Living in the Bible Belt has its advantages. Take Christian Brothers Automotive whose sign boasts “Christ is Risen”. Where churches are found on almost every street corner, fliers are sent in the mail inviting people to church on Easter, and a plethora of businesses tote the Christian fish symbol. In some ways, this can be very encouraging to feel like what you believe is accepted; that you won’t feel as ‘out there’ when witnessing to someone.
But it also has its downsides. I tend to feel that by being in a place where Christianity is largely accepted also means that it has a tendency to get watered down. It reminds me of this post by Pastor Lumpkin I read a while back.
The church in the West has been largely diluted in quality over time, and I think that it is in places like the Bible Belt where we see that even more. Take Joel Osteen’s ‘health and wealth prosperity message’ for one. Or this situation in Africa which shows how this dilution can cause much more global ramifications. Health and wealth prosperity is not gospel (see John Piper’s message here). It is just a bunch of lies that are dragging people down a pathway to eternal suffering.
The way I see it, I have a challenge to meet in this place, a challenge that is to not let the culture of the area make me feel comfortable being a Christian, but that I would use the culture’s accepting view of religion and God to spur me on to be a light in this place, to live a life filled with the truth and that I would not further the disillusions caused by the health and wealth gospel, but that I would be able to shine through in the face of opposition or even persecution. I want to live a life here as though I was in a place where the truth wasn’t ‘normal’, wasn’t accepted, because largely the acceptance of the Bible Belt’s inhabitants of the actual truth is an illusion. The illusion of being comfortable, the illusion of God being accepted and believed – where people don’t even realize that they don’t really believe. I do not want to miss out on this opportunity to feel open to sharing about God with people who may think that they are saved because they go to church every year on Easter. To share the real truth with them, or to invite them to come to a church where I know that the pastor will take the opportunity of an Easter sermon to really catch these people off guard and not just preach on some ‘safe’ topic, but to really challenge the believer to consider if they are living for Christ in a sense that they are cherishing Him above all else.
I know that I lived in the Bible Belt when I was in Arkansas, but moving to a new place has still been enlightening to me. And a new beginning in a new place is always a good opportunity to remind yourself of why we’re all still here after being saved and what our longing and purpose in life should be. So I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about where I am with God, where I want to be and how to get there, which I suppose is a constant challenge that all Christians face. My hope is that my relationship with God will be deepened though this new adventure in this new place. I want to find that I have rooted myself in the spring of living water that will never fail me, no matter what I face.
On a lighter side, moving to Texas has also brought some other lessons and reflections. For one thing, it is probably best to always wear shoes even if I am from Arkansas. You never know when you might step on something harmful like a wasp, or perhaps even something worse. Also, basic cable includes mostly Spanish channels rather than things like TBS, which is more like what we imagined it would include. And, I think it would be a good idea for all microwaves to have a smoke sensor inside so that if you, say, were popping popcorn or something and it caught on fire, that the microwave would automatically sense the smoke and shut itself off. I just think it might be a good idea, that’s all. Other than that, living in Texas has been quite like living in Arkansas, expect our house is much larger (everything’s bigger in Texas, right?), and our friends and family aren’t just a short drive away.
P.S. If you do happen to forget to wear shoes in Texas and you also happen to step on a wasp and get stung on the bottom of your foot (or anywhere else for that matter), I highly recommend (1) removing the stinger with a credit card, and (2) making a paste out of baking soda and water and applying that paste to the affected area. I was quite lucky to be on a conference call with a nurse when this happened to me and this advice proved extremely helpful. There is hardly any evidence today that I was stung yesterday so I’m convinced it did, in fact, draw out the venom (?), although I’ve been since told that baking soda is better for bee stings, while wasp stings are better treated with something acidic, such as vinegar so I may have just been lucky.
– Katie, the older sister