Don’t mess with Texas evangelicals

03 00008 popLike I said, it’s hard to do a GetReligion commentary about a photo essay.

But here goes. Start by clicking here. Now click here. Finally, click here and look over this new photo essay — taken from the book The Amazing Faith of Texas, by Roy Spence — in the award-winning religion section of The Dallas Morning News. Does anyone else see any connections?

So what is the theological message of this photo essay?

The project conveys the rich diversity of faith in Texas — and shows that “when it comes to religion, what unites us is more important and deeper than what divides us,” said Mr. Spence, the head of GSD&M, the Austin ad agency best known for its “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign.

“When you ask Texans what they believe in, what they think about spiritually, they don’t talk about politics, gay marriage or anything like that,” he said. “They say, ‘I believe in God. I believe in the Golden Rule. And I’m pretty dadgum tolerant of other people’s beliefs.’”

Wow. I had no idea that Texas was such a National Council of Churches kinda place. But it must be true. Look at these pictures from a company in Austin. There are conservative Protestants in here, I guess. But their only institutional homes are old and empty (First Baptist Church, Dallas, at night) or tiny and funky (think tiny towns in West Texas).

Once again, where are the folks featured in this here article? It’s from Christianity Today and it calls Dallas “The New Capital of Evangelicalism.”

Well, I have known lots of Texans in my day (I am one, like it or not), and lots of them believe in the Golden Rule and still have lots of strong opinions and beliefs about all of that nasty stuff linked to divisive moral, religious and social issues. In other words, there are Texas Unitarians — but I don’t think they’re the folks who have made Texas the megachurch capital of the universe.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Meg Q

    “When you ask Texans what they believe in, what they think about spiritually, they don’t talk about politics, gay marriage or anything like that,” he said.

    “They say, ‘I believe in God. I believe in the Golden Rule. And I’m pretty dadgum tolerant of other people’s beliefs.’ “

    Uh, excuuuuuse, me, Terry, but WTF? (That means, What the French???) I grew up in small-town east Texas, went to Baylor, and lived in Dallas until 2 years ago (excepting sojourns in NYC and Santa Fe), and I can tell you that ain’t what Texans believe. Jeez, I grew up Catholic in that small town, in the ’70′s and ’80′s, and people were polite, but we Catholic kids knew we were different. (And then my mom wouldn’t let me join Rainbow Girls when some of my little friends asked me anyway . . . although as much for social status as for being Masonic, I think.) And everybody knew who the four Jewish families were. That didn’t mean that the son of one of those families wasn’t big in sports, or that the daughters of one of the others didn’t go on to be high school cheerleaders (the pinnacle of popularity), just that everyone was aware . . .

    My mother’s family, originally German Lutheran, has now split into Lutheran, Episcopalian, and Catholic groups (because of marriages). We don’t exactly look down on each other, but the children in each group ask, why do Aunt and Uncle X go to church Y? And their parents say, well, dear, and launch into an explaination that combines the marriage reason with an explanation that the other religious group isn’t quite right. We cousins have compared notes on this. Now, if’n our parents were all tolerant sum’bitches, why would they bother?

    Of course, I think I can see his point in just one, narrow sense: Texans will tolerate another person’s religious beliefs. However, most Texans I know will definitely reserve the right to deem your beliefs wrong, just not tell you so, which Yankees never bother about, because they don’t care. And if you ask them about what they believe “spiritually” or in terms of “religion” they’ll tend to be literal-minded, they’re not going to make the jump this fellow is assuming to “politics, gay marriage or anything like that”. But their religious beliefs will definitely inform their politics, you better believe it. Unlike, say, Yankee Catholics.

    In sum, I think this feller has spent too darned much time in Austin and being deceived by Texans’ laid-back ways.

    One of my favorite jokes back home (I’m sure it’s seen the light of day here before): What does the Klan leave on a Unitarian’s yard?

    A burning question mark.

  • Dorian Speed

    Could it be this is symptomatic of the de-deification of the American faithscape?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    This is completely off subject, but it seems to be the only way I can get a message through to Get Religion from my computer: Noone seems to have noticed that in this morning’s NY Times they are claiming in their lead story on the Senate primaries that if the Republican Black, Steele, takes Sarbanes’ seat in Maryland, he will be the first Republican Black to sit in the Senate. Weren’t there a bunch of Reconstruction after the Civil War Republican Blacks in the Senate??? And. for certain, Edward W. Brooke, a Black, was a Republican senator from Mass. only about a decade ago.
    Doesn’t the NY Times do any fact checking anymore? Talk about going downhill in accuracy.