A Conservative Encounter

One of the complications of blog writing is that, if you’re doing things interesting enough to blog about, it’s difficult to also find time to blog about it. I have so many ideas and pictures in the pipeline that it’s difficult to turn them into coherent posts. Especially with half my pictures trapped on my phone, since my big camera’s battery died and I can’t find the little cord to plug my phone into the compy.

If I had to boil down my whole week into one picture, it would be this one:

I spent precious little time actually reading on the porch, because it was a little windy for knitting. But so far, every day this week has involved some time reading and knitting, and some time enjoying the gorgeous weather down here. (Note: the weather has been pretty lame by Pensacola standards. But for the Marylander who has been trapped under Pittsburgh cloudcover for the past several months, blustery gulf breezes, scattered showers, and temps in the mid-60s has caused us to repeatedly exclaim “What a beautiful day!!”)

As I said, my pictures are scattered between disfunctional devices, but I got enough off the big camera to share this little narrative.

Navarre is about forty-five minutes from Pensacola. Pensacola is a pretty remarkable city, we learned from a museum; it was the earliest mainland settlement, has been held by five different countries, and is the  home of the Coca Cola company. It played some key roles in a couple of wars, though I’m a little fuzzy on the details. (What does it say about me that I pay more attention to the design of museum curation than the actual content? The backgrounds were pixelated and IT BOTHERED ME.)

But that’s not why I wanted to visit Pensacola. My reason is encapsulated in the picture above. Pensacola Christian College: second only to Bob Jones for its regulatory reputation. As we drove around, students were all dressed in business attire, with the girls all in skirts. Jared kept making noises of incredulity, until I reminded him that this is probably what it feels like for normal people to drive around Cedarville, his alma mater. It might seem weirdly conservative to us now, as “Whisky-palians,” but this is not at all far removed from the culture in which we were raised… and really, that in which we find ourselves still.

Almost all of my education through the eighth grade proceeded directly from this city. I was homeschooled all the way through high school, and until the 9th grade, almost all of my textbooks, curricula, and all other materials that shaped my fragile little mind proceeded from the A Beka Book publishing company. I even did the video school in eighth grade, watching lessons taped ten years previous, tittering to myself at the ridiculous clothes my fellow students, probably now in their thirties, were wearing. Although, considering how I was dressing myself in the eighth grade (floral-print stretch pants were only barely in my past), my scoffing meant little.

I think this is their sports center. Is that haze from the film of sticky sand particles coating our windows, or the radiance of the Holy Spirit?

I enjoyed my home education. It was A Beka Books curriculum that Mom let me speed through, doing the 1st through 5th grade work in four years. In middle school, I thrived under self-direction.

But the surreality of visiting this source of my primary education was enhanced by the book I’m trying to read this week: Fundamentalism and American Culture by George Marsden is the classic church history text tracing the Fundamentalist movement, with what seems to me to be a fair and balanced perspective (tongue firmly planted in cheek). As I read through the 1870s, ’80s, ’90s, into the early decades of the 20th century, different factors click into place as the American church looked more and more like the institution that shaped my early worldview, piped straight from this bastion of Fundamentalist Evangelicalism in Pensacola. Not that I was brought up 100% evangelical; far from it. I was brought up Catholic, actually, but A Beka was the curriculum my mom was led to – she might tell you why in the comments. As a result, there were whole swaths of assignments I didn’t even have to read: for example, anything with anti-Catholic rhetoric (which was a good bit) and anything written by Martin Luther. But still, most of what I remember from fifth grade science, aside from playing with a microscope and a bunson burner, is large chapters of propaganda for six-day creationism, which I believed militantly until college.

Is she a conservative or a liberal? Who knows! It depends on who she's talking to and what the issue is! Our country has a pattern of theology imitating politics! Is that not weird?! This is why an education in western civilization is good for you!

The reflection was further deepened by our visit to the Air Force Arms and Armaments museum north of Destin, the other direction from Pensacola. I love the National Air and Space Museum, and this seemed like it might be related. But really. “Arms and Armaments”? It was more or less a museum of bombs and bullets that go in planes. Probably watching too much Doctor Who has turned me into a right little pacifist, or maybe I’m just too much a product of the post-Vietnam culture of disillusionment, but being there was not fun. I have an immense amount of respect for the individuals who serve in the military, but I find it really hard to feel patriotic about the technology of killing people. When we came across the display of the napalm canister, we just left.

My pictures from there are trapped in my phone, but I’ll leave you with this distressing picture from the Pensacola museum:


The next day, I was reading in Marsden about what the first World War did to religion in this country, creating a paranoia out of which conservatives and liberals were both accusing each other of German influences. That, in a nutshell, is how the fundamentalist movement, originally so into premillenialism that they weren’t optimistic about any government at all, became super pro-America.

Anyway, I’m not sure where this ramble was going. I don’t want to say too much, because this is just a bit of reflection and evaluation of the influences that shaped me, and it’s nowhere near finished. Like most people who grow up, I can see my cultural/spiritual heritage as a mixed bag. Being the product of such varying influences is part of why I’m so into ecumenism; I have to work out in my own mind and heart the schisms which have rent the whole church. So, the more I can learn about where these things come from, the better. But the closer it gets to my literal home, the more it makes me squirm.

The week is winding down – tomorrow we leave for South Carolina, where we’ll spend a couple of days hanging out with Rachel and her fiance. (Wedding dress shopping! WURD) Then it’s home for the last few days of reading week, which I do really need to spend reading. Hopefully by then I’ll have found my camera cord and will show you some wool related things…



9 thoughts on “A Conservative Encounter

  1. As to your education, the reason I picked out ABeka books is because they were the most colorful and logically set up. So many back in 90’s were black and white; I wanted us to have color, interest. There were hardly any Catholic books yet for home school, so it took me a while to find them. And really, ABeka books were not unfair to Catholics until middle school. By 6th grade I managed to find a Catholic world history book, and that helped give a balanced perspective. That’s all I asked, for as well-rounded a look at world history as one could manage.


  2. Since the denomination I grew up in was Arminian on the east coast, and Calvanist on the west, I spent most of my teenage years trying to prove to myself that I wouldn’t loose my salvation if I did whatever I wanted, as long as I repented on my death bed.

    Church history and science fiction – why are we drawn to both?


  3. @Mike: ha.

    @Mom: Interesting. I did get the impression there wasn’t much else out there until like 10-15 years ago, unless you made it up yourself, which was a big pain with the whole review process. What a mess!

    @Kathy: What denomination was that? I didn’t know it was an actual denomination. Lol… I just like a good story.


  4. Having grown up in a decidedly obscure sect of Christianity and then being heavily influenced by standard evangelical church in my teen years, being an Episcopalian was my act of rebellion in college. Trying to explain my husband going to school at Nashotah House is completely lost on my family, Trinity would be much easier. The cassocks and the smells and bells just don’t compute.

    All that being said, I am learning that our journey to Anglicanism is rather common. Maybe not in the wider world but certainly among those being drawn to the Anglican/Episcopal church (not sure what bowl of the alphabet soup that the Anglican and Episcopal community is these days you all are eating).


  5. Your dad was 10 years younger than me, so he wasn’t that aware of spiritual things when we were in So.Ca. I think when we moved up north, our dad was very idealistic on what could be accomplished if Christians could all be one, regardless of what denomination they attended. Some of his dreams just didn’t work out for various reasons. So he moved on to where his vision could be realized in a practical way. Hence, the independent view, which he still practices today. And which I really admire.


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