If the title has you offended, please know that’s not intended. If you live in the United States — and maybe if you don’t — then you’re familiar with the term that loosely refers to Christianity in the South.
I was raised in the South, and I can be about as “hillbilly” as it gets. So I mean no hatefulness nor do I appreciate the stigma many of us have to face.
I wrote in a post a few months ago that I have been looking for a home church. I’ve learned some things over time about my harsh attitude towards churches and Christianity. I still hold most of the same views, they’ve just been fine-tuned a bit and are tempered differently.
Even so, the process of finding a church kind of stinks. My family and I moved to a little town in southern Mississippi almost two years ago, and I have some socially-influential relatives here who are openly against my blog, and it seems I cannot find a church that is beyond their social reach. In their defense though, I can be a bit abrasive with the things I’ve written. I’m learning to correct that.
I used to think that moving further south would be better for my family because of the stronger Christian influence. I might have been sorely mistaken about this. Yes, there is a kind of Christian influence, and it’s great to see good values and such (not to say that good values are exclusive to the South). However, there is also a very strong dependency on traditions.
I don’t expect to find a church that believes everything I do. All I’m looking for is one that believes in living righteously and obtaining that righteousness through grace by faith. Is this works-based salvation? For goodness-sake, no!
This is belief the New Testament. This is belief in the gospel of the kingdom of God! This is knowing that “none are without sin.” This is understanding what it means to say “our righteousness is as filthy rags.” This is seeking FIRST the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness! This is pushing on, with faith, in the power of God to change our natures from sinful to sainthood as the laws of God are “written on the fleshly tables of the heart.”
The systemic hypocrisy is almost too much for me. Time and time again I hear that I support works-based salvation, and yet, it is the traditions that support works-based salvation.
Reciting the sinner’s prayer, when viewed in strict legalistic sense, is a work. It is the same with baptism, wearing certain cloths, worshiping on certain days, and just about any tradition found within the hundreds of Christian denominations and churches — traditions that choke the word of God out of many people.
That being said, I believe that most ministers and their congregations want to live for Jesus. It’s our traditions and the way we have been taught to interpret (and cherry-pick) the scriptures that’s the problem. Many either say we will always be sinners and to say otherwise is works-based salvation, or they believe in holiness, but they just lay on more law than the other churches.
Neither are correct. We are to walk “righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world.” Not by our efforts of legalism and tradition that leads to hypocrisy, but by the power of the Spirit, changing our “inner-man” so that we do not live after the flesh but after the Spirit.
What doubles my frustration is when I hear a preacher telling his congregation that we will always be sinful while citing scriptures that actually give a message of walking after the Spirit and living righteously. We have become so conditioned by traditions that we cannot see what is made plain in the scriptures.
Have we really lost the simple message of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Have we really replaced the gospel of the kingdom of heaven with traditions that leave people enslaved to this world?
Here in the southern United States, I fear we have. I know Jesus is merciful, and I believe that he will not condemn those who sincerely worship him, even if they are snared by traditions. However, there are many who are pushed away by the hypocrisy — and God forbid you teach against traditions.
It’s so easy to get carried away with emotion and become frustrated with these things, but should we? It’s good to be “zealously affected in a good thing” right? Well, when the good thing we are affected in causes us to lose our peace, patience, and mercy, then we might be missing a bigger point. I write this because it’s what I’m considering about my own self at the moment.
If you’ve been choked out by the hypocrisy of the bible belt, then please know a few things:
For one, God is in control. All of this is going according to His plan, so it does no good to worry too much over the corruption. Jesus is also very merciful and it is he who judges the intents and hearts of others. If you start to see how bad things have gotten, take special care that you do not start judging others as “false” Christians. That’s not our place.
Secondly, if you have faith in Jesus, keep seeking him and ask him to show you what the gospel is about. Read your bible and pray to be released from the snares of traditions that have polluted the word of God.
Lastly, this does not mean you have to leave your church. It is good to be around others who believe in Jesus, even if they are missing parts of the message. Also, remember to treat others the way you’d want to be treated. I’ve learned the hard way that people do not like their traditions being challenged, especially when we go about it the wrong way. It might be good to resist any impulse to tell people they are wrong, and instead, focus on your own salvation and lead by example.
As for me, I’m going to continue going to church for the sake of fellowship with those who might be on the sidelines searching for the Lord. Meanwhile, I’ll sit back quietly, listen, get to know people, speak about my beliefs only when asked, and continue with my little-known blog.
Let your light shine, Christians! However bright or dim you think it might be, don’t hide it for fear of this world — whether it be fear of unbelievers or fear of offending those stuck in Christian traditions. Trust in the Lord, and he will be your strength, understanding, peace, and your salvation!