In a country where faith and religion have given way to “spirituality,” the Evangelical Epicenters represent something of a throwback. They are places where the houses of worship on the corners are still central to community – and there are a lot of them. In fact, the Epicenters are places where one intersection may have two or three churches from some denomination facing one another. And that tends to give these counties a very socially conservative feel. A few examples: Cleveland, TN Nixa, MO
The Epicenters are full of many young families looking for a good environment in which to raise children and at the center of that environment is Christian faith – in whatever form it comes in Baptists, Methodists, Assemblies of God, etc. The church parking lots are filled on Sunday for services and on Wednesday night for bible study. And the religious makeup of these places can create a complicated political landscape. Beyond the mayor or the city council there are many smaller unelected centers of power in the Epicenters. Every minister has a flock he meets with regularly and unlike the normal relationship between politician and voter, these constituencies are predisposed to trust what they hear.
These communities tend to be fairly rural and with many lower incomes. Drive the streets and you won’t find a lot of four-star restaurants or Whole Foods Markets or Starbucks in the strip malls that line the roads, but you will likely find a good barbeque or fried chicken joint or a diner. That may have something to do with the regional fare. These counties are primarily located in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and throughout the southeast. They are not generally big participants in the healthy or fresh food movement. They are not places where one would go shopping for high fashion. And they are not likely to be organized around architectural and planning ideas like “new urbanism.” As a whole, they are places designed for pragmatic living without a lot of fuss.