jerusalem" ("Jerusalem of Småland"), because of the high Christian activity in town. Even the Örebro districts are well known for free church activity.
In Scotland the Highlands and Islands are a stronghold of Christianity, both in the Church of Scotland and in smaller Presbyterian denominations such as the Free Church of Scotland. However, neither region is referred to as a 'bible belt'.
In Northern Ireland, the County Antrim area stretching from roughly Portrush to Larne and centered in the area of Ballymena is often referred to as a Bible Belt. This is because the area is heavily Protestant with a large evangelical community. From 1970 to 2010, the MP for North Antrim was Ian Paisley, a Free Presbyterian minister well known for his theological fundamentalism. The town of Ballymena, the largest town in the constituency, is often referred to as the "buckle" of the Bible Belt.
- "American Religious Identification Survey". www.gc.cuny.edu.
- Fred R. Shapiro (ed.). Yale Book of Quotations. Yale University Press (2006). ISBN 978-0-300-10798-2.
- H. L. Mencken letter to Charles Green Shaw, 1927 Dec. 2 . Charles Green Shaw papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. See also, http://www.lettersofnote.com/2011/06/human-race-is-incurably-idiotic.html
- Barry Vann (2008), In search of Ulster-Scots land: the birth and geotheological imagings of a transatlantic people, 1603-1703, Univ of South Carolina Press, ISBN 1-57003-708-6, ISBN 978-1-57003-708-5. Pages 138-140.
- Tweedie, S.W. (1978) Viewing the Bible Belt. Journal of Popular Culture 11; 865-76
- Guier, Cindy Stooksbury; Finch, Jackie Sheckler (2007). Insiders' Guide to Nashville (6th ed.). pp. 13, 35, 396.
- "Nashville Area Churches". NashCity.com. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
- Miller, Rachel L (2008-04-14). "Nashville: Sophisticated Southern City with a Country Edge". RoadandTravel.com. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
- Amanda Smith, Hostage of Fortune (2001) p. 604
- Concerned Women for America - China: Will It Become a Christian Nation?
- Syntyvyys aleni hieman
- Helsingin Sanomat 4.4.2006: Aborttien määrä Suomessa väheni vain hiukan viime vuonna
- New Zealand - Mt Roskill
- Aalberg, Per Ole (16 September 2003). "KrF kraftig tilbake i bibelbeltet". DagenMagazinet.
- Horn, Anders (23 August 2008). "Stjeler fra Høyre". Klassekamoen.
- Statisticky urad SR (2001). "Religious statistics in Slovakia". None.
- see Eva M. Hamberg and Thorleif Pettersson, "The Religious Market: Denominational Competition and Religious Participation in Contemporary Sweden," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 33, No. 3 (Sep., 1994), pp. 205+
- Wanne, Catherine (2006). "EVANGELICALISM AND THE RESURGENCE OF RELIGION IN UKRAINE". The National Council for Eurasian and East European Research.
- "Pastor attacks scientist's talk". BBC News. 2008-03-30.
- . In the Republic of Ireland, County Wicklow and Western parts of County Cork have the highest population of Protestants. Slugger O'Toole
- Randall Balmer; Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism Baylor University Press, 2004
- Denman, Stan. "Political Playing for the Soul of the American South: Theater and the Maintenance of Cultural Hegemony in the American Bible Belt" Southern Quarterly (2004) v. 42, Spring, 64-72.
- Heatwole, Charles A. "The Bible Belt; a problem of regional definition" Journal of Geography (1978) 77; 50-5
- Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt (Knopf, 1997)
- Samuel S. Hill, Charles H. Lippy, and Charles Reagan Wilson, eds. Encyclopedia Of Religion In The South (2005)
- Charles H. Lippy, ed. "Religion in South Carolina" (1993)
- George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925 (1980).
- Jeffrey P. Moran; "The Scopes Trial and Southern Fundamentalism in Black and White: Race, Region, and Religion" Journal of Southern History. Volume: 70. Issue: 1. 2004. pp 95+.
- Chris C. Park; Sacred Worlds: An Introduction to Geography and Religion Routledge, 1994
- Randy J. Sparks. Religion in Mississippi University Press of Mississippi for the Mississippi Historical Society, . 2001. ISBN 1-57806-361-2.
- William A. Stacey and Anson Shupe; "Religious Values and Religiosity in the Textbook Adoption Controversy in Texas, 1981" Review of Religious Research, Vol. 25, 1984
- Turner, Elizabeth Hayes; Women, Culture and Community: Religion and Reform in Galveston 1880-1920, 1997.
- Tweedie, S.W. (1978) Viewing the Bible Belt. Journal of Popular Culture 11; 865-76