Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Much like a reporter sent to a lost Pacific isle to investigate the strange beliefs of the natives, the BBC's Justin Webb has beendispatched to Mississippi to witness honest-to-goodness religious people:
Mississippi is home to millions of trees, and not many millions of people.

It is a verdant, sweaty place. As your plane comes down to land there are glints all around of sunlight on still water, meandering rivers, reservoirs and swamps, where the line between the still brown liquid and the vegetation is blurred.

The state is mostly rural and poor, shacks and mobile homes nestling under the canopy of the forest, rusting pick-up trucks bouncing down dirt roads.

And churches, everywhere churches.

Yes, they have them in Britain, too, although they usually call them by their updated name: antique shops. Certainly the good Mr. Webb goes into the situation with a sympathetic view:
There are more churches per head of population in Mississippi than in any other state and, historically, you could argue, more racial prejudice, more unchristian behaviour.

I came to Mississippi assuming, in a European secular sort of way, that holy scripture, which once led Mississippi whites down the road of bigotry, was unlikely to be the state's saviour today.

On the radio the so-called family Christian station was explaining why God invented women and the Devil invented feminism.

Mr. Webb's article continues as a rollicking ball of naive liberal assumptions ("In a nation without anything but the most basic social services, without a National Health Service..." and "The American penal system is brutal, the sentences are long and the conditions harsh.") and wide-eyed wonder as Mr. Webb sees genuine love, concern and, well, Christian-like actions from those Mississippi people. Who'd a-thunk it?

Someday, sociology and anthropology students throughout Britain will study Mr. Webb's penetrating report.

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