Rough Country: How Texas Became America’s Most Powerful Bible-Belt State

Robert Wuthnow, Author
Robert Wuthnow. Princeton Univ, $39.50 (662p) ISBN 978-0-691-15989-8
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Wuthnow, the director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, argues that Texas, dubbed “rough country” by its first European explorers, has become conservative state most influential in shaping the nation’s culture, values, and politics. Armed with a wealth of information gathered from news accounts, oral histories, government records, and census data, Wuthnow concludes that Texas, with its wealth and sheer numbers of conservative Protestant voters, evolved from a bastion of frontier justice into a powerhouse of traditional moralism on such hot-button issues as vice, abortion, homosexuality, immigration, and race. Mostly refugees from the Deep South, early Texans embraced religion as a spiritual gauge for their daily lives, but their harsh attitudes toward race and equal rights remained largely unchanged until President Lyndon Johnson, a Texan, signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Wuthnow provides perspective on the political clout of clergy reformers and activists, starting with the electoral triumphs of J.F.K., L.B.J., Ann Richards, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, all of whom courted the pious Texans to gain votes. Anyone seeking to examine the relationship between modern American religious conservatism and politics needs to look no further than Wuthnow’s authoritative, encyclopedic survey of Texas’s influence on national trends. (Aug.)
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