The American Bible Belt Is Diversifying in the Era of Trump

The headquarters of the largest Bible publishing house in the world, Nashville, is a progressive bubble in conservative Tennessee and constitutes a test for the religious message of the Republican candidate.

Nashville (Tennessee)

The largest Bible publishing house in the world is, of course, surrounded by churches, but it is mainly surrounded by fast food establishments, motels and small businesses. On this road in a suburb of Nashville (Tennessee), a large poster points out “2028 END,” the title of an apocalyptic film that predicts Jesus Christ’s return in 12 years time. The modern headquarters of Thomas Nelson, the largest publisher of the English version of the Bible, goes unnoticed. Bystanders do not know it exists: “I didn’t know at all,” announces Mike, a laborer, at the entrance of a burger restaurant.

Nashville is a self-proclaimed “loophole” in the area known as the Bible Belt, situated in the southeast of the United States, where the highest concentration of believers is found. The town has notably been nicknamed the Protestant Vatican, on account of its numerous churches. In the town center, there is one on every street corner. But these past 10 years, Nashville has become more diverse, both politically and religiously. The American South is changing as well and is not escaping the increase in the number of nonbelievers.

A Real Indicator for Donald Trump

Tennessee, as a conservative Christian stronghold (73 percent of adults state that they are very faithful, a rate that only two other states surpass), is a real indicator for Donald Trump. It seems certain that the Republican candidate will win the presidential election in November in this state. However, the question is whether he will round up all the conservative people, given that he is the most secular of the last few Republican hopefuls. “Everyone will vote according to their values,” assures Sing Oldham, vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant organization in the country.

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