Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bible Belt Thinking

Earlier this morning I was over at Mark's place and a quote from one of his posts started me thinking. Yeah, I know it's dangerous but I couldn't help myself.

Many years ago I worked at Universal Studios. I was temping and the union called me up and asked if I was willing to take a pretty stressful job. I needed the money so I said yes. I was one of seven people who sat in a little room and answered the extra phone lines that had just been installed to handle the flood of calls regarding the limited (at that time) release of the Last Temptation of Christ.

A few weeks earlier I had been working for a VP who lost her job (hence the temping) and was setting up her office for her new producing gig (I couldn't go with her because I wasn't a production secretary) and the phone rang. This nice man identified himself as the Rev. Wildmon and asked me if I was going to see the movie. I said no, it wasn't my sort of movie (Life of Brian was better). He said I should protest and help prevent the release of the movie. I told him don't see it and it will die of its own accord.

No such luck. So there I am sitting in this hot little room answering a phone that was literally ringing off the hook. Our job was to take down the city and state they were calling from. OMG! These people were to put it politely, nuts.

When the calls first started they said things like, "I want to protest about that movie." Which movie would that be? "That one about my Jesus" or "I don't know, my preacher told me to call." I get bored pretty fast when I'm dealing with stupidity so I start to egg the callers on, trying to find out if they knew why they were calling. They didn't, but their pastor told them it was important so they went home and dialed away. The same people would call over and over. I'm really good with voices and by the second day I recognized the serial callers, I can't believe the money they wasted, sometimes there were so many callers that the hold time was 20 minutes. And then they would call right back.

By the end of the first week I was taking about 700 calls a day. By the end of the second week international calls started coming in. Well, if you keep writing city and state or country, eventually the geography sinks in. It really is a belt. The calls were predominantly from a narrow band thru the United States and around the world, with the West Coast being an exception.

I was absolutely fascinated by this and would go home at night and look at my world map and mark in the new calls. The Bible belt circled the globe and was desperately trying to reshape the world because of a movie that was only going to be released in New York and Los Angeles for Oscar consideration. Nobody was going to see this movie except the critics and film buffs. Until they made it popular by giving it airplay and untold amounts of free advertising. Universal made a mint once you understand their accounting practices.

As time went on the calls became abusive. I was called names that no Christian should know much less let come out of their mouth. There was this woman from Florida who asked me if I had children. I said no. She said "that's a good thing because if you did they should be taken from you for your low moral character in working for a company like this."

After four weeks of this I'm pretty tired of it all and I end up in a discussion, which was broadcast on a radio station in Ventura, with a lawyer who finally tells me that the First Amendment should be repealed if movies like this can be made. I lost it and told him he was a quack that couldn't think straight and that the bar must have been very easy that year in order for him to have passed it, hung up and got a new job. There wasn't enough money in the world to put up with that crap.

So now it's almost 20 years later and they are still at it and their influence is growing. What bothers me is that people are still following without thinking, willing to give up everything that this country stood for in the foolish pursuit of religious fundamentalism.

Our Founding Fathers would be so unhappy with their offspring. The people who first settled in this country would be pleased in one way since they shared the same intolerant views but times are different now and the makeup of the country is different. If the Amish can live peacefully and according to their values in America, why can't the so called religious right? It isn't necessary for them to impose their views on the majority, we'll leave them alone if they leave us alone.


  1. Great story, and you came to a great conclusion!


  2. I stayed with Universal, just a different department.