Dr. Michael Stoltzfus is a professor of religious studies at Valdosta State University. He became a Pluralism Project affiliate in 2006 with his research “Pluralism in the ‘BibleThe Greek term biblia means the “books.” Bible is used in both the Jewish and Christian traditions to refer to the book which gathers together their sacred writings. The Hebrew Bible includes the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings—a collection re... Belt’: Mapping the Religious Diversity of South Georgia.”
More about “Pluralism in the Bible Belt”
Although the Deep South is commonly characterized as the “Bible Belt,” closer analysis suggests that the region’s religious landscape is considerably more complex and fluid. The aims of this project were to document historic changes in the region’s religious demographics and to explore some of the challenges faced by minority religious communities. Much of the research was conducted by Religious Studies students at Valdosta State University in Georgia.
The city of Valdosta is located in the southernmost region of the state, near the Florida border. Although it is situated in a predominately rural part of the country, Valdosta is experiencing a significant growth in population. Major employers in the area—including Moody Air Force Base, the South Georgia Regional Medical Center, and Valdosta State University—have helped to draw new residents from other parts of the country as well as from overseas, and in 2003 Lowndes County was designated a metropolitanA Metropolitan is the title given to a bishop, used especially in the Orthodox family of churches today. area. In addition, the region’s agricultural base continues to rely heavily on migrant labor from Latin America.
With this new growth comes an increasing diversity, which is reflected in the region’s changing religious landscape. To the already vibrant religious life of the city—as evidenced by its many churchesThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ... and a Jewish community which recently celebrated its centennial—new communities of Muslims, Hindus, Korean ProtestantsProtestant is a term used for the range of reform movements that broke with the Roman Catholic Church during the period called the Reformation. There are many branches of Protestantism, including the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists..., Latino Catholics, and others have recently been added. This new diversity brings both new opportunities and new challenges.
Spring 2006 student researchers. From left to right (front row): Erica McDonald, Anita Nair, Reed Drury, Geoff Hall, Lainey Drummond and (back row): Ryan Powell, Patrick Spurlock, Nick Pumphrey, Jeremy Baker, Jason Adams, and Michael Jeffers.
Selected Links and Publications
- Faculty webpage: Dr. Michael Stoltzfus
- Center Profiles
- Beachy AmishThe Amish are Protestant Christians of Anabaptist origin, beginning in Europe in the late 16th century with commitment to the adult “believer’s” baptism and to pacifism. In the U.S., the Amish in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other parts of the Midwest ha... MennonitesThe Mennonite church is one of what are sometimes referred to as the “historic peace churches” because of its radical commitment to the pacifism and non-violence of Jesus’ teachings. It traces its origins to the Dutch reformer Menno Simon (1496-1561... (2011)
- Buddhist MeditationMeditation is the disciplined practice of quieting and focusing the mind or cultivating the heart’s attention. Different meditation practices commend focusing attention on a word, a prayer, a form, or the breath as a way of practice. Meditation is commo... Group (2011)
- Caritas of Birmingham (2011)
- Spirithawks (2011)
- TaoistThe Daoist tradition incorporates a highly diverse range of philosophical, religious, and folk values and practices, all of which share a concern for realigning human life so that it is in better accord with the natural rhythms of the universe. Symbols of... Tai Chi Society (2011)
- Unitariana belief in one God that rejects the three persons of the Trinity that has much in common with the belief in the early Christian church about the superiority of God over Jesus and the Anti-Trinitarian writing that emerged during the Protestant Reformation... Universalist ChurchThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ... of Valdosta (2011)
- Arsha Vijnana Mandiram (2006)
- Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (2006)
- Muslim Cultural Center (2006)
- Temple Israel (2006)
- Valdosta Pagan Community (2006)