Thursday, March 10, 2016

Southern Baptists & Sinners

Being raised in the Southeastern part of the United States of America is interesting to say the least. Recently, I was thinking about my religious upbringing and made a startling revelation. How in the world am I going to explain to God why I haven't been in Church? He is going to look at me and say, "JoAnne, there is a church on every corner so you have no excuse"! I thought this and pondered it out loud to my best friend and her daughter as we were driving through Wilson, N.C. and passing by several churches. They are used to my pondering and told me they didn't think God operated that way. There is literally a church on every corner in Wilson and it's not just Baptist churches, there are Synagogues, Catholic Churches....whatever church you want, it's there. 

First, we need to start by looking at what Southern Baptists believe. As a southerner and a long standing Baptist I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe he is my personal savior and the son of God. I believe if I profess I am a sinner, ask Jesus into my heart then I can be saved. Then you get baptized. That seems really simple and I am sure there are a lot of rules and regulations but this is the gist of it for me. I am not concerned with what the "church" believes because to me salvation is personal; between you and God

I remember going to church with my grandparents when I was a little girl. We would visit the local Baptist church with Methodist undertones. Those of you that don't know, Methodist are really quiet worshipers and Kirk Franklin would scare the crap out of them. LOL! I love me some throw down gospel music. There is nothing like it and sometimes I will stroll the sidewalk on Sunday morning in town to hear the music coming from the local Mount Zion church which is what is called a black church down here. The parishioners in those churches know how to praise God because you can hear it in their songs and in their voices as they lift God up in praise. I tell my family that when I die, they better take me to the nearest Mount Zion church because my funeral will be home going service and it will be fantastic.

Religion is ingrained in everything in the south and a great example of this is before every Nascar race there is prayer. There used to be so much more of that. The "blue law" was in effect on Sundays when I was a little girl. That meant that no beer was sold on that day and no stores were open for business and I actually remember this and I remember when it all changed. (I am not sure if beer was never sold on Sunday or if it was always you could sell it after 12pm) Stores began to open on Sundays and beer was sold after 12pm. Sunday was sacred but not so much now. Nobody seems to care anymore.  

Also, I have found myself wanting to censor my thoughts and ideas about religion while I am writing this post. I am not going to do that. I think the meme is funny and I like my title to this piece. The main reason why I wanted to write this is because of all the feelings about religion that I am currently struggling with. I like to joke with my cousin Heather about how we were raised going to these types of churches that preach hell, fire and damnation. My favorite line is we are all going to hell. That is what has been preached to me my whole life and I don't know how to reconcile this concept in my mind. I have decided to write it down and maybe after reading it I will gain a clear perspective. 

When I was a teenager, life seemed simple, clear and concise. My parents told me what to do and I did it. It was easy to follow Jesus because I hadn't been out in the world yet. We are told that life is about choices and the choices we make dictate the lives that we lead. Then I left home and went wild!!! Some of the choices I made still haunt me from time to time but that's okay. LOL, I didn't shoot a man in Reno and watch him die or anything but you know what I mean. 

Clearly I am a sinner. I am simply amazed by people that are devout and seem to have no problem at all sticking to the rules of the Bible. No sex before marriage, no drugs or drinking, no lying, no stealing, no coveting, go to church, be nice, do good. It is all so overwhelming to me but some people follow the rules and they look happy and seem to do it with no effort at all. I think I'm doing something wrong. Once again, I am all over the page with my feelings about this subject. I love Jesus, but I am so imperfect....I was taught that no one sin is greater than another. Lying is the same as murder. If I do not live by the Bible then I will perish. How do I grab hold of the childlike innocence I had when I was younger and apply it to what I believe now? 

I do realize being Baptist is not a religion and that being Baptist is basically being Protestant. My thinking goes along with the Catholic saying on the meme that "If shit happens, I deserve it".  Maybe the key to a more personal relationship with God is letting go of my own ego......