Standing around on the main drag of Pigeon Forge waiting for Dolly Parton’s homecoming parade, I chatted with the guy beside me on the sidewalk, thereby plummeting headlong into a dimension of the conflict currently tearing the country to shreds. His name is Terry Hall and he’s “saved,” a fundamentalist to the bone and perfectly happy to “witness” to any godless soldier-of-the-antichrist Californian who happens to be standing around in Pigeon Forge. That would be me, and I wondered which of us would qualify as the “melungeon,” the demonic different one. Both of us, I suppose.
I and everybody I know on the entire planet regard people like Terry as deluded, incomprehensible and dangerous. And unquestionably Terry and the entirety of his social cohort regard us in an even darker light. There is no interface.
And yet… Terry is intelligent and articulate, scarcely the traditional vicious wacko, and we had a good time bantering on a Tennessee sidewalk. I said, “I suppose this means you voted for Bush,” to which he answered, “Both times!” I said, “How could you? The man’s an idiot.” He said, “Yeah, but he gets it!” So there you have it. George W. Bush “gets” something or other about fundamentalist religion and nothing else matters. This is the impasse, the uncrossable chasm, and it’s scary. At least Terry’s indifferent to the rapture stuff, considering it mere “theology,” which doesn’t interest him. I, on the other hand, love to talk theology, in which the rapture doesn’t figure. Terry and I do not, cannot, understand each other or make sense of each other, but there’s something to be said for hanging out for a while.
After the parade Terry gave me two of his eighteen gospel CDs (here’s his website – http://terryghallmusicministry.com/) and I promised to send a couple of my books for his wife Janice, since Terry will read nothing but the Bible. Neither of us was willing to abandon hope, however. As we left I said, “If you would just read one book – Jeff Sharlet’s C STREET – you’ll at least understand why millions of people are so uncomfortable with fundamentalist religion in politics.” “Here’s a deal,” he said. “You send me that book and I’ll read it if you’ll read Romans 8.” Hey, deal.
So I read Romans 8, St. Paul pointing out that an exclusive focus on rationality is deadly, a position with which I do not argue, so I’m not sure what that was about. I’ve sent Terry C STREET. Maybe he’ll read it.