Map #4. The Southernization of America: Observant evangelical Christians (and Latter Day Saints), as defined by people who say they go to church “often.”
Religion has played a vital role in the Southernization of America. Why do we Americans put up with a lower standard of living than people in other so-called “advanced” nations would never stand for? It’s because of our toxic legacy of racism and slavery. Being forced to live in poverty by your own leaders is a much easier pill to swallow when they provide you with others to look down on.But for those of us who aren’t racist — or at least try not to be — our dour Calvinist/Protestant heritage takes over. And no matter how liberal we are, we still deep-down believe that if we’re poor, it’s our own damned fault. We made bad choices. We don’t work hard enough. We’re just not good enough. This dovetails nicely with our brutal legacy of racism and slavery. Since blacks and other people of color are more likely to be poor, well…That’s just because they make bad choices and don’t work hard enough, right?
Except for some of that dark patch in and around Utah (a center of the Church of Latter Day Saints), that deep purple radiating from the Bible Belt of the Old South consists of mostly right-wing Evangelical Christians…Most of whom attend churches that are either affiliated with or influenced by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). While they’ve made some attempts to atone for their racist past in recent years, the SBC originally split off from the Northern Baptists over the issue of slavery back in 1845.
Of course, there are also many evangelical protestant individuals and churches who hold more loving, liberal and tolerant beliefs. But face it: Religion can make poverty and injustice easier to bear, and that’s hugely helpful when it comes to the Southernization of America.
The Southern strain of “Christianity” also demands obedience, conformity, intolerance, the subjugation of women, and an often terrifying strain of white purity culture. While countless movements for civil rights and social justice have come out of Christian churches, the SBC has historically served as a counterweight: If people are victims of poverty, racism or injustice, that’s all part of God’s plan, and governments are not supposed to interfere. Religious leaders preach the peace and loving kindness of Jesus, but embody the wrathful,abusive and warlike Old Testament patriarch who smotes nations, turns women into weeping pillars of salt, inflicts the supposed Curse of Ham, and cruelly demands a child sacrifice, only to capriciously change His mind at the last minute.
As evangelical ministers migrate to the Northern and Western states and plant new churches, their new, born-again converts are groomed to become more accepting of the cruel injustices wrought by their corporate masters. Even worse, their children grow up knowing no other belief system. And somehow this brand of Christianity persuades people to believe all kinds of nonsense, such as: Climate change isn’t caused by fossil fuels, gay people are evil, people of color are impure, women are incompetent and sinful, humans and dinosaurs lived side-by-side just 5,000 years ago, and abstinence-only “sex education” actually works. These views may not make sense, but they’re great for people who profit from fossil fuels and paying women and people of color less than white males.
Continues on the next page: Map #5. The Southernization of America: Rates of Gun Deaths by State.