In The Nine Nations of North America, Joel Garreau argued that the political boundaries between Mexico, Canada, and the United States are in certain respects less important than the economic and cultural differences between regions. Garreau re-drew the map of North America into nine cultural regions or nations which, he said, would provide a key to understanding the most important commonalities of each region. The nine regions were Quebec (for Garreau, a nation unto itself), New England (including the Maritimes), the Foundry (the industrial Northeast), Dixie (the Old South), the Islands (the whole Caribbean and much of Central America), the Breadbasket (the agricultural Midwest), Ecotopia (the Pacific Coast), Mexamerica (the desert Southwest and Mexico), and the Empty Quarter (the open spaces of the Rocky Mountain West and the far North).
Garreau wrote during the early 1980s. If he were to redraw his map today, I suspect that Mexamerica would extend far into the region that he characterized as the Empty Quarter. In 1981, he considered Denver to be the capital of the Empty Quarter, and it still dominates much of the Rocky Mountain West. Now, however, it has become much more Hispanic and Southwestern in its flavor. In other words, the boundary between the West (or what used to be the West) and the Southwest is not as clear as it used to be.
Another feature that might be more prominent than Garreau reckoned is the presence of a virtual Mormon nation in the middle of the Empty Quarter. As a cultural unit, the Mormon nation blankets not only Utah, but also much of Idaho and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nevada. Some of the strongest (and, frankly, zaniest) Mormon influence is focused on all sides of the Four Corners area.
Ministry in the West and Southwest is different than ministry in the East, the Midwest, or the Old South. For one thing, distances are much greater, meaning that church congregations are likely to be more widely dispersed, as are opportunities for inter-church fellowship. People often value privacy and are accustomed to isolation, matters that require a unique pastoral approach. Western individualism and self-reliance can easily cross the line into colorful idiosyncrasy. History also has lingering effects: the people who settled the West were often looking to make a fortune or to have a good time, and pursuit of recreation often outpaces spiritual interests—even for long-time church members. Read more...