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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.
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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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. However, with the exception of Mississippi, historical geographer Barry Vann shows that counties in the upland areas of the Appalachians and the Ozarks have a more conservative voting pattern than the counties located in the coastal plains (Vann, 2008; 2014).
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 Bío Bío 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.
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.
Kerala is also sometimes referred as the Bible Belt of India Kerala's Christian population is concentrated in the districts of Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Thrissur which are historically dominated by Saint Thomas Christians.
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 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.