by Ed Harrell
It is a bizarre feeling, but somehow captivating, to stand in the midst of 50,000 single-minded, unabashed adults and near-adults “calling the Hogs.” I still find myself glancing away from the football field to survey my Halloween-like surroundings complete with grandmothers coiffured in Hog-hats. Of course, l am no stranger to the madness of football fans, having viewed first-hand Oklahoma Sooners, Georgia Bulldogs, and Alabama Elephants. But there is something special about a set of fans who revel in being “Hogs.” l know of no other place in the world where a young man could call his girl-friend a “pig” and receive a coy smile in return. These are Arkansans, and they are a bit different.
Students of the South in recent years have frequently referred to it as a “benighted” section, a region painfully self-conscious about its poverty, educational inferiority and unsavory history of race tension.
In so much as that theory holds true, Arkansas is perhaps the most benighted state in the South (or at least it would be Mississippi’s competitor). Arkansas would be to citizens of Charleston and Richmond as the South is to New Yorkers. Every Arkie knows the jokes about his home state; he’s traveled outside the state and seen folks glance downward checking to see if he wore shoes; he’s watched the Beverly Hillbillies.
In a sense Razorback pride is more than football mania, it is a fierce expression of local pride by a people scorned. These people are proud to be Hogs. It is true that Arkansas is far behind most of the nation in average per capita income, that its state university is struggling to survive, that the state is justly uncelebrated for its artistic and literary accomplishments—not every Arkansan would admit all of that but it is probably true. But that Razorbacks know some other things that many do not Arkansas is also a state with clean air, beautiful mountain streams where thousands of outlanders come to canoe and glimpse the natural beauty; it is filled with little towns cluttered with pickup trucks with windows open and doors unlocked and packages resting in the seats unattended. Souieeeee Razorbacks!
It strikes me that the Razorbacks know something that Christians also know. The world frequently has its values askew. We have to have sense enough (or be spiritually-minded enough) to recognize what we have to be proud of.
Christians are not generally the most cultured and sophisticated people around. The Apostle Paul wrote: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty,not many noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26). If one is intent on running with the world’s elite, he probably shouldn’t seek them in Arkansas—or in the church of Jesus Christ.
But what Christians know is that there are countervailing values, Christians may not be the richest people in the world, but they are the most generous; they may not be the wisest . in the world’s ways, but they possess the wisdom of the revealed mind of God; they may not be mighty, but they are an ever-present source of comfort and relief to one another.
Christians see all of that. So they, like Arkies, to the consternation of the world, can glory in who they are. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). Stand up and yell it out: I am a Christian.
CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE FEBRUARY, 1984