FROM THE HEARTLAND

A bumper crop of emails recently, weighing in on fundamentalism, the heartland and “Brokeback Mountain”. Here are three with good points:

Thanks to ‘Variety’ for perpetuating the fly-over/red-state stereotypes. I have to say, for those of us in Des Moines, Brokeback’s strong opening here is not a surprise. I imagine it will do well and continue to do well because it’s a beautifully powerful film, well-reviewed, and hyped as controversial. The movie release has been managed well and the expectations set, masterfully drawing people into theaters. My opening night experience in Des Moines was in a suburban theater and the audience was primarily middle-age couples, young women and a large (but not-the-majority) gay contingent.

As far as the opposition goes, it’s just not there or just not organized. And call me bitter blue in a red state, but the political/cultural context of Iowa (and Des Moines in particular) is nowhere comparable to Texas or Oklahoma. The strength and emotional force of the Christian Coalition (and the anti-gay forces) in the state is nowhere near that of OK or TX. Largely, Iowans keep to themselves as a whole and can’t be bothered. It’s the educated, quietly patriotic, thoughtful side of our agricultural past coming through.

Point taken. There’s a huge difference between the culture of the Mid-West and the South. But even many Texans seem open-minded about “Brokeback.” Another reader sets me, er, straight on that one:

I was born and raised in Texas, not far from where Jack “lived” in Texas. In my twenties, I lived all over the state: San Angelo, Odessa, Lubbock, Dallas, Houston, and Austin.
I spent nearly 5 years in Lubbock where I met my best friend and his wife, both ardent Republicans. I shared a house with him and his cousin who was a cowboy and a bouncer at a local honky tonk. Both knew I was gay and couldn’t have cared less. I have always said that the libertarian streak in west Texans outweighs any social conservatism and I stand by that assertion to this day. I never recall hearing of any fag bashings while I lived in that part of the state. They occurred often in Dallas while I lived there and I was the victim of two of them.
Lubbock is the only place in Texas where I never experienced any, and I mean, any homophobia. That the movie is a success there doesn’t surprise me at all.

That just goes to show that generalizations even about one state are fraught with peril.

FUNDAMENTALISM DEFINED: My depiction of fundamentalist millenarianism also comes in for criticism from this reader:

So “most members” of the “religious right” believe that the world is on the brink of the rapture and coming to and end, and exactly how do you know this to be true? I can garauntee you that if you knew me, you would list me too as a member of your so-called “religious right”, and yet I think Pat Robertson’s eschatalogical views are absurd and I deplore his recent comments regarding Sharon. Pat Robertson and his like on evangelical TV would do themselves, and me personally, a HUGE favor if they would stick to their (and mine) Christ-sponsored mission of spreading the good news of Christ’s love, forgiveness and ultimate sacrifice, rather than indulging in every political foray of the day. And you, my dear blogger, would do yourself a favor to either get to personally know a few more conservative-evangelical Christians (like me).

I’m sure there are many Christians who share the reader’s view of the priority of love and forgiveness – rather than vengeance and violence – at the center of the Christian Gospel. And many vote Republican. But my point about Robertson was a narrower one. It is that he believes that there is a looming End-Time in which judgment will be passed on non-believers, and also that God intervenes directly in the lives of people right now to punish and warn. How do I know this? Because there’s plenty of explicit evidence proving it. For the book, I’ve been steeping myself in Protestant fundamentalist texts, and the prevalence of these themes is overwhelming. In the past few years, many leaders of the religious right have reiterated those views, whether it’s James Dobson’s warning about the imminent “destruction of the earth” caused by gay couples getting married, or Jerry Falwell blaming feminists for 9/11, or Franklin Graham blaming New Orleanians for Hurricane Katrina. If a reader can show me a leader of the religious right who does not believe in millenarianism or a God who directly intervenes to punish sinners, and can prove it, I will gladly post their evidence. Please prove me wrong. To discuss these theological views, by the way, is not to be a “hater” or “demonizer,” as Jonah Goldberg claims. It is simply to reveal what religious right leaders clearly and unapologetically believe.

– posted by Andrew.

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