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.Front-page news in national media outlets like Life magazine and the NewYork Times, the picture of a sea of well-behaved teens with arms up and indexfingers raised in salute of Jesus,   the one way  to salvation, was one of disciplineand order, a fresh portrait of American youth welcomed by middle America.4 Itwas left up to southern son and accomplished journalist John Egerton, meanwhile,to parse the political significance of this religious gathering in the language ofregional change.He did so in his bestselling book The Americanization of Dixie:The Southernization of America.Noting how Explo corresponded neatly withNixon s strategy to nationalize the politics of Dixie, Egerton concluded that theevent s enduring images and sounds served as yet another powerful metaphorfor the   southernization of America.  Though mostly good-humored in his ap-praisal of Explo, Egerton s broader assessment of the transformation it reflectedoozed with unease.Although he could not help but marvel at the way his once-benighted South had come to represent all that the nation aspired to as a bastionof traditional Christian values and bellwether of the political economy, the youngscribe lamented that the South was not exporting its strengths as much as it wasselling its sins racism, redneckism, revivalism, and all to the rest of the nation.In Egerton s mind, the rise of the South foretold the nation s decline.5 Evangelicalism Becomes Southern, Politics Becomes Evangelical 299Egerton was not the first to discern the southernization of 1970s Americaor voice his displeasure with it, but he was certainly the most effective in cata-loging its many dimensions.6 It is the provocative nature of his work, in fact, thathas helped to restart discussion about the southernization of American politics.Two conversations have figured prominently in this scholarly discourse, both ofwhich follow parallel paths laid by Egerton.The first involves historians who seekto explain the post-1960s political crisis that shattered New Deal liberalismthrough a reevaluation of the white southern diaspora s impact on labor, race,culture, and party alignment in the North and far West.Constant among thesescholars is a common conclusion: since World War II, the expanding reaches ofthe white South including its twanging accents and steel guitars, tastes for fastcars and fried food, but especially its strong prejudices for decentralized gover-nance, antilabor and progrowth economics, and white racial superiority helpedto crack the liberal Democratic coalition and chart the   silent majority s  course tothe Right side of the political spectrum.7 The second conversation, meanwhile,centers on transformations within the Sunbelt South after 1970 that led to thismakeshift region s shedding of Democratic blue for Republican red.It was in theSunbelt s burgeoning residential subdivisions especially, environments mapped bythe converging forces of capital, consumption, Cold War defense, modernization,and middle-class concern, historians assert, that there emerged a new spatial re-ality in which political culture could be reimagined and political structures re-constituted along conservative lines.8 Though driven by a slightly different setof concerns, both groups of discussants thus agree with Egerton that the key tounlocking the mystery of middle America s turn in the 1970s to the RepublicanRight rests in the southernmost reaches of the country.As compelling as it is, curiously absent from this burgeoning literature hasbeen sustained examination of a key southernizing force that Explo  72 obligedEgerton to write in the first place: southern evangelicalism.9 This gap is glaring,on more than one level.No account of the expanding web of southern ideas andinstitutions that helped to facilitate the rise of conservatism outside the South,after all, is complete without mention of the proliferation of southern churches,preachers, and parishioners.Nor can we expect, on the other hand, to decipher theRepublican party s attempts to win the South after 1970 without appreciatingthe contributions of a politically emboldened Sunbelt evangelical subculture.Inshort, what Egerton suggested in his journalism during the 1970s historiansshould take seriously in their scholarship today: when looking for the fulcrum ofpower from which southern ideas, institutions, language, and priorities gained themomentum necessary to reorient the nation s political landscape in the postwar 300 Tumults and Realignments since World War IIperiod, we might begin by engaging those who occupied the pews and pulpits ofsouthern evangelical churches.To praise Egerton s journalistic savvy, however, is not to ignore his ana-lytical shortcomings.At the time Egerton wrote about Explo  72, he was witnessto only one moment in a much longer movement of regional, religious, and po-litical change that had begun decades earlier and would not come to fruition un-til years later.So to explore more deeply how southern preachers and plain folksouthernized American religion and politics, we need to trace a longer and subtlerhistory than Egerton was able to offer, one that moves incrementally from expe-riences of the southern diaspora during the 1940s through its politicization in the1950s and 1960s to its regional and national impact on the Republican party ssouthern strategy in the 1970s.The Southern ErrandAt a fundamental level, it was the militarization of America during the early 1940sand the outmigration of southerners it precipitated that sparked the souther-nization of American religion and politics.Because of their deep investment indefense mobilization and the theological significance they attached to it, whitesouthern evangelicals who gathered in the Midwest s and far West s urban   ar-senals of democracy  proved especially well equipped to quicken this process.Forced by social realities beyond their control to endure the most intense dimen-sions of the new economy and the most volatile circumstances of the postwarpolitical climate, these sojourners nevertheless looked to maximize rather thanescape the world they were forced to enter.Rejecting the notion of   exile  em-braced by their peers, white southern evangelical migrants chose instead to embedtheir journey in the Puritan motif of the   errand  as if they were a godly vanguardsent off into the wilderness to save themselves and their people.The choice ofmetaphor was important for it not only empowered them intellectually, but it alsomade them active participants in (rather than victims of ) the seismic transfor-mations that had profoundly altered their lives.10Biblical metaphor, of course, only went so far in convincing southern mi-grants of their providential role in history.Other, more concrete, evidence of di-vine potential lent certainty to their beliefs [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]