Oxford: October 24, 2012

The Presbyterians are reading Boomerang

I never remember the way the South smells (magnolia, camellias, warm) until I get back and then it is like I never forgot.  I lived in New Orleans for about four years in the mid-90s (though some would count me out as having really lived in the South – New Orleans is an island to itself, you see) and that smell became a matter of fact. But another smell smacks you in the face the moment you deplane in Memphis:  bar-b-que.  I landed and walked straight over to the nearest in-airport rib-shack for a dry rubbed half rack.

I drove from Memphis to Oxford today, a long way with the windows down.  I took highway 78, trading the higher speeds of I-55 for scenery.  The further south I get, I always notice anew the kudzu.  The further south I get, the more I remember how many churches there are.

I grew up in Iowa.  Our churches at that time were contained in small towns, the Presbyterians on one corner, the Episcopalians on another, Catholics, Lutherans yet another.  When I was a kid there was no such thing as a mega church in our neck of the woods.  I don’t recall seeing any stray churches just out along the highways either.  But in Mississippi the roads are lined with either signs for or actual churches.

Primarily Baptist, which is to be expected.  Oxford has a few.  There is the First Baptist Church, for the white people, the Second Baptist Church for the black people and out on route 101 is North Oxford Baptist.  North Oxford is a special kind of Baptist, not one to pull any punches.  They are unabashedly evangelical and have their very own crisis pregnancy center across the road.

The Second Baptist Church, according to one of their members, has gotten involved in the sex-ed fight.  They have chosen to start teaching their teens about prevention. The First Baptist Church is home to the Oxford School District Superintendent Harvey, who unilaterally chose abstinence only programs for his school (until it was overturned by mass outcry by parents and students). So, it could be assumed their stance on sex ed.  North Oxford remains to be seen.

Another thing is the radio.  My dad is a huge Rush Limbaugh fan.  Huge.  What Rush says is gospel.  The sway held by right-wing talk radio isn’t news.  I was however struck by the number of conservative right-wing options during my drive.  The selection ranged from purely religious radio stations, teeny-bopper (do they even say that anymore?) stations, one proper hard rock oldie station and about five conservative talk programs.

One struck me in particular.  The topic was why women are voting for Romney.  First, no women were on the program: it was two men.  One with what seemed to be an over affected southern accent, playing on the drawl for a bit of radio theater.  The host asked the male guest why he thought the “gender gap was all but closed” in the presidential election as was “being reported”?  And, what did his guest make of the made up GOP “war on women?”

Completely eschewing the war on women in the GOP question, the guest went straight to the women voting for Romney question.  His answer, which was about 30 seconds long was simple: security.  Women can feel secure with Romney.  He wasn’t talking about national security he was talking about women could feel “safe” with Romney.  That he has proved to be very “likable” in the debates and made clear he was a warm, friendly family man.  That this, he believed, was what women were really looking for.  That was why the gender gap had closed.

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