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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Notes from the Bible Belt

Cruising through the south, our travel correspondent Jack writes:

More on the quilt that is this country. I have always been fascinated by South Carolina. I may be reading into things, but SC seems different from California. You think? It feels like the folks there are still trying to wiggle out of the Union. First, we were welcomed into the state by Gov. Mark Sanford's picture and a confederate flag. No asterisk in sight. Second, the sweet, smiling girl who waited on us for lunch used the term "y'all" four times in one sentence. Third, USC down here means Gamecocks, not Trojans. Fourth, religion seems to be a religion in SC. SC license plates aggressively proclaim "IN GOD WE TRUST." In contrast, neighboring NC benignly brags: "FIRST IN FLIGHT"; GA sweetly emphasizes peaches and FL oranges. I saw many billboards shouting Bible sayings. One said: "IT'S YOUR CHOICE: HEAVEN [on a blue and white background] OR HELL [on a red and yellow background]." We passed Bob Jones U, no longer tax-exempt. I saw two trucks with payloads of pews, of all things, stacked up to the gunnels. Pews appear to be a cash crop in SC. Seeing all the religious references put me in mind of the recent newspaper poll that said most Americans who go to church do not know the basic tenets of their religion. That makes sense to me, and somehow is comforting. Religion in America is mostly about community, helping people, trying to behave better, and coping with pain, not so much about following technical rules, at least not any more. I'd be interested in any contrary views.

Comments (16)

Jack was in my hometown when he passed Bob Jones University and I'd say he's got it just about right. Still, because it's home, I'm looking forward to being there during the holidays. Despite the sometimes odd and extreme beliefs, these people are some of the warmest you'll find.

Here's an interesting and useful tip for any traveler to the South that a friend from Kentucky pointed out to me years ago.

It's considered impolite in normal conversation to speak badly about someone else. But there's a loophole.

If you hear a person going on and on about how nice someone else is, but you then you hear the comment, "Bless his heart," that's your cue that the person speaking is then going to tell you what he really thinks about that other person.

Here's a hypothetical example of how you might see it used in a sentence:

"That Jack Bogdanski is a wonderful professor and family man, but, bless his heart, he's got that damn Bojack website."

IMHO, small town religion is mostly about CONTROL

I believe there is a difference in Christian philosphies between churches in the Portland, Oregon, area and those of much of the South. Christian churches in Portland preach big time guilt for having material wealth, no matter if earned or not. In this regard, this only serves to strengthen the power of the socialists running the city of Portland and the state of Oregon. Guilt really sells well in Oregon.

Christian churches in the South don't seem to have this anti material prosperity bent to them. They seem to do a better job of preaching individual responsibility, work ethic, and sharing in community projects. The guilt sold in Southern christian churches seems more focused on adultry and such.

Just my very general impression of Christianity practices, Northwest versus South.

B. Clark's study of churches in Portland and much of the South is facinating. What was the sampling pool of churches in Portland and much of the South? Such an insightful study of regional religious practices would seem to have required visits to alot of different churches...

"Christian churches in Portland preach big time guilt for having material wealth, no matter if earned or not. In this regard, this only serves to strengthen the power of the socialists running the city of Portland and the state of Oregon."

This is a truly amazing revelation. I'm sure, of course, that you can provide specific examples of churches that do this. I can only imagine the scandal that will ensue when these churches you're about to name have been shown to aid the cause of those darn socialists, the last group of people you'd think organized religion would want to help.

Peter, you got it in one. Of course, you have different levels of "bless your heart", all depending upon the tone used. There's a "bless your heart" that gets used when you really want to say "S/he's really nice, if a little brain-damaged," and then there's the "bless your heart" used when you really want to say "I sometimes agree with this, but I have no intention of getting into a political debate with you on the subject." My favorite, and one that my mother-in-law wields like a sniper rifle, is the "bless your heart" that translates to "watta maroon".

Along that line, don't forget the "that's lovely" comment, too. As a clean version of the old joke goes, you have generations of Southern women who went to charm school in order to learn to say "that's lovely" instead of "Die in a fire".

I find Bob Vina's comment odd. Not really sure how in this day and age that religion still controls small towns.

Despite my 'name' on this board I don't live in Oregon any more (I was born and spent 50 years there). I moved to the south for a job and the move was a good thing in so many ways. Here is my experience in the South. They still say "God Bless" when talking to someone, even in business. When people are stressed on a job, they have no problem calling for an improptu prayer. People read the Bible and even quote from it when talking, both personal and business. Outside of construction workers, there appears to be a lot less cursing down here. And even construction workers clean up their language when women are around.

PC is a LOT less down here and honesty a lot more. In many ways it's very refreshing.

Oh, and they don't have 'POP' down here, it's 'SODA'. Your kids don't go to 'GRADE SCHOOL', they go to 'ELEMENTARY SCHOOL'. And when you call it the former, they look at you like "WHAT???"

Is bless your heart then the female version of "I'm sure your right" my Dad says to my Mom when she yammers during baseball games?

PC is a LOT less down here and honesty a lot more. In many ways it's very refreshing.

Right. Because the Council of Conservative Citizens has a much more "refreshing" message than the KKK.

I'm glad you are enjoying your stay here in the South, NO. This southerner is leaving for PDX ASAP.

I suppose "gunnels" is gunwales.

All that God and politically incorrect honesty in the South doesn't seem to be improving the economic conditions for people down there. Except for Florida, every state below the line from the southern border of Utah to Virginia, from Arizona west to the Atlantic has more than 16% of its population living in poverty. 21.9% in MIssissippi. Outside of that zone, the only states over 16% are Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, plus Puerto Rico and Washington DC.

So maybe you can say what you really think about the gays and the queers and the minorities a little more in-between your shouts of "Halleleujah!" but I'm not really sure that makes up for it.

Plus, I really hate hot and muggy. Give me the cool rain any day.

Christian churches in Portland preach big time guilt for having material wealth, no matter if earned or not.

Huh. I've been to at least a dozen different Portland-area churches over the past decade and a half, ranging from Park Ave. Congregational on the (theological) left to Rolling Hills on the right, and I've never heard this particular sermon. In fact I doubt that it's preached anywhere, other than perhaps in street ministry. No pastor with the expense of a building is going to offend or discomfort his/her wealthiest parishioners.

THat should, of course, be "east to the Atlantic". And it includes Arizona.

"Christian churches in Portland preach big time guilt for having material wealth, no matter if earned or not."

Well, for what is often reputed to be the most unchurched state in the union, it's refreshing to hear that the Christian churches in Portland preach the gospel much as did the Church's namesake, fellow named Jesus, who said a ton about wealth being a barrier to heaven while saying nothing about, for instance, gays.

Darrelplant -
I don't know what pair of biased glasses you read things through, I didn't write a single thing about gays, so what is your problem? I don't need gay people 'making sure that I know that they are gay' anymore than I want to shout to the world that I'm heterosexual.

After 50+ years in Oregon, I don't miss the month upon month of grey skies. I'm still getting use to the fact that just because it's raining, it doesn't also mean that it's cold. Every area of the country has things that are pretty, things that are pluses and things that are negatives.

I hope you have a job that you are going to in Oregon, they seem to be scarce there. I hope it's good paying job, it's expensive to live in Oregon. I moved because I couldn't find a job in Oregon. I moved to a place that they paid me more than I had been making in Oregon and it's much cheaper to live here. I wish you well.

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