Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kids' Faith & Southern Christian Culture

My kids have come up with a few gems lately that have just - as Will says - "cracked me out!" We made Resurrection Rolls on Easter, and boy, did that concept stick with them! I've heard them in the back seat of the car twice now playing with kleenex & saying, "OK, this is how we wrap Jesus' body, and then after 3 days, LOOK! There's nothing there! He has risen!" :-)

Will is also obsessed with asking about heaven & God - what is heaven like? How big is God? How can He be everywhere? Etc., etc. I know those big questions totally freak some parents out, but I *LOVE* them!!! I love explaining my ideas and esp. telling him that sometimes I don't know, either. I always want him to know I am telling him the truth; I don't ever want to make up stuff, just b/c the answer is hard. I want us to talk it out together.

While walking through the mall yesterday, (yes - I pulled the trigger on the Old Navy swim sale; went with that top & board shorts :-)) the kids begged to go into the Christian Book Outlet. Cool, I thought. (I also thought, "How perfectly Southern is this place?" But more on that tangent shortly...) I found two perfect books there for them, (b/c Sis is just as interested; Will just does most of the question initiation.) What Is God Like? and What Is Heaven Like? both by Beverly Lewis
We started with the Heaven one last night, and although we're just curious about heaven in general, it really would be the perfect book to soothe a child's mind after someone has died. Each page has the main child asking someone in his life a question about heaven, and then there's scripture at the bottom of each page to back up the response - very cool. We only read half last night before bed, but I'm really excited for the God one. The premise is: "Before a father leaves for his longest business trip yet, he encourages his son and daughter to remember, 'Even when I'm not here, God is always with you.' After he leaves, the boy and his little sister spend a fun-filled day and star-filled night remembering everything their father told them about their heavenly Father. He is powerful, loving, everywhere, all-knowing, perfect, merciful, unchanging, creator, and a Father who wants to be known, talked to, obeyed and worshiped. With imaginative text, Bible verses and inspiring full-color illustrations, Beverly Lewis and Pam Querin take difficult concepts and bring them to life in the minds of children--and parents too."

So back to Southern Christian culture - having been gone for years and then not just visiting for a week, but living back here for over a month now, it is amazing to me the difference in the openness of Christianity in the South. I MISS IT! It's the entire premise of the book my MOPS girls gave me last month before I left, and I totally took it for granted as the norm growing up; but coming home now I see how really true it is. I know I'm making a very sweeping generalization, and there are certainly exceptions, but faith feels like such a private, personal, *quiet* thing up north. Down South, it's very open. There are like 10 Christian radio stations, everyone's children go to not only their own VBS each summer but to their friends' at other churches, too (& VBS goes from infant up - not just elementary school), and people *love* talking about their church and esp. what God is doing in their lives - not like it's a private thing. We're going to a big NASCAR (yes, I admit - I have completely succumbed after growing up here totally avoiding it; thank you, Will) event on Sunday, and the headliner before the fireworks is a major contemporary Christian artist. (TobyMac!!! I am soooo excited! I'll blog more about this later, too. :-)) I can't see that happening at a secular event up north. Cook-Out is a North Carolina burger chain that has the most divine milkshakes (I am addicted!) and they have Bible verses on all their cups & paper products. Chick-fil-A plays contemporary Christian music in their restaurants; so does the CiCi's Pizza here. It's just so "normal" to constantly have that happy little influence in the background of your life here, almost a constant subconscious reminder. I want that environment for my kids...

I certainly don't mean every Southerner is walking around like a preacher or that it's the only cultural influence by far; I don't think that people here who aren't Christians feel utterly dominated by it. But for those of us who look for & recognize it, the influence is openly everywhere, and I value that.

8 comments:

  1. so funny, susie....i have NO idea what you're talking about because i've lived in the north all my life! except our chick-fil-A also play contemporary christian music.
    sawyer and will would have some great conversations. he's my "God question" little dude as well and you're right...as parents we have to be honest with our answers and not just make something up so they won't ask again. good on ya! :)

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  2. its so different, isn't it? i barely live north of the mason-dixon and i have felt the HUGE difference in culture as far as Christianity goes. i have often wondered this year why there is such a big difference... who knows? and i must say "good for you!" for not shrinking back from your kids big and hard questions. its awesome how you talk to them and how honest you are. God is blessing every conversation you have when them - planting seeds in their hearts that will come to fruition! love ya

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  3. I know exactly what you're talking about. I went to high school in Cincinnati and I knew of NO other Christians- really, really sad! The one thing about Christians in the north is that they are generally serious about their faith. I pray your transition is smooth and that the Lord sends a *special* friend your way!
    Kellie

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  4. I so know what you mean and I am struggling balancing a christian walk in a culture where there is literally ONE christian bookstore that is the size of a small kitchen. um. hard to find things here.

    Eli rarely even brings up anything "christian though I do and I do read books and bible stories to him, etc. I know one day he will too.... we are FINALLY in a church that has a good children's program, until now even THAT was non existent. it starts about 3 years and goes up...

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  5. Good for you! Abby has been increasing those questions lately too. I really enjoy reading things together because I find myself learning along with her.

    I think many of us Southern girls take this for granted. I spent ages 3-8 in Illinois and I can confirm - there is a difference.

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  6. Growing up in the South I thought this was the norm for the world! Then I went to college in Florida (which I don't really consider the South) and found this not the norm. And when my brother moved to MI, we really found out that this is not the norm. I love it and I feel blessed that it is this way here. Speaking of CFA, I had a business meeting with them once at their headquarters (it's located on the south side of ATL). Besides the fact that the HQ campus is beautiful (and they have free lunch for employees) their campus is covered in bible verses. They also have arranged bible studies for employees! What a great company! I long to work for them one day. And not just bc I could eat all the free ice-dream but bc they are a Christian based company!

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  7. THANK YOU! It feels good to know I'm not alone in sensing the extremely dramatic difference! I'd love us to keep chatting about it; it's fascinating to me, & I just don't understand why the schism exists. I have northern friends of great faith (Liz! :-)) and I'm *sure* she's not the only one, you know? I guess it's in line with the other stereotypical cultural generality that Southerners are more openly friendly, ("Southern hospitality" :-)) so it makes sense that we're more open about our faith. We're more open about our family business, too, you know? (Can you tell I was a sociology minor? :-P) I just know I like it, and *that's* what I want my kids to grow up in.

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  8. Southerners are open about their faith because we are obcessed with making a personal connection with everyone we meet. Shut us in a room with a stranger and we will starve before we give up on "where are you from?' "do you know so-and-so" and "who were your Momma's people?" It's not being snooty, it's looking for a common bond. Where do you go to church is a BASIC question for the do-you-know game. That being open, it leads to discussions of faith from an almost totally secular purpose.
    Love, Your Momma

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