Thursday, April 21, 2011

Living in the South ~ Spirituality or lack there of...

Driving through the South a person will see a common theme - churches. There is a great abundance of churches in the Bible Belt as well as the occasional tent for the tent revival. Yes, there are still tent revivals. And there is a church or religion for every size, shape, or taste.  Almost.


I never realized how restrictive and biased religion really is until I moved here to Mena. Catholicism is the predominant religion in southern Louisiana and the parishioners are very adamant about their religion. But they are also very tolerant of those who do not share their faith. But in this section of the Bible Belt, religion is everything and everywhere. A common thread through conversations is, "what church do you go to?"  And here, like in most places where religion is a big part of people's lives, people are overweight and feel that going to church on Sunday absolves them of all the sins committed during the week. And people aren't as tolerant of those who do not share their beliefs.


About two years after we moved here, there were still quite a few 'progressive thinkers' around. And they were trying to make the community into a destination place for tourists rather than a stop-over place. One of these 'thinkers'  decided to start a non-denominational church - a place of worship for those of alternative faith. He openly advertised in the local newspaper for several weeks about an organizational meeting to be held at his house. This organizational meeting was going to be held just before Beltane and he openly stated that he was going to have a bonfire - he welcomed people to come celebrate Life with friends around the bonfire. Almost immediately there were flyers around town advertising meetings to be held at various churches about this new 'heathen' church. A few days before the 'thinker's' meeting was to be held, I stopped by the local Salvation Army store for a bit of junqueing and who did I find inside but several women who were holding an impromptu meeting regarding the devil's arrival in town. These women were encouraging the other shoppers to join in the protest they were going to stage in front of the guys house the night of the meeting. (can we say angry mob with pitchforks?)  I was aghast at what I was seeing and hearing. I mean, this is the 21st century, right?  The next week in the local newspaper, under the police report, I saw that several people were arrested for trespassing  at the residence of the 'progressive thinker'.


* Tolerance - Just another word in the dictionary *


And then there is the local church who requires some of the parishioners to stand on the street corner with signs which read about salvation and damnation. These people go so far as rushing cars stopped at the stoplight and shoving flyers about sins, death and damnation into open windows. Quite often those flyers land in the laps of children.


I've also heard that there are illicit activities that still take place deep in the woods of  Arkansas.........

12 comments:

Suzie said...

I may not like the heat and humidity, and the threat of running into a poisonous snake, but I think that you have brought up a topic that I would have the hardest time dealing with.

I know that narrow minded thinking, and intolerance is alive all over the country, (heck, even within my own family!!), but at least around here, there is more diversity to balance it out.

People like you are describing, scare me because they won't listen to reason or compromise. .both sad and dangerous.

Robin Larkspur said...

It is frightening to think about these so-called Christians and their ideas of God's "love"

Dark Mother said...

Now you've hit the nail on the head of one of the reasons I could not stand my 6 years stint of living in the South. The Religious intolerance as well as racisim, animal abuse/neglect and just downright backwardness of it all. Not my cup of tea.

~*Gumbo Soul*~ said...

Haha, I can so relate to this. After Inis's first visit down here to the deep south she told me, "OMG I Have never seen so much Jesus in my LIFE!" There is an actual bill-board sign on the highway between here and the airport that says "Go to church, or the Devil will getchya" NO. LIE. On my street alone, there are 6 churches and one Christian school. IT's not a long street. We're talking 4-5 miles tops. See why I'm firmly in the broom closet? LOL

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Dear oh dear oh dear. Glad I live in the Great White North.

Cottage Tails said...

We homeschool and wow we have met soo many folk like this - it is scary. Our kids were told they have the devil in them....


Love Leanne Nz

Danni said...

It's this exact thing that makes me happy that while I now live in the South, I'm in a fairly diverse and progressive area. However, once you travel 20 - 30 minutes away it becomes a bit more like what you've mentioned in this and your previous post.

Needless to say, I've done less exploring of the area here then I did when I lived in the North.

Joane said...

Wow, I think that's all I can say. I can't believe people are still so backwards.

Róisín said...

I've just been catching up with your blog and it's been so interesting hearing about where you live. I've only ever been to the States once (Florida as a kid, hardly a cultural experience) so I can't really comment, but there's an area close (but thankfully not too close) to where I'm from called mid-Ulster and you've pretty much described it here. It makes sense too, a lot of your settlers back-in-the-day came from the area as far as I know. Sounds like things haven't changed much on either side of the Atlantic since those days!

Anyway, thanks for sharing your experiences. They really have been ever so interesting to read.

The Favorite Things Guy said...

I will say this: I strongly believe in God and agree with you about this subject.

That's how it goes a lot of times. People claim to love God, yet want God as long as He fits their comfort level. I remember, as a little boy, preachers getting up behind a pulpit and preaching how a woman minister is wrong. The only problem is none of it could be backed up with scripture (among other things that are pointles rants).

Shame on anyone who doesn't preach God is love. God is more about love than anyone can understand, yet it takes a few bad apples like these people you mentioned to make the rest of us appear rotten.

BOTTOM LINE--God love us all: white, black, man, woman, boy, girl, gay, straight, odd, normal, etc,. He loves us all.

KUDOS on this subject! You told it well, my blogger friend.

Jeanne said...

Cottage Tails ~ I hate it when kids are singled out like that! And it's such a shame that we all can't live and let live.

Roisin ~ You are correct. Most of the people who settled in the upper Bible Belt came from Ireland and Scotland.

FTG ~ I really appreciate you commenting! Thank You! And you are so correct..It only takes one bad apple.....

TD (Tammy @ Journal of Evolution) said...

Speaking as a GRITS,(Girl Raised In The South), I ask that you please remember: There's a big difference between Southern and bigots. ;-)