Abortion. Same-sex marriage. The removal of the Ten Commandments from public buildings. The end of prayer in schools. These are the issues that rub the men and women of Christian Exodus the wrong way. And on Saturday, Oct. 15, some 100 of them gathered at the Greenville Hilton to discuss how these evils are destroying our society and what can be done about it. Oh, and they also talked about seceding from the United States.
But, not everybody at the conference is concerned with revisiting the Lost Cause or waging war against secular society. Some folks just want to make a buck. One of them is Bob Fondry, a Texas native who journeyed to the Upstate to push a brand of near disaster-proof home to the members of Christian Exodus.
According to Fondry, the head honcho at Southern Dome Builders, these steel-reinforced, concrete dome-shaped houses, which bear more than a slight resemblance to a silicon-enhanced breast, are hurricane-proof, tornado-proof, earthquake-proof, and sound-proof. And just when you think the homes can't get any better, consider these claims: the domes are mold resistant, and because no wood is involved, bugs don't have anything to nibble on. Somebody call Benny Hinn. We've got a miracle.
Interestingly, Southern Dome Builders isn't the only company Fondry runs. There's also Success Trust, a firm that helps families pay off their home mortgages. According to his business card, Fondry "will pay 100% of what you have left on your mortgage" at "zero risk to you." He also gives away free candy at his table -- Smarties, Sweet Tarts, etc.
Joining Fondry in the hotel hallway are other merchants selling their wares and services. Dixie Outpost is pushing books like The South Was Right, The Real Lincoln, and The Hunt for Confederate Gold, as well as an assortment of flags -- South Carolina State flags, Confederate flags, the Christian flag, and the S.C. Secessionist flag -- the kind favored by members of the neo-Confederate hate group, the League of the South. The company also sells a variety of T-shirts with Southern nationalist themes -- one features three mice holding a Confederate flag. Above the cheerful trio, it reads, "Dixie Baby." Another T-shirt features the image of a Jesus fish with the Confederate flag imprinted inside of the little beastie. The words "Proud Southern Christian" encircle the fish.
In another room, a young boy wearing a Boy Scout uniform stands behind a table selling a collection of New World Order-wary bumper stickers -- "Waco Was Just Target Practice," "Screw Democracy: Give Us a Limited Constitutional Republic," and "A Border Secure Enough to Keep Them Out, Is also Secure Enough to Keep You In." Behind the bumper stickers are vials of gold flakes, which are being advertised as Christian Exodus Gold. For $10 you can get one vial. For $17, two. A piece of paper taped to the tablecloth indicates that popcorn is being sold at the booth to help support the Boy Scouts.
But, popcorn, paranoia, and Southern pride aren't the only things being offered this weekend at the conference. There's also a whole bill of goods being sold by Christian Exodus founder Cory Burnell and his followers. In a nutshell, the group believes that if it can convince enough Christians to move to South Carolina -- as if there weren't plenty here already -- they can take over local and state government and force Uncle Sam to give up his sinful ways. If the federal government is unwilling to change, then the group will be left with no choice but to secede from the Union. Of course, Burnell insists that secession is not a goal, but merely another tool in the toolbox.
While many may find all this talk about secession troubling, there is plenty else about the group that should raise a few eyebrows. Consider this: Burnell, a former member of the League of the South, believes that voting is not a right, but a privilege; in fact, if Burnell and company actually succeeded in their plans, people on welfare would be unable to vote. Some might say such an action would unfairly target African Americas, but Burnell denies this -- after all, the poor come in all colors. But, another piece of Christian Exodus rhetoric should give you pause: Burnell also believes the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the one which bestowed citizenship on all natural-born residents, i.e. slaves, is "sort of" unconstitutional.
Feel free to draw your own conclusions.