White Evangelicals as Scarlett O’Hara

White Evangelicals as Scarlett O’Hara March 29, 2023

We are coming to the end of March, which happens to be Oscar month. For those who care, many gather to watch who wins best picture and the other categories pertinent to movie making. If one is a cinephile, it’s a special month for sure.

For those who watch the Turner Classic Movie channel, in March of each year, they run movies that have won Best Picture throughout the decades. If one has an affinity for the cinematic arts, it’s a great way to either catch up on those movies one has never seen, or seen, but love viewing again due to a special admiration or appreciation.

I didn’t grow up in that era, but late in life, I’ve come to appreciate the movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age. This month, I watched again one of my favorite movies, Gone With the Wind. There are many famous scenes and dialogue in that movie, but the one that stood out to me this time, was Scarlett’s soliloquy where she is standing alone before a beautiful sunset. She has lost everything at this point. The Civil War has ended but the family estate/plantation is in ruins. They are poor, beaten, and defeated.

Before the war, Scarlett lived a carefree life in the south and usually received what she wanted, or, better, what she wanted was given to her. She was privileged by her skin color, history, and social standing. That was all gone now, other than the fact she was still much more privileged than a freed black person. She now stands alone and gives this soliloquy:

As God is my witness, as God is my witness, they’re not going to lick me! I’m going to live through this, and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again – no, nor any of my folks! If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill, as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

As I watched that scene and listened to those words, I couldn’t help but think how closely it matched the sentiment I think presently burns in the hearts and minds of many white evangelicals.

One reason, I believe, many white evangelicals (81-82%) voted for he who cannot be named (starts with a D) is because, right or wrong (mostly wrong) they feel like Scarlett does. They feel everything has been taken away from them (which is laughable). They feel beaten. They feel defeated.

They feel like the culture has left them behind (which is true, thank God) and is now even their enemy. The culture is their enemy, the state is their enemy (of course only when a democrat is president), the “secular” is their enemy, immigrants are the enemy, and any who disagree with them when it comes to sexuality or abortion are the enemy.

Like much of the South after the Civil War, all they can see are enemies, all the way around. Everywhere they look it seems, hiding behind every corner, is some imagined new nefarious presence. Of all these supposed specters, one begins to lose count. We are tempted to ask, “Are they in the room right now, can you see them.”

And then, in 2016, when he who cannot be named crawled up out of the dank and musty caverns he inhabited, the dark caves of malice, ignorance, and insecurity and whispered in the ears of white evangelicals, they said to themselves in response:

As God is my witness, as God is my witness, they’re not going to lick me! I’m going to live through this, and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again – no, nor any of my folks! If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill, as God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

Cultural, political, and social influence is a powerful intoxicant. Once one has imbibed its pleasant poison, once that inky well has been tasted, if ever taken away (or imagined to be taken away—perhaps they were lost due to other reasons), the withdrawals can induce people to do all sorts of things they would normally never consider. The hunger for those things can cause a blindness that removes moral restraints of all sorts.

Someone might say, wait, are you really suggesting white evangelicals would do any of those things for political power? Yes, I am. Why? Because the proof is right before us. On January 6th, 2021, people died as a result of that attempted insurrection. Items were stolen from the Capitol. And people continue to lie about that day, the election, and many other aspects of those disastrous four years. Many of them know it’s all a lie but they continue to raise money off of it and so cheat their followers.

I think Scarlett O’Hara is the perfect metaphorical character for picturing the current mindset and sentiments of many white evangelicals when it comes to how they view the world around them. To behold them and their view of most everything around them is a pitiful and sad sight frankly. They suffer from a thousand self-inflicted wounds, all of which, they somehow imagine were caused by others.

The “secular” world, the culture, the political world, the law, and almost every aspect of American history and life, from the very beginning, has been for the most part, very tolerant of evangelical Christianity. They’ve been patient and overlooked her many flaws. However, just like Scarlett could not let go her love for Ashley Wilkes, neither can white evangelical Christianity seem to get over their love of political power and influence.

We might say that Clark Gable’s character, Rhett Butler, best represents the secular, non-Christian American world—the world that has tried over the decades to live amicably and peacefully alongside the evangelical world. This character personification, in a way, even loved the evangelical world.

At our present time however, that attempt has been either completely missed or rejected by all the Scarlett O’Haras in the world of white evangelicalism. In my mind, the American segment represented by Rhett Butler has every right, at this point, to do exactly what he did: Walk away finally and when they ask what they are to do about their need for privilege, political power and influence, tell them we frankly just don’t give a damn anymore.

Check out my new book.

I have a Patreon Page—please consider supporting my writing.

"What an informative and articulate article. Thank you."

Christian Nationalism Creates the Need for ..."
"Sound of Freedom may not promote QAnon nonsense, but it is nonetheless part of a ..."

Does the Movie “Sound of Freedom” ..."
"Barabbas is really bar abbas. It means 'son of a father'. There are no records ..."

Evangelicals and Barabbas: Who Will They ..."
"they're broken down emotionally and taught to resist critical thinking and blindly support people who ..."

Evangelicals Are Attracted to Conspiracy Theories—Why?

Browse Our Archives