As I read the book, The Redeemers by Ace Atkins, a quote caught my eye and stung like an accidental splash of toothpaste to the same eye. Am I the only idiot figuring out a way to get toothpaste in his eye and actually doing it more than once?
Is comparing a quote to a stinging eyeball a horrible analogy? “His quote stung like toothpaste rubbed in my eye.” It explains why I’m using an Ace Atkins quote instead of one of my own and why I try to avoid using analogies. “Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze.”
The quote from the book, “There is nothing that Southerners hate more than self-examination,” resonated and sparked my own self-examination of the paradoxes which surround me. The quote was thoroughly accurate as far as my own moral failings are concerned and honestly it is more about my own self-examination.
Before I’m accused of broad stroking an entire group of people, I’m not. If this shoe doesn’t fit, don’t try to force your foot into it. That is on you, and you may find your foot, along with your shoe, stuck in your mouth and my foot stuck somewhere else…metaphorically of course. I’m not talking to or about you if the shoe is not yours. If the shoe fits…well that is between you and your lord and I just want you to ponder as I do.
The South has been accused of having many paradoxes, like pointing out someone’s moral failings while ignoring one’s own or railing against someone else’s corruption, moral or monetary, while disregarding the corruption or moral failings of your favorite politician if it advances your political agenda. All one must do is look at the histories of our state governments to find notable examples. Wilbur Mill’s reelection after running afoul of Fannie Foxe, the “Tidal Basin Bombshell” comes to mind. Southerners haven’t cornered the market on moral failings or paradoxes, we just get caught with great style and dash.
Some paradoxes are quaint or cute, others not so much. As you might imagine, my essay will eventually turn from cute or quaint. It will turn toward paradoxes that revolve around religion and politics. I’m sure other parts of the country have their own paradoxes…and issues with religion as it relates to politics but again, we Southerners do it with such elegance.
“Religion, Religion! Oh, there is a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.” The words shouted in Jimmy Buffett’s ditty, Fruitcakes came to mind when country-western icon Vince Gill and his wife, the “Queen of Christian Pop” music Amy Grant were discussing the paradoxes of their relationship during an interview. Vince pointed out that they weren’t that different. They were singing to the same clientele. He was singing to the drunks and hell raisers on Saturday night, and she was singing to the same drunks and hell raisers, now recovering, and praying for redemption, on Sunday morning.
Not a direct quote but the crux of one paradox. It’s also one of the cute or quaint paradoxes. There are a lot of “Sunday morning and Wednesday night Christians” who will enjoy ‘several’ too many shots of brown liquor on a Saturday night and pray for forgiveness through a blinding hangover on Sunday morning. Bless our pea-pickin’ hearts and please help me remember exactly what sins I committed last Saturday night…or I really don’t want to know.
Saturday night might be relative. I know Fannie Foxe’s foray into the Washington Tidal Basin took place on a late Monday night and while not stopping Wilbur’s reelection to the House of Representatives, might have derailed his dream of a much higher office.
I live in the Bible Belt and like a stereotypical big-bellied sheriff’s Sam Brown Belt, we wrap our religious mantle tightly around us…except when we don’t. Sometimes we even make jokes about it.
“What’s the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist? The Methodist will say hello to you in the liquor store.”
“How does a Baptist get into Heaven? They bring a casserole.”
Only recently were we less conservative, Jesus loving, Agnostic, Deist, Buddhaptists allowed to enjoy a store-bought adult beverage during a Sunday lunch out on the town as Blue Laws were relaxed. While I struggle with my religious beliefs, I do believe in something, “I believe I’ll have another drink.”
Like the good Methodist turned Baptist turned Dudeist that I am, anytime I publicly order a beer I look around first to see if any of my former students or my church peers are in attendance. I’m still gonna order, I’ll just make sure I avoid eye contact.
Religion even gets intertwined with our eating habits. We had an advertising war that took on religious overtones. An anti-LGBTQ, we ain’t gonna open on a Sunday, chicken sandwich chain was purported to have divine support over the spicy, straight from Satan’s “sin city of the South”, fried chicken chain. Chanting and making the sign of the cross with crossed fingers, “My God loves X’s chicken sandwiches better than those of the Devil’s Minion!” See, we can be insanely funny. Accent on insane. Yep, I like the spicy chicken place better…”Get thee behind me Satan!”
Insanity could explain some of our choices during election cycles. I lean left in a deeply Southern red state and sometimes I believe we’ve lost our ever-loving minds…just not as badly as some other deep red Southern states. In the most recent cycle, a deep South state almost elected an accused pedophile rather than electing a… gasp…Democrat. Politics over family values just as Jesus intended.
We tend to wrap our religion tightly with the flag along with our patriotism and tie them all together…I’m just not sure which flag, the national flag, or the Confederate Battle Flag. If we were on the side of the angels why did God allow us the South to lose? Did someone sin?
Some Southerners will ridicule and threaten to tar and feather you if you don’t stand for the National Anthem at a football game while wearing a “Forget Hell” belt buckle and flying the battle flag from their pickup trucks displaying several Sons of Confederate Veteran bumper stickers. Confusing ain’t it.
I have “bigly” concerns over our touting of the “sacred” Second Amendment while ignoring the parts of the First Amendment that include “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Certain more conservative than me religious groups would like to put iconic stone tablets into every government building or school but would get a might squirrelly if a coven of witches wanted to honor the goddess of fertility, Ostara…by dancing ‘nekid’ on the town square next to the Confederate War monument. Beware of what you wish for, it may have unwanted repercussions. One should be just as unconstitutional as the other and I don’t wish to live in your theocracy.
Paradoxes aside, a quote by Flannery O’Conner, “I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted” sparked more self-examination.
I am haunted by the days when I sat attentively beside my brother, in between our parents on the short pew no other church member would dare sit on because “That’s where the Miller’s sit.” Haunted days before I began to think for myself and question motivations. Days when I didn’t wonder if Jesus’s message was being bastardized and the Bible weaponized. Days when religions had not moved so far right…or is that the paradox. Have I just moved left?
Don Miller writes on a variety of subjects, non-fiction, and fiction. You may access his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM
Fruitcakes by Jimmy Buffett
The featured image is from https://imgur.com/gallery/D0FKLsK/comment/1073493907. I actually had this done. A cyst on my wrist was thumped with the family Bible and for a time disappeared. It came back, much like my self-examination and self-ridicule.