Bible Belt Culture Often Includes a Disconnect Between Real and Fake Christianity

November 21, 2013 at 8:58 AM 4 comments

There is nothing quite like a double standard...in Christ, of course.

There is nothing quite like a double standard…in Christ, of course.

Most who read this blog regularly know that we relocated from the liberal land of California to the Bible Belt of the South a few years back. We were warned that it would indeed be a bit of a culture shock. At first, we didn’t think so because we generally found everyone to be very “friendly.” What culture shock, we thought?

Over time and especially after tossing my hat into the political ring, we have come to realize exactly what is meant by “culture shock” of relocating to this area of the United States. I point out some of these things in case others reading these words are contemplating a move.

Don’t get me wrong, we love it here. We have made many friends and we appreciate the way of life here. Things are slower (which took some time to get used to), the cost of living is certainly not as high as it was in California, and in general, no one looks at you as if you have two heads if you bow your head in a public restaurant to give thanks for your food.

However, some of the things that are also good to know include the following:

  • just because people are friendly does not mean they like or even respect you
  • though this is the Bible Belt, people often have a different view of what it means to be a Christian (I’ll explain)
  • you are often judged on the basis of how long you have lived here
  • there is a “good ol’ boy” system that is deeply ensconced here (and in some cases, the “good ol’ girl” system is too often the “shadow government” that controls things
  • people put on a public persona of being a Christian, while privately, they often live as they please
  • going to church is part of the culture of the Bible Belt and often means no more than going to your favorite restaurant. It’s simply what you do

I was not really aware of any of this prior to relocating here (or certainly in attempting to run for city council). It would be nice to go back and retain the naivety that I had then, but that is impossible.

It needs to be understood that just because people attend church here (Sundays and Wednesdays), it does not mean that they are authentic Christians or that they take their Christianity seriously if they are authentic Christians. For many, being born here means that they simply go to church. It is part of what you do as you live in the Bible Belt.

Because of this, too many fail to understand the truth about Jesus or the Gospel message He brought. Many here place a higher value on their association with and longevity in the town in which they live. To them, their connection with their town is what is of utmost importance. Everything stems from that. Next, is going to the “correct” church. Those folks are far more concerned with externals. It is what looks good, not necessarily what is good.

Case in point. We’ve been attending the city council meetings for about two years now. They’re interesting, but I’ve come to notice a pattern at nearly every meeting. Someone (married to a city council member) from the audience will get up to say something that apparently weighs heavily on her heart. This is usually accompanied by some type of theatrics or histrionics. The result is that the group of people who “follow” this individual swoon and sway under her heartfelt words. Invariably, the council then takes up the discussion as though no one knew this subject was going to be broached (of course, we are to believe that this woman and her city council member husband never once discussed this subject prior to the meeting). The result? Normally, the council will then take up the concerns brought to them by this woman (or sometimes someone else, but still related) and voila!, the city council moves to deal with the issue to the satisfaction of the woman who brought the situation before the council in the first place.

At a most recent meeting, this same woman addressed the city council with a concern about “Sunday sales by the glass.” This refers to the fact that here in our town, an ordinance exists (which is vague and confusing) that does not allow for the serving of alcohol by the glass at local restaurants on Sundays. The woman spoke against the idea that the city council should allow restaurants to serve alcohol by the glass on Sundays. As expected, she also became a bit emotional and insisted that we needed to have high moral standards when it concerned alcohol (my paraphrase). There were nods and exclamations of agreement from the audience. Think a toned down version of “Blazing Saddles.”

Me? I personally don’t care one way or the other about whether or not restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol by the glass on Sundays. As it turned out, the city lawyer informed the council that the current ordinance was actually more strict than state law and therefore, could not be enforced. It may be a moot point in the end because it needs to be rewritten to coincide with state law.

But here is where the double standard and duplicity comes into play. Even though Jesus turned water into wine and on another occasion stated that “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man,” (Matthew 15:11), people continue to focus on the things that, in the end, have no bearing on anything. They want things to look good externally. That’s all they care about. Meanwhile, the slander, the gossip – all of it – continues unabated.

For this woman (who attends the same church I do), she can spend her days during the week gossiping, slandering, and generally stirring up trouble, and sees no problem at all with that. However, the idea to allow restaurants to serve alcohol by the glass and on SUNDAY? Horrors! How ungodly is that?

There is a huge disconnect with many people who live in the Bible Belt and their understanding of what constitutes authentic Christianity. For many in this small town, it is about power and how much of it they can have. Once they have it, they will fight to keep it. Does it honor God? Do I need to answer the question?

It would appear that, in many ways, there is a great mission field here in the good ol’ Bible Belt. It could very well be one of the major reasons God moved us here.

Entry filed under: Life in America, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation.

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4 Comments

  • 1. Sherry  |  November 26, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    Great drawing, modres!

    Also, great point on the power of the tongue and about priorities of what should be of greater concern. I’ve seen this same thing at a corporate church meeting. Our gossip blamed the pastor’s wife when she got caught blabbing about something she was to keep to herself. She was the ladies’ bible study teacher so she had respect! When I let the pastor and his wife know about it she then proceeded to talk evil about me to others so much so that I was getting some vicious stares and snubbings by members! After the church split I was told about what she did to me and everyone she didn’t like, including the pastor’s wife. Oh, and the church was finally closed down for good. My, but those sly little foxes can truly do damage to the grapevine!

    And, I also am reminded of the missionary from Africa that I met who came to the good ol’ USA for his mission field. Its needed when you hear children ask you who that “baby” is in the manger of front yard nativity sets…

  • 2. Lester  |  November 21, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Been there done that in 1968! Moved west! Yes you may just be an evangelist to the captives by the river Chebar! AMEN Fred!

  • 3. Doug  |  November 21, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    There is quite a cultural contrast between the east and west coast. However, I’ve lived in all four corners of the USA and in my experience the south-east is a world unto itself. Maybe the history of slavery in that area has something to do with it, I don’t know, but the good ol’ boy subculture casts a long cold shadow. The local government where I live looks very different form the one in your location but it’s just as dysfunctional and overshadowed by nepotism and a liberal version of the good ol’ boy network, AKA the “sons (and daughters) of disobedience”.

    In contrast to being filled with alcohol, Paul said, “be filled with the [Holy] Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). If people aren’t yielding to the control of the Holy Spirit then they’re available to be controlled by some other spirit or sprits and are easily made drunk with their ill-gotten political power.

    What a challenging mission field! I’ll be praying for you.

    • 4. modres  |  November 21, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      Appreciate your comments, Doug.

      My point with respect to alcohol was not that the city council should approve it necessarily (sales by the glass on Sunday). But while on focusing on alcohol, let’s also focus on those things individually that create even greater problems in society and they’re usually caused by our tongues. As James ask, who can control the tongue?

      Too many see an instant offense in alcoholic beverages, while completely ignoring all the damage that the tongue creates.

      Thanks again.


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