When one lives in the South/Bible Belt one is likely to both encounter and share in certain perceptions of the North. I live in Knoxville, Tennessee, and like many people, I don’t always let a lack of knowledge prevent me from having an opinion.
Many people have a perception that the United States is getting less Christian/spiritual/religious, and–the perception is–the North is leading the secular wave.
Maybe it is, but perhaps things are not as bad as some of us think.
My wife and I spent several days in Pennsylvania, and what follows is some of what I observed.
Driving up through the tips of West Virginia and Maryland into Pennsylvania and towards Gettysburg, one encounters many churches. Somebody must be going to them. While in Pennsylvania, I heard that PA has the largest Christian live theater in America. Surely, it isn’t just southerners who are driving up there and supporting that.
In downtown Philadelphia–big, mean, we used to have the only pro football stadium with a jail in it Philadelphia–I saw a Pro Life message written on an upper story window pane. I also saw a business labeled “Bible Society.” Mostly, I saw a bunch of people just living their lives, going to and from work. They weren’t wearing “Jesus Saves” tee shirts, but they also didn’t seem mean.
A quick tour of the nearby Valley Forge gift shop revealed several shelves of books. At least half of one shelf, it seemed, was devoted to the theme of religious faith and the Founding Fathers. Some of them were arguing that the Founders were more Deistic (and less Christian) than today’s evangelicals want to believe, but at least one of those books, if not more, argued just the opposite.
So, I was just in one region of the North, and it was only for a few days, but that section of the country is not as devoid of faith as some people on both sides of the conversation might think.
Frankly, some Christians want to lament how godless the United States is becoming, but I don’t think this is always a good idea. Such laments can easily turn into self-pity, which is unbecoming for us as Christians–we are supposed to be in the business of bringing the Good News. Besides, in the good ol’ days we probably weren’t as Christian as we want to think, and maybe nowadays is not quite as bad as we have allowed ourselves to believe.