Poor, uneducated and easy to barbecue?

One of my favorite corrections of all time ran in the Washington Post back in 1993:

Correction: An article yesterday characterized followers of television evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as “largely poor, uneducated and easy to command.” There is no factual basis for that statement.

I imagine readers of this blog are familiar with this tale but reporter Michael Weisskopf, now a correspondent for Time, actually wrote that and it somehow got published without anyone in the newsroom thinking it need fixing. All across America, evangelicals faxed copies of their graduate school diplomas to the Post newsroom.

I could not help but think of that when I came across this piece — already mentioned by Sarah Pulliam yesterday — by Atlantic.com staff editor Nicole Allan:

People are sometimes caught off guard by Huckabee’s intellectual competence because of his rural Arkansas habits (he and his wife lived in a trailer while the governor’s mansion was being renovated) and his outspoken evangelical views.

Yes, who can disagree with the logic of this statement? It is surprising that someone could be an evangelical and somehow also competent.

I mean, really. Lines like that may not tell you a lot about former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. But they tell you something about how well journalist Nicole Allan knows evangelicals. Don’t worry, I won’t call her incompetent or ignorant. She just needs to meet an evangelical or two to find out that they are not actually knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, snake-handlers. Yes, I am being sarcastic.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette religion editor Frank Lockwood linked to the piece on his blog with a post headlined “Yes, ma’am, we can read, write AND barbecue …

Clearly, this is an opportunity for cross-cultural education. Might your GetReligionistas suggest that journalists turn to this fine publication from the University of North Carolina Press?

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  • Passing By

    It’s not like Huckabee is the first Arkansas governor to become a presidential candidate. That other hick did, however attend Oxford and Yale. Of course, another southern governor who became president graduated from Yale and Harvard, but was considered by the media brights to be rather stupid.

    Maybe it is about how you cook the brisket.

  • http://www.mumtazeye.blogspot.com America Stewart

    I am not Christian and regard collective, doctrinal religion as intrinsically blasphemous, but I am from Appalachia and agree that regionalist and classist attitudes(and ignorance) account for such stereotyping. It’s not helpful to anyone and generally reveals the hypocrisy of those who mouth it.

    It’s a shame, therefore, that your concluding line about “snake-handlers” repeats the same sort of regionalist, classist bias.

    Please, if you’re going to point the finger don’t repeat the error you’re pointing to in others!

  • http://www.devinetoursrome.com/ Charles Collins

    I am from Dallas, Texas, the buckle on the bible belt. It is interesting the way the local news covers religion. Much more respectful of the intelligence of the local pastors, and more knowledgable of their charitable works.

    But they also know who the charlatans are, and are merciless to them.

  • Martha

    Mollie, it are not that him are just evangelical, but them do bes from the country, too, also, just like me be!

    Riter even say them gots “rural habit” and all peoples what can read good know what *that* mean.

    Me am very annoyed: redneks like what I is am not stupid! Me went to skool for long time all the way until I was seventeen! So there!

  • Matt

    This poor Arkansan who grew up in a town of 600 canceled subscription to The Atlantic several years ago because the writing was going downhill. Looks like I made a good choice! :-)

    When I began graduate school I was paired with a roommate from Ohio whose poor brain couldn’t deal with the fact that I was a football-loving Arkansan who frequently read poetry (my undergrad work was in English). The two just *could not* go together!

    Ah well.

  • Jerry

    The idea that religious people are less intelligent comes not only from bias but from some studies showing a slight difference in male intelligence. So you get the false impression from a study that in any event needs to be replicated and you get the unintelligent dung you are commenting on.

    The IQ differences, while statistically significant, are not stunning — on the order of 6 to 11 points — and the data should not be used to stereotype or make assumptions about people, experts say.


    To which I’d add the caution that given how often studies are refuted by later studies, I would take this one not only with a grain of salt but with a truckload of salt.

    But then again I’m biased preferring the warm-hearted, those who uphold the law of Love to the hard-hearted no matter what their intelligence.

  • John M.


    I remember that study. PZ Meyers had alot to say about it (none of it positive): http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/02/stop_patting_yourselves_on_the.php

    It’s amazing how quickly people will uncritically swallow a study if it reflects positively on them. At that point, one wonders who is the bigger fool…

  • http://www.biblebeltblogger.com Frank Lockwood

    I’m not sure how mentioning snake handlers, in a story about Arkansas, reflects “regionalist, classist bias.”

    Arkansas, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have any snake-handling churches (Coincidentally, I was Googling for one earlier in the week and came up empty-handed, much to my disappointment.)

    I did attend a snake-handling church, though, in Eastern Kentucky.

  • MJBubba

    Mollie could ask Professor Mattingly about the snake-handling. As I recall, he interviewed some East Tennesseans who practiced the Gift of the Serpent. They are really interesting people.

  • John M.

    “Gift of the Serpent”?

    No offense intended, but isn’t that the title of a 70′s kung-fu movie?

    Great…now I’m stuck imagining a group of preachers locked in badly dubbed, hand to hand combat. =(

  • Dan

    In the current issue of the New Yorker (which has a Mike Huckabee profile worthy of dissection), “Talk of the Town” columnist Hendrik Hertaberg described Ray Mabus, who President Obama recently appointed to head a commission to restore the gulf coast, as “the Secretary of the Navy who, although a former governor of Mississippi, is an enlightened and competent public servant.”