Evangelicals and Catholics first joined forces in the suburbs

In the middle of an article about how Rick Santorum has appealed to evangelicals, one of the factors mentioned is geographic: evangelicals and Catholics both moved to the suburbs after World War Two.

The plate tectonics of social mobility also figure into the Santorum surprise, note scholars like the political scientist John C. Green of the University of Akron. In the post-World War II years, many Catholics moved out of insular urban neighborhoods while many evangelicals left their rural and small-town homes for the suburbs and exurbs. In subdivisions, in office parks, in colleges, the young people of the two religions began to encounter one another as benign acquaintances rather than alien enemies.

It is no coincidence, then, that a Santorum voter like Carissa Wilson has grown up in the suburban sprawl between two cities with strong Catholic heritages, Dayton and Cincinnati. Like the Michigan autoworkers in 1980 who made a break with Democratic tradition to vote for Ronald Reagan, Miss Wilson just may be the embodiment of a new wave.

In other words, evangelicals and Catholics met and learned to like each other in the suburbs. United by suburban values and perhaps a dislike for both cities and rural areas, these two groups settled into the land of single-family homes and found that they could find common ground on some social and theological issues.

This brings several questions to mind:

1. Are Catholics and evangelicals more interested in preserving suburban values than finding common theological ground? Perhaps this is crassly put but the way the argument is written in the article, it suggests that the suburbs came first before the social and theological common ground.

2. How do race and class play into the process? In other words, while both groups came from different places to the suburbs, they were probably mostly white and the educational status of both groups was rising. Does this mean that the older city/rural divide was transcended by common status interests based on race and class?

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