by Bill Nugent
Many of us remember the recent spate of newspaper articles with titles such as Divorce Rates Up in Evangelical Stronghold. Clever reporters analyzed the divorce rates in Oklahoma and two other “Bible belt” states and found them to be slightly higher than the national average. This finding was then correlated with the relatively large number of conservative Evangelical Christians that live in those states.
I found this tactic to be both condescending and demeaning to conservative Christians. No reporter would have dared to analyze the social problems of other regions of America and correlate those social problems with the ethnic groups that live there. No other racial or religious minority would have their presence publicly portrayed as having a negative impact on society.
The reason for social problems in various regions is always correlated to social conditions such as poverty, family breakdown and poor education. Never are social problems even implicitly blamed on the simple presence of a minority group. Conservative Christians are the only group so publicly humiliated by the mainstream media. Public entertainment also tends to portray Christians in a negative way. This is the socially accepted form of bigotry in postmodern America.
You can imagine the outcry if media people did a story on how the large numbers of a particular racial or immigrant ethnic group in a city correlated with a high rate of violent crime in that city.
Bible believing Christians are a small minority even in the Bible belt. I lived almost ten years of my adult life in central Florida which is definitely Bible belt territory. I can verify firsthand that Bible believing Christians are just a small minority. Even if we Christians do have some bad statistics on a few issues our small numbers would have a minimal impact on the state as a whole.
Christian churches and organizations reach out to the poor and needy. Hurting people are drawn to us. Ex-cons, mental patients, street people, the homeless and recovering alcoholics come to us for help and join our churches. Some sincerely convert but others just wear the Christian label and live conflicted and compromising lives. This, in large measure, is what accounts for our bad statistics on a few social issues.
There is no basis for negative stereotyping of conservative Evangelical Christians.