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Friday, January 18, 2008

This, Dan, Is What We Call the “Bible.” But you can call it the “U.S. Constitution.”

posted by on January 18 at 17:32 PM


I’m going to be on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher tonight, recounting my recent adventures in South Carolina.

When I sat down to talk with Catherine, the woman in the photo above, I was a worried that our interview would be brief. Catherine and her husband Tom were hosting a phone bank party in the offices of their pest extermination business in Rock Mill, South Carolina, when I barged in with a producer, a wrangler, a camera man, and a sound tech. They’re passionate supporters of Mike Huckabee, fundamentalist Christians, and hard-core social conservatives.

They were also among the nicest people I’ve ever met.

Now, I’ve met super-nice Fundamentalist Christians in the past; hell, Ken Hutcherson showered me with compliments about my dedication as a parent the one and only time we met face to face. (I apologized for not being able to stay for the end of his debate with Ron Sims because I promised my son I would be home in time to tuck him in, and Hutch humped away at my leg—figuratively—for about 20 minutes.) I think a lot of fundamentalists compensate for the meanness of their judgment by pouring on the sweetness and light.

But I expected a different reception in South Carolina—the South, the Bible Belt, where good, God-fearing, racist Christians turned out in droves in 2000 to vote against John “Mixed-Race Love Child” McCain. So I was amazed that after I came out to Catherine—by making an just-ever-so-slightly crude sexual joke—she laughed patted my leg, and continued with the interview. I ended up spending the better of two days with Catherine and her husband Tom. They cheerfully told me over and over again that I was going to hell, I made the occasional dirty joke, and then we agreed to disagree about shredding the U.S. Constitution.

But here’s what I found really interesting about the Huckabee supporters I met in South Carolina: Over and over again Huckabee supporters told me—on the record, cameras rolling—that they supported Huckabee because they wanted to see “a good, Christian man in the White House.” Because… uh… just look at the pickle all those Buddhists, Atheists, agnostics, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians presidents have gotten us into.

When I pointed out that we we already had one of those in the White House—good, Christian George W. Bush, the man South Carolinians helped elect in 2000 and 2004—and that things haven’t been going so well, there was a momentary silence before the fundamentalist version of the Great Walk Back began.

Conservative pundits have been pointing to George Bush’s prescription drug program and out-of-control spending and insisting that, despite what they believed/wrote/said about Bush, George W. Bush is not a real conservative. Yeah, right. What they’re doing, of course, is absolving themselves of any responsibility for the disasters that Bush has inflicted on the country by insisting that Bush isn’t one of them, never was, uh-uh.

Religious conservatives are doing the same thing. They voted for George W. Bush because he was a good Christian and being a good Christian is the chief qualification for the Oval Office. A good Christian is going to be a great president because he’s a good Christian. But George W. Bush has been a terrible president—and many of them recognize that.

So what to do next? Instead of reexamining the criteria they’ve applied in the past—a process that might lead them to conclude that good & Christian isn’t nearly as important as, oh, smart & competent—and look for other qualities in a candidate, a lot of fundamentalist voters in South Carolina have concluded that George W. Bush isn’t a real good Christian. One person we interviewed insisted that George W. Bush wasn’t just a poor Christian, but not a Christian at all.

Anway, I’ll be talking about this—and more—on Real Time tonight. I believe it’s on in Seattle at 11 PM, HBO.

RSS icon Comments


Will there be a youtube clip for those of us without cable (or any type of TV signal at all)?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 18, 2008 5:35 PM

Total Jesus Campers.

Posted by DOUG. | January 18, 2008 5:43 PM

I had a bible-thumpin' stepmother from Kansas.

Sometimes the disconnect between what they say and normative decency and/or just plain tact is mind-boggling.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 18, 2008 5:49 PM

Every single one of the candidates is doing it too!

"It's "Washington" that is corrupt, and a "Real Conservative (TM)" is the only way to fix it. CHANGE CHANGE CHANGE 9/11 9/11. Thank you and good night."

Notice it's "Washington", like that is some completly seperate entitty that has nothing to do with them.

Never mind it was THEIR PARTY that is responsible for necessitating the need for change in the first place! You don't clog the toilette and keep shoving TP into the bowl, yet this is exactly what they are asking people to do!

Posted by brandon h | January 18, 2008 5:56 PM

Hah—the "no true Scotsman" fallacy rears its head once again. Too bad book-learnin's virtually a sin to these folk.

Posted by shub-negrorath | January 18, 2008 6:03 PM

Dan, you know why they (southerners) are so nice and polite to you and everyone else they don't think should enjoy the same rights they do? They were nice, sweet, polite and owned slaves, maybe even beat those slaves not so long ago. It's because they have God on their side. They have to be "Christ like" while at the same time working like the Devil to keep Gay-Americans from being treated as they are. You and G.W. Bush are on the same side of the ledger! Sexy no?!

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | January 18, 2008 6:15 PM

Fundamentalists are also the most vocal advocates of corporal punishment. (Carter and McGoldrick, (2005)) How nice and sweet.

Posted by LMSW | January 18, 2008 6:30 PM

Hate the sin, love the sinner.

And isn't arguing that Bush/Christian conservatives are not *real* Christians a standard trope of liberal Christians?

Posted by UnoriginalAndrew | January 18, 2008 6:31 PM

I've traveled extensively throughout the South, and it never fails to amaze me how much it's like a completely different country. Just think - if it's like that now, in this age of television, jet planes and the Internet - can you even begin to imagine what it must have been like 50 or 60 years ago? (Shudder)

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | January 18, 2008 6:51 PM

Lipoatrophy's a bummer huh.

Posted by Hobbes | January 18, 2008 6:55 PM

Isn't Huckabee also for big government? He's not a "real" conservative either.

Posted by keshmeshi | January 18, 2008 7:40 PM

Many South Carolinians are trained from birth to always be nice and polite. Even if you can't stand somebody you are expected to be nice.

I am ashamed and appalled to say my parents would probably tell you the same things you heard from those Huckabee supporters while you were here. Too many people are just like them. They mean well, honestly. They don't mean to be hateful and ignorant. They have been conditioned their whole lives to believe that Christian ALWAYS = Good and that God will punish them for not doing everything they can to enforce his commandments. It's all about fear.

There are people here that see it for what it is, but there aren't enough. Sometimes I'd really like to move if I could afford to. It's really sad to me that so many people here are so blind.

Posted by nean | January 18, 2008 8:03 PM

Uh, Dan? You're not wearing THE SAME SHIRT you wore last time you were on Bill Maher, are you?

Posted by Irena | January 18, 2008 8:20 PM

"I'd vote for Reagan...

...if he wuzzn't daid..."

Posted by Andy Niable | January 18, 2008 8:35 PM

Just watched Mahr. Great job, Dan.

Posted by Andy Niable | January 18, 2008 8:56 PM

Agree with #15. You made me proud, Dan...

Posted by Ayden | January 18, 2008 9:15 PM

Fuck! No cable.

Posted by Help Me, Obi-Wan YouTubie | January 18, 2008 10:06 PM

Cable is for people who can handle the naughty words and the naught bits (and the VERY witty D.L. Hughley freed from the sticky sit-com-writing chains of ABC).

Thank the gods for HBO and Bill Maher (said the Fagnostic).

Posted by Andy Niable | January 18, 2008 10:10 PM

but the truth is Bush is not a christian and he's not a methodist and he's not a republican and he's not anything he ever said he was.... so that part at least is true.

Posted by M | January 18, 2008 10:28 PM

If it wasn't for denial, we'd have to face reality...

Posted by M'thew | January 19, 2008 5:06 AM

What these Christians don't realize is that its because the constitution DOESN'T mention God that they have the freedom to be all Jesusy.

And thanks to the Christian Victim Syndrome, even if we did remake the constitution to "reflect God's Law", a good chunk of them would immediately split off and whine because it didn't reflect their version of "God's Law".

For instance, should we base this make-over on the King James version of the Bible, or the Catholic Douay-Rheims version?

That's why we have all these different religions in the first place, and that's why there are several different flavors of Lutherans.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | January 19, 2008 8:22 AM

As Hitchens says, "Religion poisons everything."

Posted by Andy Niable | January 19, 2008 8:53 AM

I think it's Rock Hill, not Mill. There's a Fort Mill right up the road, which was home to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and Heritage USA. That aside, your portrait rings true with my impressions from a few trips to Rock Hill. Here's the story I will never forget: The receptionist at the company I was visiting had hair that reached her knees. She proudly told me that Strom Thurmond had visited the office more than once, and would always tell her, "I want to run naked through your hair!" I'm not making this up, but the exclamation point may be an exaggeration.

Posted by thomas in oregon | January 19, 2008 11:17 AM

They're weak. We are strong.

Posted by Mr. Poe | January 19, 2008 12:35 PM

It's rather amazing how people can be bamboozled by the same shit over and over again. Generally, the rule here (Canada that is) is to be bribed with your own money (that's the great liberal failing).

What exactly does being a good christian have to do with governing well anyways? One of these days, Americans better wake up and smell the coffee. You people have 10,000 nukes and lots of real enemies. Good and Christian isn't going to cut it one day and we're all going to go "BOOM!!"

That won't be very fucking pretty now will it?

Posted by wet_suit | January 19, 2008 1:34 PM

Remember Mr. Poe ... they outnumber us and growing ... I remember people telling me that if you go out in Virginia, the bars are FULL of young people, early 20's popped out a few chillun's, already divorced, and trying to piece togethor a family with anything while simultaneously trying to live out the craziness of their youth. These people can not accept the sexual and family realities of the modern life ...

Posted by OR Matt | January 19, 2008 1:37 PM


Posted by Greg | January 19, 2008 2:58 PM

It's 'Rock Hill' or 'Fort Mill', not 'Rock Mill'. I just moved here, and get confused all the time--they're right by each other.

Posted by damnqueerfuck | January 19, 2008 4:11 PM


Posted by PLEASE | January 19, 2008 10:24 PM

Dan--I wish you'd asked them how well having good Christian Jimmy Carter as President worked out for them. Most conservatives rank Carter just Clinton for "worst president ever".

Posted by tiktok | January 20, 2008 9:21 AM

Being a Seattle native down here in the South, I would have to agree that Bible belt conservatives are some of the nicest people you would ever meet. I just happen to disagree with thier politics.

The core of the belief system is that we can only know the truth of God, through our study of the Bible, because the Bible is the Word of god. This of course leads me to my ultimate criticism of the religous right. I do not believe that the Bible is the word of God. I believe the Bible was written by men attempting through the guidance of the Holy Spirit to translate the word of God, into words that men might be able to understand. The problem being, that God cannot be translated perfectly into words, and so ultimately the Bible is only a reflection of the word of God.

I think that perhaps it is time amend the word of God as guided by the Holy Spirit so that we might better understand it in relationship to the modern world, particularily in regards to womans rights.

My first proposed amendment, we strike 1 Timothy 2:9-15

Posted by Kozzmo | January 20, 2008 2:56 PM

As an impolite, rude Yankee living in the South, I must point out that Dan's experience is completely normal. There's a huge emphasis on being "nice" and "polite." But this is often more form than substance.* What they say about you in private, or what they do in the voting booth -- well, we already know what they do.

My guess is that a more important measure of justice and fairness is how people treat people that they do not know, not people in their day to day life. If you live in a small town where everybody knows each other, sure, politeness is important, yadda yadda yadda. But a great deal of what's important in politics and society involves people not of your kin, clan, clavern, town, county, or even religion, state, or region.

More abstract concepts -- prisoners and criminal law, interrogation of criminal suspects or prisoners of war, ANYTHING involving furriners, or the existence of The Gay (which isn't in their small town, just in San Francisco and Boston) -- is where their little minds go off the rails.

For those of you who are convinced Dan is obsessed with the fatties, please note that he went to South Carolina and didn't say a thing about it. Maybe he didn't have time to go to Wal-Mart?

*OTOH, after living here a while, I realize a) I was raised by wolves b) civility isn't so bad.

Posted by CP | January 21, 2008 10:34 AM

Many years ago I was involved as a therapist and counselor with a couple who used scalding water and a heated iron stove to discipline their six year old child. They too were "among the nicest people I’ve ever met." They smiled, exuded compassion and gentleness and were, naturally, good Christian folk.

We have to look at what people do, not what they say or how they interact with us. It's a truism that "Good people do bad things all the time/"

Posted by Tony Konrath | January 22, 2008 7:57 AM

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