Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Culture Shock

Why am I writing this redux. When I found out we were moving to the Buckle of the Bible Belt I frantically went on-line to find anything I could on living in the South that might give a hint on our situation. Now, if you’ve ever tried, there is nothing on ‘Living in the North’ that anyone has wrote for Southerners moving to New York City. There should be. I can’t even imagine the culture shock. Same for us. We’ve had no middle ground, no living in, say, Oklahoma, or the southern Midwest that might have given some warning. Not even a vacation to Disney World (yet).

Now, living in a small town in Wisconsin did prepare us for a couple of things, such as a politically conservative climate, but heck, Madison is 10 minutes away and that is NOT a bastion of the GOP. We also encountered folks here in our small town who had never known what a synagogue was and felt very sorry we didn’t celebrate Christmas. I’ve never in my life met so much innocent ignorance about people of the Jewish faith, or for that matter any other non-Christian faith. I’ve had countless bizarre conversations with children and adults about whether I believe Jesus was born..(yes), then I must not like him (what?!), and my people killed him. (All around re-education needed there.) I've had to explain countless times that I thought Jesus was indeed a great figure in history and that, as a Jew, my family has taken a different path in religion, but that God and Creation are for everyone.

Oddly, this was not a problem at ALL in Chattanooga. A private Episcopal school had a Rabbi come in and talk fairly often, everyone knew where the 2 synagogues were in town and people actually enquired about Passover happening at the same time as Easter. Non-Jews introduced us to Jews so we could be comfortable having some of the ‘Tribe’ nearby. All of this there-by shattering one view that we had of the South, that there was rampant religious bigotry. I mean, the KKK doesn’t exactly have the best PR.

This is not too say that there is no reason for the Buckle of the Bible Belt moniker. If you are in any way shape or form Christian, you are fair game to be recruited into some other different area of Christianity. While a simple “Actually we’re Jewish” does it for us, this will not work for anyone else. I’m pretty sure there are more Churches than restaurants and anyone wanting a tax break can set up a little house, put a Cross up and be in business. There is a giant 6 story Cross with Christmas lights on it just as you drive into town, businesses hold prayer sessions and so does the airport. I try to picture all of this going on in Seattle or San Francisco.

I do appreciate the ‘Lord saving us’ everyday, as we can use all the help we can get and I’m pretty sure ‘The Lord’ does not differentiate nearly so much as we humans do. Frankly, I am a deeply religious person, just not in the way most conventional religious doctrine dictates. So as long as a person walks the walk as well as talkin' the talk, being in a religious community doesn't cause me concern. In fact, we might just all have things in common that we never knew.


Robb said...

Good, a needed manual for the South!

Kathy said...

Having lived in the South (South Carolina) my entire life, I hardly notice the Christian background that permeates everything here until it is pointed out by someone from another area of the country. I guess that it would be culture shock! I hope that you ultimately enjoy your life in the South - I wouldn't live anywhere else :-) On the other hand, I find it so strange that people talk about the South like it is an alien place with the connotation that it is bad or inferior, but I have to admit that I have that same feeling about other parts of the country (which shall remain nameless), so what's the difference, right? More on topic, the Christians are pushy here, and it drives me crazy that there has to be a prayer at every event. I loved your entry about ordering at restaurants. It totally throws the wait staff if you want to order everything at once. Anyway welcome y'all!

Emotenote said...

To Kathy - So far we've loved our visits to Chattanooga, the pace is slower and more relaxed, which allows us to really see and feel where we're at. We did get caught by surprise at one event we went to when a prayer was going to be said, we thought someone was just kidding. oops nope!