When we visit my wife’s family in central Texas we attend the local Baptist church. I usually pick up something to write about. The reason is that, even though I am well aware of how deeply feminized the rural evangelical church is, it is still unsettling to see it with my -They Live- glasses on versus what the community looks like without them.
The people are absolutely wonderful here. The crowd at the church looks like a Rockwell of what a small Texas farming and ranching community should look like. There are lots of very old people, sharply turned out in polyester cloths that have ridden their aged backs to church for decades. There are men in work overalls who’ve washed up for church and have not only an earthen smell, but somehow and earthen appearance as well. The small number of under 50’s either are old looking before their time, or are “cowboyed” up with the colorful starched shirts, the expensive boots, and yes, the big belt buckles. Let me be clear, I am in no way disparaging these folks by describing them. I have the very deepest of respect for them, and those like them Ive come to know all across Texas during the 20 years I lived here.
The point is, with distinctions only born of modern clothing manufacturing methods, they look like a pre-industrial-revolution crowd. The young women are dressed very conservatively, not an inappropriate curve of skin view in sight. The families not only sit together, they clearly want to sit together. The patriarchs are conspicuous and the families are outwardly deferential to them. The place screams red pill. But it is bluer than blue. (Like life without you is gonna be….oh, the romance of that Michael Johnson 70’s song, the days of my literal lift chasing).
The story begins in the living room. I was in an adjacent room and was glad of it after hearing the topic. The family is very large. The main players assemble in that living room during these visits and have a conversation that is likely being had in homes across the south in small towns like this. They always talk about the gays. And this year with the Duck Dynasty dust up it was even more impassioned. Every time I hear it I think of the juxtaposition of the gay topic to that of divorce and familial destruction. But this year they amplified my thinking.
Awhile back I wrote of the relative who divorced her husband who she’d met in bible college and they’d had the perfect evangelical courtship and marriage. recall, I mentioned that the husband was at least 4 points under her on the scale, and she is a 9+. So the girl had a fling with a visiting service man on leave, got pregnant, and has already married the new guy. She is 31, he is 19. This topic came up as well. The clenched teeth anger that comes through on the topic of gays disappears and a sort of steely eyed resolve replaces it. Someone apparently stopped one of the relatives and asked about the girl who married the 19 year old. The room was united in its indignation that anyone deign bring that up! Do they not know that she has repented, that she married the guy, and that that is old news. To say otherwise is to be….well….well….judgmental. It was all i could do to not blow in there and sort them out.
Today at church the preacher brought up the Duck Dynasty thing. He read a story about Phil visiting some Sunday school class and in his closing prayer saying something like (paraphrase), “Its just scripture and its simple, and I will not back down no matter what they say or do”.
Lets imagine the Duck Commander mentioned divorce as the problem that it actually is. Imagine he shared the relative numbers of people affected by homosexuality compared to those affected by divorce, and then imagine him saying “Its just scripture and I wont back down”. More, imagine the response he would have received. From the mainstream he would be ridiculed for being old fashioned. It would barely even make news. It wouldn’t even make the churches radar. In fact they would not want it to be a story because then they would have to weigh in explicitly instead of being on all sides of the issue.
Imagine another scenario. What if the mainstream actually attacked the commander for it and it did become one the culture war issues du jour…for a moment anyway. Would we have Christians united, making petitions and boycotts, and generally making nuisances of themselves because they feel like that makes them more pious? Not likely. In fact i would expect some of the harshest criticism of Phil to come from the church in the form of finger wagging lectures on grace and how divorce is not an unforgivable sin.
The reality is the former scenario is the most likely. Divorce is just not an issue….at all. But I took something from Phil’s little prayer. If the opportunity to burst into a room of Christians yammering about the herd movement of the day, gays or abortion related, I must remember to say, its just scripture and I will not back down from my opinion.