An essay by the Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser in Monday's Guardian begins on a promising enough note: he criticizes BBC2 host Nick Page for describing Prime Minister Tony Blair as a Christian fundamentalist. Fraser writes:
Page is right to highlight the fact that Christian fundamentalism is creeping into the heart of middle England. But to describe the prime minister as a fundamentalist is flippant nonsense that seriously misplaces the meaning of the term. Using the F-word as a generalised insult for all those with religious convictions allows the real thing to slip by unchallenged.
So far so good.
But later there is this jaw-dropping bit of provincialism:
It is no coincidence that fundamentalism flourishes in places of low literacy. The US Bible belt is not a place where books are commonly read for pleasure or enlightenment: information comes from the radio and TV. For all their emphasis on the sacred text, fundamentalists are generally unfamiliar with the culture of books.
Fraser nowhere defines the boundaries of the Bible belt, or how he has determined the reading habits of fundamentalists. GetReligion decided to conduct a quick and nonscientific survey: Consulting Amazon's Purchase Circles to survey the great divide of cultural literacy.
Inside the Bible belt
Dallas 1. Christmas at the Ranch (Texas Heritage Series, No. 1) by Elmer Kelton, H.C. Zachry 2. The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well by Paula Larocque 3. Love Is a Wild Assault by Elithe Hamilton Kirkland 4. The Matisse Stories by A.S. Byatt 5. Plants of the Metroplex by John Howard Garrett, Howard Garrett 6. Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America by Garry Wills 7. Tales from the Dallas Cowboys by Charlie Waters, Cliff Harris 8. Lone Star Literature: From the Red River to the Rio Grande: A Texas Anthology by Don Graham (Editor), Larry McMurtry 9. The Lazy Person's Guide to Investing: A Book for Procrastinators, the Financially Challenged, and Everyone Who Worries About Dealing With Their Money by Paul B. Farrell 10. Texas Almanac 2004-2005
Greenville, S.C. 1. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom 2. How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long, David Shannon 3. The Da Vinci Code 4. Dilbert 2004 Day-to-Day Calendar by Scott Adams 5. Absolute Friends by John le Carre 6. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien 7. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels 8. Split Second by David Baldacci 9. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier 10. The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom by Phil McGraw
Nashville 1. The Praktikos Chapters on Prayer by Evagrius Ponticus 2. Wisdom of the Celtic Saints by Edward C. Sellner, Susan McLean-Keeney 3. Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses by Abraham Malherbe 4. Athanasius: The Life of Anthony and the Letter To Marcellinus by Robert C Gregg 5. Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller by Marshall Chapman 6. Celtic Spirituality by Oliver Davies, Thomas O'Loughlin 7. Discipline for Life: Getting it Right with Children by Madelyn Swift 8. Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works, edited by G.R. Evans 9. Meister Eckhart: The Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense, edited by Edmund Colledge, Bernard McGinn 10. The Rule of St. Benedict: In English by Benedict, et al
Springfield, Mo. 1. The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994 by Gary Larson 2. Bleachers by John Grisham 3. Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon 4. Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America by Molly Ivins, Lou Dubose 5. The Ultimate Weight Solution 6. Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore 7. The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich by David Bach 8. The Da Vinci Code 9. The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren 10. 500 Low-Carb Recipes: 500 Recipes from Snacks to Dessert That the Whole Family Will Love by Dana Carpender
Outside the Bible belt Chicago 1. The Dog Lover's Companion to Chicago: The Inside Scoop on Where to Take Your Dog by Margaret Littman, Phil Frank 2. Outside Magazine's Urban Adventure: Chicago by Lynn Schnaiberg 3. Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First Wave of Black Migration by Timuel D. Black 4. City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America by Donald L. Miller 5. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson 6. Chicago Then and Now by Elizabeth McNulty 7. Chicago 2004 Calendar by Ron Schramm 8. Christmas at the New Yorker: Stories, Poems, Humor, and Art 9. Bronzeville: Black Chicago in Pictures, 1941-1943 by Maren Stange, International Center of Photography 10. A Guy's Gotta Eat: The Regular Guy's Guide to Eating Smart by Russ Klettke, Deanna Conte
New Hyde Park, N.Y. 1. Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich 2. The Amateur Marriage: A Novel by Anne Tyler 3. The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss by Arthur Agatston 4. The Da Vinci Code 5. The Five People You Meet in Heaven 6. The Ultimate Weight Solution 7. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson 8. Deception Point by Dan Brown 9. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd 10. Dude, Where's My Country?
Portland 1. The Way We Cook: Recipes from the New American Kitchen by Sheryl Julian, et al 2. Wild & Scenic Oregon 2004 Calendar by Terry Donnelly, Mary Liz Austin 3. Oregon Geographic Names by Lewis McArthur 4. Wildwood: Cooking from the Source in the Pacific Northwest by Cory Schreiber, et al 5. Living Faith Day by Day: How the Sacred Rules of Monastic Traditions Can Help You Live Spiritually in the Modern World by Debra K. Farrington 6. eat.shop.portland. by Kaie Wellman 7. Living in the Presence: Spiritual Exercises to Open Our Lives to the Awareness of God by Tilden H. Edwards 8. B Is for Beaver: An Oregon Alphabet by Marie Smith, Roland Smith 9. Flora: A Gardener's Encyclopedia by Sean Hogan 10. What's for Dinner: 200 Delicious Recipes That Work Every Time by Maryana Vollstedt
Washington, D.C. 1. Antarctica: Journey to the Pole by Peter Lerangis 2. Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington's Destroyed Buildings by James M. Goode, Richard Longstreth 3. Best Addresses: A Century of Washington's Distinguished Apartment Houses by James M. Goode, et al 4. The X-President by Philip E. Baruth 5. The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club: Power, Passion, and Politics in the Nation's Capital by C. David Heymann 6. Sugarloaf: The Mountain's History, Geology and Natural Lore by Melanie Choukas-Bradley, Tina Thieme Brown 7. Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell 8. The People's Catechism: Catholic Faith for Adults by Raymond Lucker, et al 9. Tommy the Cork: Washington's Ultimate Insider from Roosevelt to Reagan by David McKean 10. One Fish, Two Fish, Crawfish, Bluefish: The Smithsonian Sustainable Seafood Cookbook by Carole C. Baldwin, et al