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SEATTLE (RNS) — Early in this century, the academic center that I direct undertook a research project to examine religion and region in American public life. Of the eight regions we divided the country into, the most distinctive was the Pacific Northwest (PNW)—Washington, Oregon, and Alaska.
The distinctiveness had everything to do with the region’s low degree of religious identification—something that had been the case ever since Anglo-Americans began settling the place in the 19th century. For that reason, we subtitled the volume dedicated to it “the None Zone.”
Themes - Exploration - Religion - Life - PNW
Several themes emerged from our exploration of religion and public life in the PNW, specifically with respect to Oregon and Washington (as distinct from Alaska). These included the importance of interfaith cooperation and the prevalence of religious entrepreneurship. In a place where institutional religion for non-indigenous peoples had never been strong, success required a high degree of enterprise on the one hand and, on the other, a pulling together on the part of religious communities that, elsewhere in the country, had historically kept their distance.
The main avenue of religious common cause was environmentalism, which in our view had become the region’s dominant world view—its civil religion if you will. A gospel of sustainability and biodiversity was strongly in evidence in the Catholic and mainline Protestant churches, the non-Christian and New Age faiths, and among the Nones themselves. Yet the PNW also had its counterculture, located above all in its sizable evangelical community, where the region’s religious entrepreneurship was especially on display.
PNW - Evangelicalism - Culture - Abortion - Gay
As one would expect, PNW evangelicalism was ranged against the dominant culture on abortion and gay rights. Most strikingly, however, the PNW was the one region where a majority of evangelicals took a negative view of environmentalism. Clearly, in this regional version of the national culture war, environmentalism had become part of a...
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