The Wall Street Journal (which I hardly ever read) recently ran a
front-page bar graph linking SAT scores (which I hardly ever care about)
to a variety of churches (which I hardly ever attend).
Still, I found the bar graph interesting. Even damn near
What it did, see, was to show which religious groups scored
highest on the SATs last year. Is that interesting or what?
Wanna see how your church did? Or how your neighbors' church did?
Here are the average SAT numbers of the ten highest scoring
religious groups: 1. Unitarian-Universalist Association, 1209; 2.
Judaism, 1161; 3. Society of Friends (Quaker), 1153; 4. Hinduism, 1110;
5. tie between Mennonites and the Reformed Church of America, 1097; 7.
Episcopal, 1096; 8. Lutheran (ELCA), 1094; 9. Presbyterian (USA), 1092;
10. Baha'i, 1073.
I suppose there are conclusions to be drawn from these rankings,
but I'm not going to draw them. You go ahead.
The Wall Street Journal didn't rank those religions that didn't
make the top ten, so if your church isn't listed here, assume it came in
The church I grew up in didn't make the top ten either. Which
would've shocked me when I was growing up in it because we knew all kinds
of things that other churches didn't know. Especially things that weren't
When it came to other religions, we were about as astute as the
four teenagers in Oswego, N.Y. who are on trial for burning a Sikh temple
The temple they burned was called the Gobind Sadan Temple. They
burned it because they thought it was called the Go Bin Laden Temple, and
hey, Sikhs wear turbans and beards and so does Bin Laden.
We didn't burn other churches when I was a kid. We figured we
didn't need to because we knew the people who went to them were going to
burn in hell anyway, and we didn't want to rub their noses in it.
We knew that our church was the only one God really liked. In
that regard, we were only a little less astute than Republican House Whip
Tom DeLay, who, when he isn't being a congressman, does evangelistic gigs.
On April 12, he told the congregation at the First Baptist Church in
Pearland, Tex., that "Christianity is the only way."
So if you're Muslim or Jewish or Sikh or Buddhist or anything else
other than Christian, you're going to have to burn in hell. Sorry about
I learned about hell when I was a Baptist in southwest Kansas in
I know that Baptists todaywell, maybe except for Tom DeLayare
not like we were then. I know they're much more tolerant and ecumenical.
I know that probably our best ex-Presidentthe kindest, most
compassionate, most committed to good worksis Jimmy Carter, and Jimmy
Carter is a Baptist.
The Truth, Mainly
But I'm not talking about Jimmy Carter-Baptists. Im talking about
southwest Kansas-circa 1940s-Baptists. The kind I was, the kind that
doesn't exist any more. Well, maybe except for Tom DeLay.
In addition to knowing that God Himself was a Baptist, we knew
that Baptists were the Original Church. Way before Catholicism, way
before the Reformation, there were Baptists.
And I rememberhhow could I forget?sitting in the barber shop,
hearing one of our Baptist deacons engage in theological disputation with
a Methodist who was saying that Baptists hadn't been around any longer
"Well," our Baptist deacon said quietly, "I've read the Bible all
the way through four times and I never read about no John the Methodist."
Nobody, not even the Methodist, said anything. Our barber, the
three of us waiting for haircuts, two innocent passersby (it was hot and
the door was open), and a stray dog panting in the shade of the
awningall of us were struck dumb by this lightening bolt of logic.
And had further proof been needed, our deacon could have gone
onthe way he often did in churchto argue that Baptists came first
because wasn't John the Baptist the first cousin of Jesus, and didn't he
eat locusts and then baptize Jesus by teetotal immersion in the river Jordan?
And we Baptists knew, there was nothing like getting teetotally
immersed, our whole lives flashing before us while the local John the
Baptist held us under, then lifted us up from the water, new born, washed
clean, dripping sanctity while the heavens opened and the Spirit like a
dove descended upon us.
Oops. Sorry for that little outburst of rapture. Got carried
away. Let's see now, what's all this got to do with the Wall Street
Journal's bar graph?
Oh, yes. Here's why my old church wouldn't have made the SAT top
ten: Little outbursts of rapture are hardly ever the right answers to SAT
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail