The Road to Theocracy

I’ve been on these roads my entire life, and I’ve never seen images of evangelical Christianity quite so blatant.

Photo of sign that reads only you can prevent socialism with a bear in the middle
All photos by Austen Risolvato/Rewire News Group

This piece is part of a Special Edition, which you can see here.

One measure of the strength of our democracy is the separation of religion from our public and civic spaces. The more those spaces become infused with evangelical Christianity, the greater the strain on democracy. And in the Southeast, that strain is palpable.

This photo essay captures the rise of evangelical Christianity over 1,200 miles across the Southeast—literally and figuratively the road to theocracy. I’ve been on these roads my entire life, and I’ve never seen these kinds of images quite so blatant.

On U.S. Highway 17 in Brunswick, Georgia, the sign pictured at top is planted around the corner from an apartment complex in a low-income area that conservative political commentator Sean Hannity bought in 2018 with federal funds next to a superfund site.

Photo of billboard, background is yellow and Repent is in all caps in red

On this stretch of Interstate 95 in South Carolina, Daniel Brothers has spent tens of thousands of dollars—half his annual income—on billboard evangelism.

Yellow billboard that reads No Jesus, no Life. Dead already.

Another sign from Daniel Brothers’ mission to save all the heathens located a few miles from the billboard above.

Photo of back of a truck that says did you pray today

Outside Knoxville, Tennessee.

Photo of purse that says With God all things are possible

Merchandise for sale at Love’s Travel Stop outside Skippers, Virginia. The privately owned Love’s chain has more than 500 stores nationwide. One of the co-founders, Judy Love, was named to the Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City Board of Trustees in 2015.

“I have always had a passion for health care, and Catholic health care in particular,” Love said. “I am thrilled to be a part of the good work that Mercy does to improve the lives of Oklahomans.”

But they’re just out here selling God on a handbag.

Nighttime image of a cross in front of a barn

View of an old barn at Generation Grace Church in Marshall, Virginia, along Interstate 66.