Saturday, September 6, 2008

Small-Town Values

The phrase "small-town values" was used quite a few times in the speeches during the recent political conventions. It is assumed that we all have a common understanding of the phrase and that it is a completely positive thing. When asked to articulate just what is meant by the phrase, however, many people struggle to articulate a response.

Considerations for the discussion:
  • How do you define small-town values

  • What virtues, qualities, etc. are included

  • What aspects of "city values" are excluded

  • Are they unique to small-town people or are they also found in a broader category of persons

Thanks for taking the time to wrestle with this definition.

1 comment:

Harvey Johnson said...

First, I need to make clear there is no such thing as a red state or a blue state. States are purple; a mixture of both conservatives and progressives or democrats and republicans. In fact, some people are a mixture of conservative and progressive thought. Having said this, it is clear that the conservative base is strong in rural and small towns while progressive thought seems to have a stronger base in the larger towns and cities. This emphasis on the label, small town values, is clearly, at least to me, an attempt to pander to voters in small towns. The fact of the matter is, when asked about what these specific values were, small town residents were not uniform or homogenous in their answers.

Having lived in a small town, I could say that small town values include bigotry, racism, sexism, religious intolerance, anti-government anarchists, (like the posse comittatus) and so on. This is not what the Republicans mean, I know that. But it is foolish to suggest that people in the larger towns and cities do not place value on the same things; a quality life for their families , a good job, good education, access to health care, etc.

I would note, for example that the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which might be described as kind of progessive in terms of theology, has the lowest divorce rate in the US among Christian denominations, according to an independent study, (something like 24% compared to 38% among evangelical, fundamentalist and non-denominational churches). The Roman Catholics come close when counting divorces but that number does not include annulments). My point is that there is a difference in talking about small town values and living them.

More specifically, I have noted as many, if not more, egregious moral lapses among politicians who claim to be conservative and hold conservative values than among politicians who do not. We are all sinners, but my ire is raised when progressives are labeled as lacking moral integrity.

Jeus warned against accusing your brother of having a speck in his eye when you have a log stuck in your own eye. Yes, I am guilty of this too. (Perhaps even now.) However, is it more Christian to care for the foreigner in our midst, remembering that we were once strangers in a foreign land (this is a commandment by the way) or to imprison the foreigner? Is it more Christian to feed the hungry and fight to overcome institutional injustice or do we invade, torture, degrade, imprison and murder (like Blackthorn did)?

I'm just asking.