Here in America election day is nigh! Today’s timely guest post on fundyland and politics comes to us from Neal C.
The height of my fundie career was as a student at Liberty University from 1981-84, and of course the high point of that time was –
BAPTIST FUNDAMENTALISM ’84!!!
In April of 1984 Jerry Falwell basically had a huge IFB conference in Washington DC, invited pretty much every Independent Fundamental Baptist that would still speak to him, and actually bused the entire student body of the Liberty University to DC for nearly a week of fundie conference fun! To make things even more exciting Ronald Reagan was the keynote speaker on the last night of the conference!
I was a senior in ’84 so I finagled my way out of the more boring sessions by volunteering as an ‘usher’, running around in a red vest, directing lost fundies to conference rooms and generally looking important. On the night of Regan’s speech we ushers were each assigned a portion of the bleachers to help move the crowds in and out. My portion was just to the left of the stage (Reagan’s right), from bottom to middle. A skinny kid had the same section from middle to top.
As an aside, just to give a historical context to both Jerry Falwell and the times, Falwell begins his introduction of the President of the United States with a “Where’s the Beef?” joke. You can take a fundie out of the hills…. Anyway, about 11 minutes into Reagan’s speech a group of protesters broke out some signs and started chanting “Bread not bombs! Bread not bombs!”. I was rather mortified to find out they were in MY section, up at the top of the bleachers. Now what do I do?
I was standing around wondering if the Secret Service took care of things like this (they don’t) and looking at the skinny kid to see if he was going to do something (he wasn’t). So being the impetus young fundie I was at the time I charged up the bleacher stairs, still wondering what I was going to do when I reached the top. I was a rather big fellow at the time and some lady exclaimed, “Look! They are sending the football team after them!” Then I heard the crowd roaring its approval behind me. What a trip!
Here we are 30 years after the event, and I wondered if any video remained of the ‘charge of the heavy brigade’ that fateful night. I searched high and low and actually found some footage — YouTube for the win!
If you watch the attached YouTube video you can catch a glimpse of this marvelous event. At about 11:25 the chanting starts. At 11:45 the crowd roars in applause as I go up the stairs and the preacher boys start converging on the area from the sides. At 12:07 we had pulled down the signs (mostly a big beds heet) and the preacher boys had warned the offenders to keep quiet or be ejected. Various preacher boys sat down in the midst of the protesters to quell future disturbances.
For the next minute or so you can hear Reagan try to get back on track and the protesters making disturbances. After a while the irrepressible protesters started in again and for a minute there actually was a scuffle as the preacher boys moved in to take the protesters out. One large protestor pushed/hit one of my friends, and my friend punched him back.
At 14:04 finally one of the cameras focuses in on us, that is a picture of the preacher boys carrying out the protester who wanted to fight. Listen to the crowd! You can tell the preacher boys by the white shirts, long ties and short fundie haircuts.
You can finally see me in my 1984 fundie glory for all of about 10 seconds from 14:23-14:33. I am the large red vested usher, 2 or 3 from the top. Straight hair, big Italian nose, mostly filmed from the rear or in profile. I think I had my mustache then (we were getting liberal). I remember the ‘long haired hippie lookin’ kid’ we ‘helped leave’ was literally shaking like a leaf. I didn’t want him to get hurt so I just asked him to get moving, and we didn’t have to carry him out.
You can barely make out what Falwell says to Reagan at 14:47, the remark was “We’re Baptists not Presbyterians”. The inference being those liberal Presbys probably wouldn’t know what to do — leave it to the IFB Boys to get ‘stuck in’.
I was amazed to find footage of the high water mark of my fundie career on YouTube. I showed it to my liberal older brother the other day (we argue a bit about politics and religion) and he remarked that there I was, me and Jerry Falwell stifling free speech together all the way back in 1984.
In the aftermath I lost track of the rest of the speech and the police were called because the ‘assaulted’ protester wanted to press charges. I skedaddled to avoid having to talk to the cops, there were plenty of other witnesses anyway.
Ah the good old days back when I was a fundie!