Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 14, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

URBAN vs. RURAL....Amy Sullivan may have occasional trouble telling her West Coast football teams apart, but she knows an evangelical Baptist from a premillenial fundamentalist and has recently put that knowledge to good use by reading the first four volumes of the Armageddon porn series Left Behind which is a good thing since Slacktivist has been reviewing them for us slightly more slowly than the authors wrote them. You can read what she has to say about the Left Behind phenomenon in "Jesus Christ, Superstar," an essay in this month's Washington Monthly.

And with that out of the way, I will now completely ignore the main point of her piece and instead comment on a single paragraph. The setting is a party of conservative evangelicals in Washington DC and she is trying to engage them in conversation about Left Behind:

There was just one problem. No one I talked to would admit to having read any of the books. A number of people conceded, "Oooh, yeah, my mom read those," wrinkling their noses and giving embarrassed shrugs. Several women offered that they had thought about reading the books after the former "Growing Pains" star, and heartthrob of our teen years, Kirk Cameron made a movie adaptation of the first installment. But after even some Christian publications panned the film, they had reconsidered.

This doesn't surprise me. Try the same experiment in a small town in the Midwest, though, and the conversation would likely be considerably different.

I know the conventional wisdom these days says that the single most reliable determinant of voting is church attendance (the more you attend church, the more likely you are to vote Republican), but it's anecdotes like this that continue to convince me that the real divide in America is rural/urban, not secular/religious. Sure, you need to be pretty religious for the Left Behind books to appeal to you in the first place, but even at that its admirers are mostly in small town America. Urban folks, even the most strongly religious of them, are mostly too elite to be anything but embarrassed by this kind of stuff.

In fact, I often get the feeling that urban conservative intellectuals i.e., most of the ones who actually write about this stuff are faking it when they write about socially conservative causes. They may be able to peck out an austere intellectual argument that gays are bad and faith healing is authentic Americana, but they aren't true believers. They act like someone who extols the virtues of tofu burgers in public because they own stock in a tofu company, but then sneaks out to McDonald's when no one is looking.

I'm sort of rambling here. Sorry. It's just that this subject never really seems to get quite the attention it deserves. Among all the talk of liberal/conservative, religious/secular, east/west, and white/nonwhite, I still think the real core social divide in America is between big cities and small towns. Get a few beers into them, and even the urban conservatives would probably admit that they think their core supporters in Middle America are a bunch of hicks. And don't even get me started on what those rural hicks probably think of David Brooks....

UPDATE: Hah! I see that Amy has surreptitiously corrected her football/basketball post to refer to the USC Trojans. But it used to refer to the Bruins the Bruins! and I have the videotape to prove it.

Kevin Drum 7:47 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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