It is a truth too seldom acknowledged that white Bay Area journalists are exquisitely attuned to the ways of white southern Evangelicals. After auditing courses from schools such as Ouachita Baptist College and East Texas Baptist University, they understand Southern Baptist theology far, far better than their peers. After doing years of fieldwork in places like Dallas and Virginia Beach, they deliver subtle, nuanced pieces of reportage that in no way cater to the prejudices of their readers from Berkeley and Sausalito.
Consider a recent devastating piece by Chronicle political reporter Carla Marinucci. According to Marinucci, Janet Huckabee, the wife of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, traveled to Las Vegas to root for middlweight boxing champ Jermain Taylor.
Most reporters would think nothing of -- would, in fact, secretly applaud -- a white Southern Evangelical woman cheering on a black Southern man. But Marinucci pointed out that Janet Huckabee's trip had been hypocritical, deeply hypocritical:
Janet Huckabee ... attended a middleweight prize fight this past weekend in Las Vegas -- where she stayed at the Hooters Casino Hotel.
That eye-opening combination -- a title bout in Sin City, which celebrates gambling, drinking and all things wild, along with a hospitality chain favoring buxom waitresses in low-cut garb -- could potentially shock the armies of evangelical conservative Christians who have made her husband, the former governor of Arkansas, the only remaining GOP opponent to party front-runner John McCain.
Was the story not bullet proof?
It implied, rightly of course, that according to the the Southern Baptist Convention's position on Missions, its adherents are forbidden from ever setting foot in Las Vegas. Not even to build a church or raise a family there.
It implied, again rightly, that Southern Baptist theology quite explicitly forbids its adherents from sleeping in the room of a Hooters Casino Hotel. All sexual sin, even desiring to engage in the same, is clearly unforgivable.
Its statement that evangelical conservative Christians would be shocked by Janet Huckabee's overnight stay betrayed a profound knowledge of modern evangelical culture. Few appreciate that American evangelicals have in no way evolved since the early 19th century.
Later in the story, Marinucci details Janet Huckabee's disgusting indulgence in the sin, whose circumstances recalled Jimmy Swaggart's taking of a prostitute to a hotel room:
But she said she never planned on staying at Hooters for the hot-ticket fight, which also drew such celebrities as Jack Nicholson, Michael Jordan, Eddie Murphy and Sylvester Stallone.
"I had a room at the MGM Grand," she said, but canceled it when she believed she wouldn't be able to make the fight. Plans changed, and "a friend had two rooms ... it was the only thing, quite frankly, that was available because the fights were in town."
Like a latter-day Flannery O'Connor, Marinucci showed that Huckabee is a deeply confused sinner seeking redemption. The effect was, quite simply, amazing.
Some right-wing radicals have objected to this impartial, balanced brand of journalism. Take Gary Bauer, for example. In response to The New York Times' story on John McCain, Bauer objected to perfectly valid stories about right-wing Republicans:
"Often it seems pretty clear that the real audience is Christian conservatives," he states. "That is, left-wing newspapers will go after conservative politicians in order to undermine them with Christian conservatives."
How wrong this "nerdy little ideologue" is. Obviously, he knows nothing of the path breaking work done on the subject by white Bay Area journalists.