After six months on the job, Miss America 2012 has planted a flag for Fundamentalist America. Announcing her outreach program to serve children of incarcerated parents, Miss America Laura Kaeppeler explained,
“I believe my life was pre-written and predestined by a higher power before I was born. … What happened in my past is part of that, and (being) Miss America is part of that.”
Kaeppeler was raised Roman Catholic, but has since become a member and leader of the Northside Bible Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin. As the Religion News Service reports, one woman who has long mentored students with incarcerated parents responded, “My first reaction when I heard Miss America would be speaking was, ‘Really? They’re still doing that?'”
And conservative Christian women seem to have an edge. Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011, also seems to have been a committed evangelical. As she wrote in her blog at the start of the 2011 MA competition,
During Miss Nebraska week in North Platte, I began a journal in which I recorded not only the events of each day, but also a passage of Scripture and my thoughts and prayers. At the end of the week, on June 5th, 2010, just hours before the final competition, I was reading 2 Timothy and chose chapter 2, verse 15 as particularly applicable to me. It reads: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” As I thought about that verse and how it applied to me, I wrote the following prayer:
Dear God, please help me to be a diligent servant not only today but from here on out. Give me the strength and wisdom to accurately handle your word of truth and the diligence and perseverance necessary to be a worker who is not ashamed. I wish to be a shining light for you, a glowing example of who you are, and a grain of salt in a tasteless world. Whether or not this is achieved through a position, crown, title, or job, please place me exactly where you need me to be an effective ambassador for you. I am clay in your hands, your humble servant, willing to do whatever you wish for me in your perfect plan. I love you so much and thank you for blessing me so tremendously and bestowing such outstanding opportunity on me. My greatest wish is to exemplify your love through my words and actions in order to bring others to you.
Your Loving Daughter, Teresa
That night I won the title of Miss Nebraska. From that, I know that this is exactly where God wants me to be, and He has a plan for each and every day of my life, not only this year, but every year. That was my prayer then; it has been my prayer these six months; it will be my prayer these next weeks at Miss America; and it will continue to be my prayer for the rest of my life. If I win the title of Miss America, I will know it is His will. If I do not win, and continue the next six months as Miss Nebraska, I will know it is His will. How incredibly calming it is to know that my life is in His hands!
No matter what happens, my prayer continues to be simply that I will fulfill His purpose in everything that I do. If you had not previously known my reasons and purpose behind why I do what I do, I hope you now understand what I believe my calling to be. Why am I competing in the Miss America competition over the next ten days? Because God has placed me in this position to show His love. Please pray that I might be able to accomplish this, and as always, please feel free to share your thoughts and comments as to how I might better achieve these things.
Well, I will not be posting until I return from Vegas, but stay tuned for all the details when I get back! Once again, thank you for your incredible support and encouragement; I wouldn’t be here without you!
To God Be The Glory,
I don’t know much about the world of high-stakes beauty pageants. Perhaps this embrace of biblical religion is simply another expected part of the princess package. Or, perhaps, there is simply considerable overlap between those folks who place a high value on this traditionalist form of uber-femininity and traditionalist Christianity.
After a little digging, we find that the tradition of Miss America and conservative Protestantism has even deeper roots. Long-time host of Pat Robertson’s 700 Club Terry Meeuwsen
won the crown in 1973. Fox News’ Culture Warrior Gretchen Carlson
took the crown in 1989. I’m guessing there have been more winners from the world of Fundamentalist America who did not go on to such high-profile public careers. Maybe it is time to change the name. It might be a better fit to call it Miss Fundamentalist America.