Living in the buckle of the Bible Belt has both advantages and disadvantages. I'm sort of blanking on the advantages at the moment, but I'm sure there are some. Unfortunately, the disadvantages come to mind much quicker than the advantages. Don't get me wrong, I love my hometown and I have every intention of spending my life here. But there are things I see and hear sometimes that I could do without.
There are a lot of people (some of them well-meaning) who broadcast a number of viewpoints under the guise of Christianity that I simply don't agree with. I don't claim to know every little thing in the Bible nor do I claim to know God's exact stance on the hot button issues in our society today. But I am fairly confident in saying that some of these things I've seen and heard are flat out wrong.
For example, Westboro Baptist Church is wrong. The people crossing the country with Fred Phelps as he pickets the funerals of soldiers and talks about how much "God hates fags" are wrong. That man does not represent my faith in any way, shape, or form. In fact he makes me sick.
The other thing I'm confident in is the knowledge that these people are making it harder for other Christians to reach non-Christians. A lot of people will talk about how Christians are persecuted in the United States, and to an extent that's true. But for the most part, Christians have a pretty sweet set-up here. We can practice our faith openly and since the majority of the country identifies with some form of Christianity, we benefit from a number of small privileges throughout the year (such as getting time off for Christian holidays like Christmas). The other thing about the persecution of Christians in the United States is that it's people who claim to be Christians who get the ball rolling--and I'm not just talking about the blatantly obvious Phelps of the world.
I would say that most non-Christians don't harbor ill-will towards Christians. They are happy to respect our beliefs, provided that we respect theirs. When you come across someone who is particularly outspoken regarding Christianity it's because they've had some sort of run-in with someone who maybe isn't the best example of the faith. There are some Christians out there who don't see the importance in respecting the beliefs of others. Granted, a lot of them are still devoting a fair amount of time to exposing Barack Obama as a secret Muslim and/or attempting to ban both sex education and evolution from being taught in the public school systems which leaves little time in one's schedule for tolerance.
Here are a few things I've seen and heard lately that make me shake my head:
- "We believe in God. Join the Right Club. John 3:16" bumper sticker (and apparently a billboard that I thankfully missed). If you read the story, you'll see that the whole thing was one church's childish response to a billboard put up to advertise a convention of non-believers.
- "God doesn't believe in atheists" bumper sticker. I saw this little gem on the way home tonight. Am I the only one who thinks that the tone of this bumper sticker would be best followed by Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons saying his classic, "Ha ha" catchphrase? It strikes me as so obnoxious. God loves atheists just as much as he loves the rest of us. A real Christian knows that God loves all people regardless of how they feel about him. Does a parent stop loving their child because he/she makes some bad decisions? No! And that's what God is; he's a father. He's always going to be there for all of us, no matter what. To me, this person is telling whoever follows their Ford Taurus that if they've turned their back on God then he's turned his back on them as well.
- "Each gender should conform to the set stereotype" philosophy. As my friend Chad pointed out the other day, this simply isn't Biblical. There's no line in the Bible about how boys must like playing with army men, shooting hoops, and firing BB guns. Some boys don't like those things, and you know what? That's 100% OK. Some girls don't like makeup, dresses, and the mall. Again, that's 100% OK. The world would be pretty boring if we all fit in these standard molds based on gender. There are some Christians who have strong opinions about the so-called "sissification" of boys which offends me on two levels. As previously stated, I'm offended by the notion that we have a pre-determined set of behaviors that we need to adhere to. I'm also enough of a feminist to be offended when people view a boy/man adopting a behavior that society has deemed "feminine". It offends me because those people see woman as inferior to men; they don't want a boy doing something "girly" because they view it as being beneath him. But I could go on and on about this topic. Maybe I will...another time.
I suppose I've ranted enough for tonight. I just want to go on record saying that a lot of people claiming to be Christians in this world do not represent me.