A Drake University religion professor says she’s found Iowans and other Midwesterners are much more likely to link their patriotism and their religion than people on the east coast. Drake religion professor Jennifer Harvey recently moved to Iowa from her native New York. “I love many things about Iowa and I chose to stay here after having a chance to go back to New York City, so that says something, but I have been very struck here, especially coming from New York City — how many ‘God Bless America,’ ‘God Bless the troops’…images and invocations I hear on a regular basis,” Harvey says.
Harvey says there’s a strong religious world view in Iowa that’s “Christian, primarily,” and she says that’s very different from the prevailing opinions expressed in New York. Harvey says in New York, there’s a strong sense that it’s wrong to merge Christianity and politics. “Even in my (Drake) classrooms where students are quite liberally inclined, they are looking for ways to make sense out of their stances or views on the war or same sex marriage through a Christian framework, many times,” Harvey says.
American politicians often say “God Bless America” at the end of a speech, and Harvey says while that may seem perfectly normal to Midwesterners, it seems odd to people who live on the East Coast. Harvey says presidents have used the phrase for some time, and in Iowa there’s an “expectation” that the phrase will be included in a president’s or presidential candidate’s speech. “That doesn’t seem odd to Iowans and where I came from it was, you know, folks wished the (2004 Democratic presidential candidate John) Kerry would not put God’s blessing on his speech, even if they were going to vote for him,” Harvey says.