Dr. Darren Dochuk will talk about material covered in his book “From Bible Belt to Sun Belt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism” at 7:30 tonight in room 101 of Meyer Library on the Missouri State University campus. I caught up with him earlier today and first asked for a summary of what he found in doing his research.
“I really look at the movement of southern evangelicalism from the western south, with the Ozarks at the heart of that, to Southern California between the 1930’s and 1950’s. That’s related to migration. Some 2.5 million southerners find their way there by 1970. Then, I show how the migrants who settled there brought their churches with them, Pentecostal, Church of Christ, Baptist churches, and created a vibrant Sun Belt evangelical conservatism which is what I think we still see in effect and power today.”
Dochuk explains how this kind of Christianity became mixed with politics.
“That brand of evangelicalism was always very politically motivated, always very active in shaping the political values of its community. When it was still comfortable in the south, evangelicalism enjoyed a certain authority and dominant expression. When that moves to Southern California, these evangelicals are confronted with liberal trends, more liberal forces, and in many ways, that galvanizes them further.”
Dochuk says evangelical conservatism comes out of a perspective that’s highly individualistic, independent, and anti-establishment. He says that leads to opposition to big government.
“Even though initially, it had fears of big corporations, the fears of big government and big labor unions becomes more important to them in their political ideology. And of course, social values are always conservative. So, you blend the social conservatism of the community with a fierce individualism and that translate into fiscal conservatism as well.”
Dochuk says you can see evangelical conservatism playing a role in national politics this year.
“We see a pretty powerful Sun Belt evangelical Republican block that’s going to be difficult to shake. However it plays out in Republican politics in the next year, their voice will still be heard. And the Tea Party, although not only evangelical and conservative in that way, is certainly a movement that has been generated in part by that ethos and energy.”