The southern United States is known for many things such as fried foods, religion, and crops. In the recent past southern states such as Texas have been in the media for things like outlawing abortion and the border crises. Most southern states are conservative and christian. Christianity can be seen practiced in the south in many forms. Some denominations prefer to practice quietly, sitting in pews on Sunday and Wednesday then going out for lunch and dinner after. Others prefer to shout and dance, speak in tongues, or other extreme forms of the religion. Fried foods such as chicken are a Sunday tradition for most church goers, no matter their religion. The south is home to many things but today we will be focusing on the two main “belts” of the south: the bible belt and the stroke belt. Are these two things related?
The Bible Belt
The term “Bible Belt” was first used by Journalist H.L. Mencken in 1924. The Bible belt includes states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. Two cities are known as the Buckle of the Bible Belt: Abilene, Texas, the location of three Christian universities, and Nashville, Tennessee, which has multiple Christian schools and over 700 churches. The states in the bible belt have the highest church attendance of the whole United states. Christians are held to a higher standard than most due to the nature of their religion. Christians do their best to live a life free of wrongdoing. Could this effort to be “christ-like” lead to excess stress? Over the years christianity has been broken into different denominations. Some more extreme versions of christianity come from pentecostal holiness, catholics, and evangelicals. These denominations practice things such as speaking in tongues, and exorcism.
Holiness churches are known for church-goers running up and down the aisles speaking in tongues. Catholics practice exorcisms when deemed necessary. Evangelicals believe in faith healing. All of these examples can be extremely stressful and taxing on the human body. Stress can manifest in many ways and is one of the top causes of heart attack and strokes. Could the stress of extreme religion… or even just trying too hard to be perfect relate to the spike in stroke and heart attacks we see in the south?
The Stroke Belt
States in the Stroke Belt include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana and Virginia. Some researchers believe that greater-than-average rates of obesity, cigarette smoking and high blood pressure account for the increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease in the Stroke Belt. Many people attribute the increased health complications with diet or things such as smoking and drinking, but many southerners center their lives around their religion. This could mean the main stressor for southern people could come from their religious practices in some way. What effect does the stress of many things including extreme religious practices have on your body?
According to Mayo Clinic, “stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can help you manage them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.” Is the most religious part of the United States also the most stressed? Many people assume the diet and lifestyle of southern people is to blame. Do we have southern comfort foods to soothe the stresses of southern life? Do you think religion could be a major cause of stress for southern people?
Written by: Erinn Malloy