Growing up, I was immersed in church. Not just raised. Not just ‘went on Sundays.’ But completely drowning in it. I think I may have had some sort of aura oozing out of my skin, I went so much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily downing it, as it has had a truly beneficial impact on my life. Religion definitely kept me out of trouble growing up (I spoiled my parents, I was so good). And, why, it even came in handy last weekend when I spouted off the books of the Bible drunk as a skunk to the amazement of my friends (I think it has talent show potential).
Kidding aside, while I do consider my faith in God a deeply personal and critical part of who I am, I have found myself over the past few years increasingly disinclined to organized religion and the ‘culture’ that has become so representative of Western Christianity. And so when I read today that Jimmy Carter is leaving the Southern Baptist denomination for its, how should I put this, “slightly less than progressive” view of women in religion and society, I wondered how many other Bible Belters out there are like Jimmy and me? I’m not insinuating that President Carter is giving up church altogether, but he obviously had enough with a certain aspect of the culture and deemed it a deal-breaker (and kudos to him for doing so…there is potential for lots of soap-box standing right about now, but I’ll leave it for you to ponder my monologue on the subject).
So my question is, can you believe without succumbing to the ‘culture?’ Because really, that’s what the “Bible Belt” is. When you think of the term, you don’t think of kindness, love, passion, sacrifice–all the sacred aspects of the faith that have drawn millions to it throughout the years. The images that come to mind are far less hallowed: steeples on every corner, Bible studies, frilly dresses and gossips, tent revivals and Sunday school…in essence, a culture. Are the faith and the culture two separate entities? I for one hope so because I love my faith, but I am so over the picture that the Bible Belt has painted of it.
I could keep going on this point, but it’s late and time for bed. I’d love to hear your thoughts, so show me some love on this!