Southerners sometimes get a bad rap. Outside our beloved region, we’re assumed to be slow thinkers as well as slow talkers. We’re all racist, obese, uncultured rednecks.
Most Southerners will tell you they’re fiercely proud of where they’re from. Even more than the idyllic shady oaks, warm breezes on a screen porch and our grandmothers’ pecan pies, we’re proud of our people. We Southerners are a generous bunch. No matter how little we have, we’ll share some with you. No matter how crazy you are, we won’t kick you out – we’ll probably put you on display! New in town? You won’t be a stranger for any longer than it takes the first neighbor to drop by with some banana bread and an invitation to church.
Our creative genius runs deep. Our universities have produced generations of history-makers. Even now, in this time they’re calling the “New South”, we are doing some incredible things.
From innovative food, top-notch craftsmanship, stellar music and more, we have so much to offer.
And yet, there is so much we want to forget too.
In the face of everything we cherish about the South, we hide our faces in shame over Jim Crow laws, the KKK, and neighborhoods still designed as white havens. I cringe every time I see someone still clinging to the “how they grew up.”
To all those outside our borders, we want to say, “This is not who we are! This is a part of who some of us have been, but we are much more! The South is not wholly the bad things you’ve heard – just come and see. You will be caught up in its glory too.”
I know those feelings as a Southerner who’s lived outside the South.
And I know those feelings as a Christian who’s ventured outside the church.
Christians sometimes get a bad rap too.
A few “Baptists” in Kansas get on the news and ruin it for all of us. A pastor is inappropriate with a church member and suddenly his sin is generalized out to all church leaders.
While the rest of us are trying to live like Christ, some groups seem to have a whole different idea of Him in mind. They make Him seem unloving, addicted to rules, judgmental and impossible to please.
While the rest of us admit to being the worst of sinners saved by grace, others refuse to let Christ purify them yet continue to publicly claim His name.
And no matter the gracious, loving, life-saving truth of Christ, it’s these image s that dominate others’ perception.
Just as my Southern pride fights my Southern shame, my godly faith fights our Christian heritage.
People have done some terrible things in the name of Jesus. They’ve spoken hurtful words. They’ve led campaigns against whole societal groups. Rather than reaching out, they’ve put themselves above others.
And the violence? How can we even begin to explain to others why some “Christians” hurt and kill others because “God tells them to”?
All we can say is, “This is not us! This is not Christ! Yes, these people say they are Christians, but this is not the Christ I know. Just come and see. You’ll be caught up in His glory too.”
The Church may have some terrible skeletons in its closet. I know I fail Christ daily. But, just like my beloved South is so much more than its failings, Christ Himself is so much more than who we reflect Him to be.
If you only judge God on the behavior of His children, I can see why you want to stay away. Yet we are imperfect people trying to reflect a perfect God. We will fail sometimes. We will fail big sometimes.
But please don’t let that stop you from getting to know Him. The love and grace He offers is perfect. Some of us just don’t do a good job of showing that. Don’t let your perception of us keep you from the Truth of Him.
After all, I’d hate for you to ever miss the blissful chance to eat a slice of my grandmother’s pecan pie just because you assume she doesn’t wear shoes.