Dr. Thomas Russell and Dr. Lawrence Snyder

Dr. Thomas Russell and Dr. Lawrence Snyder became Pluralism Project affiliates in 1999 while both were teaching in the religion department at Western Kentucky University. Their project, “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 Religion,” mapped the religious communities of recent immigrants settling along the I-65 corridor (henceforth “The Corridor”) from Nashville, TN to Louisville, KY. This research included mapping religious diversity in Nashville and Bowling Green (2000-2001) and north of Bowling Green through Louisville (2001-2002), both via student seminars.

Drs. Russell and Snyder write:

‘The Corridor’ is a particularly interesting locale for mapping the religious communities of recent immigrants. Typically what the rest of the world knows about this region has involved the famed Kentucky Derby, Fort Knox gold, AbrahamAbraham is the patriarch, acknowledged as the father of the lineage of faith by the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. He is presumed to have lived sometime in the period 2000-1700 BCE. He is the father of Isaac by Sarah (Genesis 12.25), and the "... Lincoln’s birthplace, Country Music, the Grand Old Opry, Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and the Tennessee Titans of recent Superbowl fame.

Religious observers see ‘The Corridor’ as the bastion of Fundamentalist/EvangelicalThe Greek word euangelion means “good news” and an evangelist is one who proclaims and shares the good news of Christ. Evangelism is the preaching and witnessing to that good news. Evangelicals are Christians who emphasize the personal experience of G... ProtestantismProtestant 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... with Nashville often portrayed as the ‘Buckle of the Bible Belt.’ At one end of ‘The Corridor,’ the largest ProtestantProtestant 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... denomination in the United States, the Southern BaptistThe Baptist tradition includes a variety of Christian churches which trace their beginnings to the Anabaptist reform movement that rejected infant baptism insisting on the importance of baptizing only those who are able to profess the faith as believers. Convention, has a seminary and at the other, several large denominational offices. Nashville is home to the Christian Music business and counts luminaries like Amy Grant, Michael Card and Michael Smith among its residents. There is also a large Christian publishing business. More BiblesThe 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... are published in Nashville than anywhere else in the world. The region has many church-run colleges and universities with a Fundamentalist/Evangelical orientation.

However, a slow, steady and almost unperceptible transformation is occurring along ‘The Corridor,’ and this change has been previously overlooked. Since 1965, and especially since 1990, immigrants have begun to settle in this region, bringing their culture and their religion with them. In 1990, there were approximately 2700 Hispanics in Nashville and now there are approximately 26,000. The Asian population, while small, has at least doubled.

Immigrants have joined existing spiritual communities or have founded their own along ‘The Corridor.’ Their presence is so pronounced that many have begun to ask if the region can still be labelled the Bible Belt. If yes, are the traits normally ascribed to the image still the same or has the components of the image shifted? If the image has become obsolete, what new symbol can be used?

Drs. Russell and Snyder hope that this research contributed to a better understanding of the new residents of “The Corridor” by long-time residents and were excited to contribute to the ongoing discussion of the nature of the Bible Belt and the changing religious configurations of Southern religion.

An article in The Tennessean from April 1, 2001 included a list of the religions mapped by this project to date and the researchers expanded on that list, adding the presence of a thriving Jain community with over 200 members, but with no local templeA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref..., the only Romanian OrthodoxIn general, orthodox means having a “correct opinion or outlook” and is a term used by people in many religions who claim authority for traditional views and forms of their religion. 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 ... in Tennessee and the only Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Tennessee.

Selected Publications and Links