Sunday, November 05, 2006

The view from elsewhere: “War tests loyalty in Bible Belt.”

Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible -- the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.
--Virginia Satir (Psychotherapist)

You would think that those who are always talking about family values would want to create an environment of permanent relationships for people of the same sex. But they're not advocating family values. They're advocating their values.
--Willie Brown (Mayor of San Francisco)


Polling is less than two days away, and living in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District means being under the microscope, with researchers both home and away eagerly spying the tea leaves.

War tests voter loyalty in Bible Belt; Social issues secondary for some conservatives, by Michael Paulson, Boston Globe (November 3, 2006). Thanks to Gina for posting this link at her blog, Letter from New Albany.

As the candidates in southern Indiana and around the nation barrel toward next Tuesday's finish line, Republicans are furiously trying to reenergize the so-called values voters, predominantly evangelical Protestants who helped propel President Bush to victory in 2004 but have since then become disenchanted with the GOP.

But concern about the war in Iraq is threatening to overwhelm the social issues. In interviews at an evangelical mega-church here Sunday, Republicans and Democrats repeatedly raised the war, even after their pastor, who had appeared at a rally with Bush the previous day, highlighted as the church's primary areas of concern two different issues: abortion and marriage.


After reading this piece, it occurs to me afresh that I, too, am a fundamentalist: I’m fundamentally opposed to mega-anything, whether it’s a multinational brewery, big box retailer or churches the size of Chinese container ports.

Apart from that not unexpected revelation, it is the surely unintended tone of Paulson’s article that fascinates me. To be sure, some will find it outrageously patronizing in the fashion of those archaic written accounts wherein the proper and civilized Anglo-Saxon treks to the bush to observe and decry the backwardness of the poverty-stricken people somehow managing to exist there – and proposing neither sanitation nor education as the presumptive cure, but a firm jolt of Christianity.

Come to think of it, the preceding scenario might have played out on Pat Robertson’s satellite network just last week.

The Globe’s reporter approaches this observation from a reverse angle in terms of religious affiliation. We here in Southern Indiana are the bizarrely primitive tribe members erecting inflammatory billboards in opposition to gays, heathens, apostates and Democrats, and constructing opulent edifices in the plush exurb to an ostensibly sanitized and casually dressed evangelism that nonetheless holds at its core a strain of naked and virulent intolerance.

As an aside, perhaps I’ll live long enough to see the day when Christian fundamentalism is able to square its idealized doctrine with the venom it otherwise spews toward those who are different, who apparently make the mistake of insisting that the Jesus of the ploughshare makes more sense than the one wielded by believers like a bloody sword.

A senseless and criminally executed war? Verily, it is the perfect place for Christian evangelicals to begin tepidly plumbing the depths of their consciences for clues as to the morality, if any, of the current regime's unaccountability. As the Globe correspondent aptly portrays, the cognitive dissonance over Iraq is growing in intensity. Perhaps focusing less on myths and more on reality would be useful.

Far from being insulted by such portrayals (real or imagined) of my community – that we are viewed as existing somewhere outside the range of blue-state civilization – I feel instead a profound sense of vindication, for in my own small way, I’ve always persisted in trying to provide an alternative view, to shine a wobbly light on inconvenient truths, and to propose that just because we’ve always done it that way, it doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do it.

I will continue doing so, because life is far too short for exclusion, persecution and regression to be passed off as the norm -- and it is simply ignoble to flee from a challenge. Achievement and empowerment come from progressively expanding and bolstering the perimeter of human experience and self-confidence, not by contracting and attacking it.

Leaves are waiting. Have a marvelous autumnal pre-election Sunday.

2 comments:

G.Coyle said...

Thanks for pointing to this piece. I’m obviously amused by the National Geographic adventure in primitive-land tone. It’s true the ghosts of the puritans hold nothing on the evangelical bible-belters. In the Yankee culture (yes, there still is one) it’s considered terribly impolite to pay too much attention to your neighbors “business”. I think this has something to do with way Massachusetts tends to be socially progressive. The yankee mentality is deeply conservative and frugal. But staying out of other’s business (like who they marry) to Yankee’s IS being conservative. So New Englanders are fascinated by the so-called Bible Belt and it’s seeming (unseemly?) obsession with family values. Or as Millionaire Mike says so frighteningly – Hoosier Values.

bluegill said...

Thanks for sharing that, Gina. It's somewhat similar to the Netherlands, where the tolerance that's viewed by a lot of evangelicals in this country as evil incarnate is actually born of strict Calvinist tradition.