PORTMSOUTH, OH - Rolling into this Rust Belt town at the southern edge of Ohio, we drove almost all the way through the half-boarded up business district, before we found any signs of life.
Just before we reached the floodwall, built after the Ohio River nearly swallowed the city in 1937, we watched a man stumble from a bar and try to fit his key into the door of his truck.
And across the street through a storefront window, we saw an African-American church in service.
Intrigued by a congregation that would still be worshiping at 10:30 on a Monday night, we decided to start our reporting there. After introducing ourselves to the pastor, who was sitting next to her nodding-off grandson while the deacon read from the Book of Revelations, she responded:
"You think your school sent you here, we know God sent you."
That was only the first misconception we had.
We also thought that if there were reliable Democratic voters in the swing counties of southern Ohio, they could at least be found among the five percent African American minority.
These people weren't ultimately concerned with discrimination or the rampant poverty or unemployment in the area. The issues these 30 or so Seventh-Day Adventists, who believe the Bible is the literal word of God, said they care the most about are "chucrh issues that have become legal issues." That means the right to life and gay marriage. That also means they won't be voting for John Kerry.
Pastor Sandra Latimore told us that when President Bush came through town a few weeks ago, they gathered all the children so they could wave to him as he was driving by. But, she said, "We reminded them that the king of kings is greater than any man."
At the end of the day, they believe that the end of the world is near and Christ will be coming soon, to take them away from any troubles. This election, fought between mere mortals ("They distant cousins" anyway, one congregant said) does not matter so much, because as Latimore explained:
"It's the praying people, not the president, that's holding things together."Posted by Michael Chandler at October 19, 2004 05:57 PM