Making the Bible Belt: Texas Prohibitionists and the Politicization of Southern Religion(Oxford University Press, 2017).
By reconstructing the religious crusade to achieve prohibition in Texas, Making the Bible Belt reveals how southern religious leaders overcame long-standing anticlerical traditions and built a powerful political movement that injected religion irreversibly into public life. H.L. Mencken coined the term “Bible Belt” in the 1920s to capture the peculiar alliance of religion and public life in the American South, but the reality he described was only the closing chapter of a long historical process. Through the politics of prohibition, and in the face of bitter resistance, a complex but shared commitment to expanding the power and scope of religion transformed southern evangelicals’ inward-looking restraints into an aggressive, self-assertive, and unapologetic political activism. Early defeats forced prohibitionist clergy to recast their campaign as a broader effort that churned notions of history, race, gender, and religion into a moral crusade that elevated ambitious leaders such as the pugnacious fundamentalist J. Frank Norris and US senator Morris Sheppard, the “Father of National Prohibition,” into national figures. By exploring the controversies surrounding the religious support of prohibition in Texas, Making the Bible Belt reconstructs the purposeful, decades-long campaign to politicize southern religion, hints at the historical origins of the religious right, and explores a compelling and transformative moment in American history.