The first thing I read The New York Times this morning was the story about evangelicals at Ivy League schools -- people like recent Brown graduate Tim Havens:
In his sophomore year, ... he rededicated himself to serving God, and by his senior year he was running his own Bible-study group, hoping to inoculate first-year students against the temptations he had faced. They challenged one another, Mr. Havens said, "committing to remain sexually pure, both in a physical sense and in avoiding pornography and ogling women and like that." ...
On Friday nights, he is a host for a Bible-study and dinner party for 70 or 80 Christian students, who serve themselves heaping plates of pasta before breaking into study groups. Afterward, they regroup in the living room for board games and goofy improvisation contests, all free of profanity and even double entendre.
Lately, though, Mr. Havens has been contemplating steps that would take him away from Brown and campus ministry. After a chaste romance - "I didn't kiss her until I asked her to marry me," he said - he recently became engaged to a missionary colleague, Liz Chalmers.
After that I dropped the A section and went for the Book Review, where I read about stock-car racing and a NASCAR hero of the 1950s named Curtis Turner, the subject of a new biography:
If he wasn't racing drunk, sometimes decked in a silk suit, then he was racing with a splitting hangover. He was fond of passing a mint julep-filled jug back and forth to other drivers, through the racecar window, while he was racing. The first thing he did, when dragging himself out of his car in the victory lane, was light up a Camel. He invited reporters to Led Zeppelin-worthy parties -- pre-race and post-race -- where a bevy of waitresses or a police car might end up in a motel pool, or, if the affair was held in Turner's self-designed "party room," he might demonstrate how a fluorescent light could magically remove the few strips of clothing on the decorative images of beauty queens on the walls.
Then I read the review of David McCullough's 1776:
When we meet the colonials encamped around Boston in the summer of 1775, they are a wretched, ill-clad band.... Each man consumed, on average, a bottle of rum per day, and once-Puritan Boston was so rife with prostitutes that mapmakers labeled its red-light district "Mount Whoredom."
Now, I'm sure Tim Havens believes that the United States of America was founded and made free by godly, Christian men who would applaud his decision never to utter a curse word when he's partying with friends and not to entertain impure thoughts about any woman, even his bride-to-be. And I'm sure he also believes that somewhere in the second half of the twentieth century the Northeast became a sinkhole of depravity, while other parts of the country -- the South, surely -- retained a time-tested purity and reverence.
So Tim, where the hell did Curtis Turner come from? Or those whore-loving soldiers who brought us independence?
(And do you know what else I find amusing about Curtis Turner? That NASCAR "had troubles with him, ... ultimately banning him from the sport in 1961 for attempting to start a drivers' union." What?! That sounds ... well, liberal. For that a lone they oughta drum him out of the South's favorite sport posthumously.)