Hell, it seems, hath no fury like a community — or a congregation — scorned in print.
One of the favorite stories I wrote for The Associated Press during the 2004 presidential campaign involved the publisher of Republican George W. Bush’s hometown newspaper endorsing Democrat John Kerry:
CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — Signs at the bank, the cafe and the Bottlinger Grain bins all declare Crawford – the proud home of the president’s ranch – as “Bush Country.”
So when the Lone Star Iconoclast, a tiny weekly that bills itself as Bush’s hometown paper, endorsed Democrat John Kerry, there was hell to pay.
Local businesses pulled their ads and banned the paper from their stores.
“We felt a little betrayed,” said Larry Nelson, manager of the Crawford Country Style, a downtown shop that sells “Luvya Dubya” trinkets and other Bush memorabilia.
Most folks in Crawford (pop. 705) wholeheartedly support the re-election of the man whose “Western White House” made their speck on the map famous. Eighty-two percent voted for President Bush in 2000.
The paper’s publisher, W. Leon Smith, said he never expected such a hostile response. He knew “a person or two might pull an ad, that we might lose a subscriber or two.”
“But this has turned a little more vicious,” said Smith, 51, wearing a decade-old knit tie and ink pens in his white shirt pocket.
I thought of that story when I came across an AP report today about a Southern Baptist church seeking an assistant pastor’s ouster.
The pastor’s apparent offense? His wife wrote a less-than-flattering “humor column” about Southern Baptists.
The top of the AP story:
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A newspaper column lampooning Southern Baptists, calling the group “the crazy old paranoid uncle of evangelical Christians,” is causing quite a stir in a Kentucky city and put a pastor’s job in jeopardy.
The column was written by Angela Thomas, the wife of Bill Thomas, an assistant pastor at the First Baptist Church in Madisonville. Her column was done in response to the Southern Baptist Convention’s opposition to a new Boy Scouts of America policy that welcomes gay members.
“Sexuality doesn’t come up and isn’t relative to typical scouting activities but now, thanks to Southern Baptists, the parents of little innocent scouts everywhere are having to have The Talk,” she wrote June 19 in The Madisonville Messenger. She writes a weekly humor column for the community paper, which publishes daily.
Later, the story notes: