In 1988, I was working as editor for The Media, the local newspaper for Clark County, MO, based in Kahoka.

Not a lot of exciting things happen in a Midwest county with a population of about 8,000.  County fair pig contest winners, high school track winners, interviewing aunt Millie on her 90th birthday, checking the courthouse files to report who got speeding tickets.  Yawn.

But then the news hit that Martin Scorsese’s controversial The Last Temptation of Christ was soon to be released on VHS.  If you don’t remember, the movie caused a lot of furor with Christians because of its frank portrayal of Jesus as a complex and troubled individual with human desires.  You know, struggling with temptation, like the rest of us.

Word got out that the Kahoka Christian Church, the largest church in town, was going to boycott the local video rental store if it carried even a single copy of the movie when it came out.  Finally, I thought, something interestingStupid, but interesting.

I set up an interview with the pastor (name forgotten).  He went on about the blasphemy of the film, it’s an insult to Christians, etc.  It was like he memorized a memo from the Grand Exalted President of the Christian Church himself.  The boycott was to send a message that this sort of movie would not be tolerated ‘round these parts.  Then I asked the obvious question: “Have you seen the film?”

His response was swift, and obviously canned: “No.  But I’ve never done drugs, either, and I know they’re bad.”

You bet your ass I quoted him on that.  Ignorance deserves quoting.  Look at all the mileage we still get out of George W. Bush and Sarah Palin.

I don’t have the story I ended up writing, but in the end, the owners of the video store caved and agreed not to carry the movie.  They were a nice old couple who told me they were struggling and just couldn’t handle the loss of business from such a large congregation in such a small town.

So ignorance won out.  Thanks, Kahoka Christian Church, for taking it upon yourself to deny people access to art you’ve judged but haven’t even seen.  And you’d potentially bankrupt a family-owned local business – a business that pays taxes, I might add — if they chose to make a movie available to rent?  A goddamned movie?

None of the other churches (and there were several) issued any kind of boycott threat.  I wonder what put such a bug up that particular pastor’s ass.  Maybe he loved the attention and control over his flock.  Or maybe he had a secret thing for David Bowie and was angry and conflicted about it.

FUN FACT:  The store still had an extensive collection of ultra-violent slasher, thriller and action movies, as well as hardcore pornography (in the back room).  I guess the Christian Church had no problem with those.