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From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism Hardcover – December 13, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"An exhaustive history brimming with lively characters."
--Amy Sullivan, Time

"Detailed and closely argued.... Dochuk...well understands the pivotal role religion plays in shaping America's cultural self-image, and...breaks with a long tradition of historical writing that has monolithically depicted evangelical believers as backward-looking prophets of cultural reaction."
--Chris Lehmann, The Nation

"[Dochuk] skillfully traces a continuous narrative stretching from the Dust Bowl to Ronald Reagan, and demonstrates with prodigious research how this narrative fits into a much broader canvas of...political change. A superbly researched study of grassroots mobilization.... An important book."
--Mark A. Noll, The New Republic

"Very impressive.... From Bible Belt to Sunbelt is the product of prodigious research."
--Randall Balmer, Christian Century

"Dochuk excels in his profiles of early 'plain-folk' settlers and their world, and the tangled personal, institutional, and doctrinal motives of the ministry that served them.... [A] fascinating portrait of the early Christian Right."
--Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly

Darren Dochuk has painted a vista from which unfolds the creation of Reagan’s nation, as the California dreams of Southern evangelicals become the American dreams of Sunbelt conservatives. Through the guiding telescope of Dochuk’s prose, we meet a fascinating cast of characters destined to be staples in future tellings of this important story. This much anticipated book is well worth the wait. (Steven P. Miller, author of Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South)

The nation is today color-coded into red and blue. In this tour de force of research, narrative, and analysis, a brilliant young historian chronicles how Southern California served as the matrix for this enduring bifurcation. Beneath the sunshine and the palm trees, uprooted evangelicals experienced a Great Awakening that transformed American politics in our era. (Kevin Starr, University of Southern California)

With narrative authority and sparkling insight, Darren Dochuk explains how and why Southern California became the crucible of the Christian Right. Anyone who wants to understand the history of modern American conservatism should read this book. (Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan)

About the Author

Darren Dochuk is Associate Professor in the Humanities at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and other venues.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st Ed edition (December 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393066827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393066821
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #428,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book looks at the rise of conservatism in Southern California, as the working class migrants of the 1930s became middle class Californians in the 1940s, 1950s and after. The question of how this transformation took place has been addressed by many historians, who have found many subtly different explanations for this change (the bibliography on the issue is quite large).

Mr. Dekok focuses on the change and finds a major explanation for it in the transformations in evangelical Christianity in Southern California from the 1930s to 1980.

The migrants he discusses are the people from the western south (Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana & thereabouts) who settled in the Los Angeles area. They had much more opportunity to find work there than the perhaps more famous Dust Bowl refugees who ended up as migrant farmworkers, a group that Americans will associate with the Joads of John Steinbeck's novel "The Grapes of Wrath."

As the title suggests, it traces the transformation of "plain-folk" evangelical Protestantism, whose followers were accepting of the New Deal, to a form of evangelical Protestantism whose followers supported the USA's military buildup after World War II, an aggressive Cold War stance, a very free-market form of capitalism, and conservative moral values.

The author makes fascinating observations, which had never occurred to me, about just how many southern people were settled in Southern California in this period -- the number of southern-born people in the environs of Los Angeles actually exceeded the population of some southern states. The largest percentage of these folks were white, which of course has an influence on their history.
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Format: Hardcover
GREAT history with characters beyond the usual suspects in Evangelicalism. Dochuk does a wonderful job presenting the facts and letting the reader come to conclusions. I am Evangelical and registered Republican and a westerner. I feel as though what I should think both in terms of my theology and my politics have been manipulated by the few. I see the effects of the designed plan in both the church and the political arena today. I am not pleased.
Evangelicals became more about politics than we ever should have. I thought we were taught that all we do is to glorify Jesus. I saw way too much man and ego in this mix of my history. It makes me feel "dirty".
i am breaking about from the cloning lab created for me and now I do feel,it was purposefully created.
A great read with incredible depth. It was/is not all Robertson and Falwell. But now, it is way more me and God and not those gents and me.
Nice job Dochuk.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Have you ever wondered what happened to all the Okies who migrated to California during the 1930s Dust Bowl and Great Depression? John Steinbeck's book The Grapes of Wrath chronicled the story of Okies who fled rural Oklahoma in search of agricultural work in the fields of the Golden State - picking vegetables and fruits on large agri-business operations. Exploited by the growers, the vegetable pickers like the Joad family eventually faded into dismal obscurity within the agricultural central valley. But what of those many others who migrated during the extended period of the 1930s-1950s and evaded the pauperism of the farming industry? Those that ended up in the urban centers and munitions factories? Darren Dochuk's book From Bible Belt to Sunbelt tells the story of those more fortunate migrants who eventually found urban bliss and economic prosperity outside the confines of the fields of big agri-business.

The book documents the amalgamation of politics and religion instituted by transplanted southern evangelicals rising through the ranks of the new evangelical empire established on the soil of southern California during the period of the 1930s-1950s. Transplanted southerners from the western South (OKlahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and Kansas) instituted their brand of evangelicalism into the culture of southern California - particularly in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Southern preachers and evangelical businessmen merged religion into politics, thereby laying the foundation for the Christian Right and the Republican Southern Strategy, while making evangelicals the solid core of the Republican Party. Southern California would become a bastion ofright wing politics - enabling the national rise of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
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By Tre on March 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For anyone interested in the evolution of party ideological development in relation to religion and secular development in contemporary society, this book is a must read.

Furthermore, for anyone puzzled as to how party ideological conflicts have led to the polarization and government paralysis we live with today, this book will be illuminating.

Based on facts and scholarship rather than assertions and opinions, this book provides a useful antidote to those seeking to understand the evolution of religion on American politics today.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Darren Dochuk's From Bible Belt to Sun Belt narrated the significant population, religious, and political shifts that occurred in Southern California between 1930 and 1980. Transplanted Southerners led these shifts as their brand of evangelicalism, never far removed from politics, was translated into the culture of Southern California. As "plain folks," preachers, and entrepreneurs adopted and promoted evangelicalism in the midst of wayward California culture, they shifted loyalties from the Democratic to the Republican parties and became champions of modern conservatism.

Dochuk's arguments challenged typical narratives regarding the relationship between evangelicalism and modern conservative politics. Instead of beginning with the realignment of political parties in the 1960s, or the Moral Majority, Dochuk argued that Southern transplants who loved "Jefferson and Jesus" began the relationship, preachers who were active during mid-century political battles fostered it, and entrepreneurs whose institutions promoted capitalism and Jesus energized it. Californians, not religious or political elites, were the most significant actors in realigning the nation's political parties. Institutions, not just ideologies, consolidated the fusion of fiscal and social conservatism.

One strength of Dochuk's work was the construction of his historical narrative. While the narrative spanned almost forty years, Dochuk limited each chapter to a timeframe of approximately five years. This structure enabled readers to gain in-depth knowledge of a specific period while also moving the narrative forward.
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