Times team laughs at all those bitter Texans

Since I grew up in a solidly Baylor family, I have always understood why the university's seal contains the following crucial words in Latin: Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana. That is, of course, for the church, for Texas.

A church historian friend of mine once laughed out loud when he saw those words on the front of an old Baylor sweatshirt that was wearing. He thought, of course, that this referred to some kind of over-the-top Baylor pride in the state of Texas.

Nope, the seal simply states the fact that Baylor was chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas.

The university's web site explains both parts of that equation, but the key part is the text that tries to describe the higher loyalty involved in that slogan:

Pro Ecclesia. Baylor is founded on the belief that God's nature is made known through both revealed and discovered truth. Thus, the University derives its understanding of God, humanity and nature from many sources: the person and work of Jesus Christ, the biblical record, and Christian history and tradition, as well as scholarly and artistic endeavors. In its service to the Church, Baylor's pursuit of knowledge is strengthened by the conviction that truth has its ultimate source in God and by a Baptist heritage that champions religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

I bring this up for a simple reason: I imagine that if a Baylor grad walked into the newsroom of The New York Times these days, that whole "For the Church, For Texas" thing would also be pretty funny. I say that after reading the laugh-to-keep-from-crying piece that the Gray Lady ran the other day under the headline, "With Stickers, a Petition and Even a Middle Name, Secession Fever Hits Texas."

It must be very hard for people outside of Texas to understand that there is more to that whole TexasSecede.com thing than the reelection of President Barack Obama.

Now, I realize that it's hard to know just how seriously to take this story.

Nevertheless, it's crucial for the Times team to realize that there is more to that growing sense of red-zip code rebellion than, well, a bizarre sense of Texas nationalism, gun fever and a few other issues that are punch-lines in the elite blue cities (including, yes, in Austin). Here is the key passage, the kind of token summary of the facts in the middle of all the strangeness:

A petition calling for secession that was filed by a Texas man on a White House Web site has received tens of thousands of signatures, and the Obama administration must now issue a response. And Larry Scott Kilgore, a perennial Republican candidate from Arlington, a Dallas suburb, announced that he was running for governor in 2014 and would legally change his name to Larry Secede Kilgore, with Secede in capital letters. As his Web page, secedekilgore.com, puts it: “Secession! All other issues can be dealt with later.”

In Texas, talk of secession in recent years has steadily shifted to the center from the fringe right. It has emerged as an echo of the state Republican leadership’s anti-Washington, pro-Texas-sovereignty mantra on a variety of issues, including health care and environmental regulations. For some Texans, the renewed interest in the subject serves simply as comic relief after a crushing election defeat. ...

The official in East Texas, Peter Morrison, the treasurer of the Hardin County Republican Party, said in a statement that he had received overwhelming support from conservative Texans and overwhelming opposition from liberals outside the state in response to his comments in his newsletter. He said that it may take time for “people to appreciate that the fundamental cultural differences between Texas and other parts of the United States may be best addressed by an amicable divorce, a peaceful separation.”

So, if this issue is slowly creeping from the right fringe -- the edge that is the primary focus of this blue-ink report -- toward the middle, what are the issues that are driving that movement? What, in other words, are the primary "cultural differences" that many -- not all, but many -- die-hard Texans are convinced separate their state from some other parts of the United States?

The story cites "health care" as one of those issues. Did anyone one linked with the Times follow up on that?

Let me stress, once again, that I am very much a prodigal Texan who has chosen to spend most of his life in blue zip codes (think Maryland, Charlotte, Baltimore, West Palm Beach). However, I have a hunch that this whole angry Texas thing has just as much to do with issues of religion as it has to do with "environmental regulations." Did anyone ask any questions about, oh, religious liberty and free speech issues?

A totally secular story on this issue strikes me as most strange. Bizarre, even. Might some of these bitter Texans even be mad enough to, what was that Obama phrase, try to cling to their old-fashioned beliefs about God and guns?

Here's hoping that the Times team elects to talk to some folks closer to the middle next time.

IMAGE: Early flag of the Republic of Texas.

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