opinion

A Southerner’s Shield

As a nation of 320 million, we Americans tend to think of ourselves as celebrating diversity, but diversity inherently brings along conflict. Some of that conflict lies in political differences; as tribalism makes its stake on the Hill, we have settled into a land of two extremes.

What shocks me is the deliberate infusion of religion into politics. Go to any church in the Bible Belt and you’ll hear a lecture on the “correct” definition of marriage. Ask any grits-eating pastor how we started off and you’ll get a tale of a busy seven days; then he’ll tenuously trace that to how tree-hugging libtards are falsifying information about climate change.

Where is the love?  Where is the profundity?

A Christian myself, I often wonder what my religious role models mean by denying pure, unequivocal fact. I have been taught that facts, anthropological, archeological, literary, and historical, all corroborate my religious beliefs. I have also been taught about the importance of love and humility. However, here we are in the modern age, refuting some of the most basic tenets of Christianity. Instead of preaching tolerance for our neighbors, we exude hatred and bigotry, shutting off immigrants with different skin tones and religions, shutting off our brothers and sisters with different sexualities and gender identities. Here we are in the modern age, relentlessly morphing friends into foes; science and religion used to be compatible, and now they are seemingly destined to battle for the minds of the future. On one side, unadulterated zeal for discovery. On another, jaded parochialism. There is no doubt that evolution and climate change are here to stay rightfully, given centuries worth of data and logical analysis.

This is why religion is fading into the background in Western industrialized nations; because we’ve fallen from our moral ideals, the religious establishment presents itself as a relic of a bygone era. By refusing to rethink old arbitrary notions, many obstinate churches across the U.S. are facing a gradual, painful death. Educated bicoastal millennials are shunning Sunday service in droves. In some circles, there’s even a social stigma attached to piety; religion for them belongs on the archival shelves of humanity.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Religion and marriage equality can coexist. Religion and science can coexist. In fact, the underlying principles of Christianity, universal love and fact-finding, also buttress gay pride and the burgeoning STEM sector. Furthermore, religion in this modern era provides, as researcher Philip Schwadel states, “community…friends…psychological support and economic support…a lot more than simply an understanding of where they are in the world in relation to the afterlife.” That’s the church I imagine: not one of angry white people preaching about the downfall of an open-border, sex-positive, multifarious nation, but of radiant smiles in dark nights, open arms to those who need to be loved the most, and of a gathering space for people from all walks of life, to break bread and seek shelter from anxiety-inducing social media and the surrounding vacuity. It’s a place of acceptance and understanding, a haven for those who have nowhere else to go. It’s a place of deep thought, of probing, of truth-finding. It’s for the forever-single adventure-seekers, wine-guzzling housewives, and unemployed college graduates. Christianity is for everyone.

Traditional church leaders need to undergo a serious period of introspection and a heartfelt transformation in order to win back its future… including me.

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