Buckle Your Bible-Belt

Growing up in the south

I once had a friend who posted a picture on facebook. That picture was of a sign that read "Here in Tennessee, we don't hide crazy. We parade it on the porch and give it a sweet tea!" I responded with "Where's the dislike button? I want to dislike anything and everything that ever had anything to ever do with Tennessee ever." Until that day, I always believed that honesty was the best policy. But that's when I learned sometimes honesty has more recoil than a fat chick with a wicked cameltoe. Poke the "fire" and you're going to get burned. In the case of that analogy, dick punched with the hungry flab of a sexually deprived water buffalo. And in either case, at the end of the day, you'll be several thousand dollars in the hole (zing!) with doctor bills and a missing testicle. Or two. Much like the fat chick, this is a roller coaster you don't ride twice. Because no matter how great the lead up was, no matter how enticing the drunken foreplay may have been, sometimes the reprocussions are just too severe.
These lands must have been cursed by the pissed off love-chidlren of war-hungry native american tribes after stumbling apon an orgy of hot, sweaty, shamanistic voodoo witch doctor women with double-ds and olympic worthy gymnastic stretches.

See, the people of Tennessee are more prideful than a frat boy doing keg stands. Why? Hell if I know. I was born and raised in this God-awful pit of soul wrenching, mind melting, mentality draining, Hell on Earth. And I have loathed every fucking day of it. These lands must have been cursed by the pissed off love-chidlren of war-hungry native american tribes after stumbling apon an orgy of hot, sweaty, shamanistic voodoo witch doctor women with double-ds and olympic worthy gymnastic stretches. There's no prosperity here, only delusions of granduer with no basis for claim. Now, I know what you're going to say. "Well shit, son, hain't you heard of that thar' Nashville?" Well, degenerate, back-wash, inbred, hillbilly no-where-close-to good sir. What about it? Have you been to Nashville? Have you seen it? It's not even up to par with Atlanta, and that's a discussion for a different article all of its own. I've spent a fair amount of time in both Nashville and Atlanta. Nashville has more run-down than not, and even the "not" isn't anything close to head turning. Even the very heart of our beloved capital coats my skin with a filth that can only be cleansed with a holy water, gasoline mixture set ablaze. I even had my first homeless encounter in that oh so great city. Granted, my first encounter was nothing like the rest, and the man in question was actually a pretty stand up guy that had just over heard our band playing from outside. He seemed content to just talk, didn't knife me, didn't steal my stuff, and only asked for spare change once. And even when I didn't have the money to give the man (being a broke musician and all), he was still content just to have the company, even departing with me the gift of his Beatles-era sunglasses. Don't let this side-tracked story fool you, though. This man's genuine kindness even in the face of despair (being homeless and all) was an anomaly the likes of which this state rarely sees.

Take high school for example. As is the same for a lot of you, my experiences in high school were horrendous. But imagine growing up in the bible-belt of the United States as a Non-Christian, surrounded by bible toting, close-minded fuckholes. That sentence alone would earn me a burning at the stake, death by stoning, or some combination of the two (in whatever order).
I learned more from the Chronicles of Narnia, and all I got from that in the end was lions can talk (not a fact, in fact).
As a child, and well into my teens, I was forced to participate and attend church. I dreaded Sundays like most people dread Mondays. Sunday school? Really? School on the weekend? Much less, school where I learn nothing but the exaggerated, over embelished, misinterpretations of stories long edited, cut, and revised from old men written in ages long past. I learned more from the Chronicles of Narnia, and all I got from that in the end was lions can talk (not a fact, in fact). But still, church attendance was a requirement in my household, and when we stepped out of line, belts came off. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying a child should never be spanked. But there's a difference between spanking, and floggings. Somewhere along the way, the thin line between abuse and discipline blurred, and our archaic society took it's dear, sweet time finding its drunken way back across.

I should clarify here, before going on, that I have nothing against religion. If you feel comfortable with having blind faith, that's fine. I actually tend to respect that determination, so long as it's not the hypocritical kind. Love thy neighbor does not mean, love thy neighbor unless they're gay, black, asian, Jewish, athiest, smells funny or is a man in high heels, ect. ect. You know who would condone that kind of segregation and the persecution that Christianity has been the result of constantly throughout history? Jesus? No. Hitler. Think about that next time you inadvertently compare your "Lord and Savior" to the tyrannical leader of Nazi Germany by belittling someone for something as silly as race, creed, or color. But I digress. Getting to the point, as a resident of the south, and more specifically, Tennessee, I've spent a great deal of time dodging bullets. If bullets were zealots armed to the teeth and ready for religious warfare.

As I said, high school was a nightmare. More so, given the fact that back then, I was quite a bit more outspoken and defensive about my freedom to believe whatever I want. It's no joke, that in doing so, I was stricken with many titles. Whether I was being called a devil worshipper, satanist, or (and I'm dead serious) a witch, my fellow students and even most of my teachers were not very accepting about that kind of free-thinking. That's a life changing series of events, unfortunately, and that kind of segregation led to me being an extreme introvert. It also ties into the modern concerns of bullying, as yes, I was constantly bullied. The ones who weren't too occupied trying to give me a concussion with the thick weight of their bible, though they went the more non-violent route, were too busy telling me I needed Jesus in my life. It wasn't until I spent some time travelling outside of Tennessee did I realize not all Christians are such extremists. That's how bad it was. But that severity definitely gave me perspective. I, myself, am not anti-religious. I've already mentioned how much respect I have for someone who can show an unquestioning determination when there's so much blind faith involved. However, I have absolutely no respect for the level of candid hate present in this place. My experiences gave me perspective, and that perspective is acceptance.

Everyone has their beliefs for a reason, whether it's because you were raised as such and never cast aside that safety blanket, or because it's what you feel is right. I just have a hard time grasping how some people can be so ridiculous. The church I used to go to even managed to chase off the rest of my family, after a new pastor came in and starting preaching that women were second class. That men were superior. And again, that's no joke. They actually started preaching this, and no, not everyone fled before their minds could melt. Hardly anyone did. Unfortunately, that's not an isolated incident either. The level of dipshittedness (Shh, it's a word) only rises from there. Sweet, baby jesus forbid you ever use a damned curse word! Because you know.... It's in the bible an' all. Except it's not. Nor does it say anything in the bible about alcohol being evil. But son, you better garsh darn believe that if you sip the devil's water, you're going straight to Hell! Nevermind the fact that, as anyone who's ever even heard of Jesus knows, he, himself, turned water into wine. But surely, all that water he turned to wine was just a test, and he was gravely disappointed when all of his precious disciples actually drank it. And... maybe he just... drank it to... uh... not to blow his cover? Look, case in point, it's stupid to think that alcohol is evil. Just stupid. I'm not going to rant on and on about it, but seriously. No, I'm not saying go be shit-faced 24/7, but so long as it's used with a level of control and responsibility, help yourself. My county, up until a few years ago, was a dry county. Getting a permit to sell even beer for your business was almost as difficult as sadling, straddling, and riding the moon to Pluto (totally still a planet). And liquor. Ten times worse. And then some. Our local economy is to this day still suffering from that. See, because without being able to sell liquor by the drink many restaurants, such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, wouldn't poke this place with a nuke, much less establish themselves here. Why? Because that's where a great deal of their profits come from. But you think that's that, so we lost out on a few restaurants, so what? It doesn't stop there. Sadly enough, even other businesses, offices, factories, whatever, won't settle here because when they come in for meetings, they want somewhere nice and cozy to go have lunch or dinner, maybe have a few drinks. They want a town that's full and thriving. Now you might be asking what this has to do with religion, but when the time came to vote on liquor by the drink, the majority of those protesting, running around putting up or carrying signs, speaking out against the evils of alcohol... Well, they always had a bible in hand. Yes, it was the local churches that organized the petitions, spreading the word in the name of the Lord. It was even regulated for quite some time that businesses, like grocery stores, couldn't even sell beer if they were so close to a church. True facts. To make a seperate, long story short, liquor by the drink was passed far too late. Too many businesses had already passed through looking to set up shop, obviously not doing so. The lack of growth, the lack of jobs, took its toll and snowballed. More and more local businesses have closed down since then, and this town in particularly is slowly dying. Hell, even I was just recently laid off after where I worked closed.

I've already mentioned bullying, but let's revisit that. Some of you may be ex-bullies, others victim to. And though there are an infinite amount of reasons to pick on someone, you'd be surprised how often religion plays that role. Much more so, in the infamous Bible Belt of the United States. If you're not a Grade-A, certified, baptized, genuine Christian, well you might as well pack your things, dig a hole, and move right in. I might sing a sad song about how I was looked down upon by students and teachers alike, but it's not like I was the only one.

Few as they might have been, there were other cases much the same. Atheists, Pagans, Mormons, Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses (just to name a few) became meat shields in the war we all constantly waged to survive adolescence. Puberty is bad enough. Imagine you're constantly dodging rocks and scripture, getting scolded for thinking it's okay to think, and keeping up with homework all while your hormones are tearing you seven new assholes. It's an emotional orgy on a roller coaster. All that, it makes you remember. I can recall the names of every douchebag I wanted to slap back to the Crusades where they belonged, but more than that, I can remember the few people that were sincerely nice. The few who, though also strong in their faith, were stronger in their humanity. Or perhaps, unlike the others, they just had some common sense. Those are the ones I'll always remember. And though I won't list names here, I realy wish I could. If there's one thing I wish I could do, it would be to make those people understand how truly special and unique they were, how much of an impact they made, simply by smiling at me, or asking me how I was. It was that rare of a commodity, when the events happened, by them being the source of the anomaly, it had that much influence. But even still, the horror extends much deeper, intruding the very roots of the religious community itself.

It's silly, really. Christians should be Christians and that's that, right? Apparently not. Because even among the bible-toters themselves there's seperation, sides forming within the ranks. As mentioned before, Jehovah's Witnesses, though as eccentric of a branch they may be, are still just Christians, and it doesn't stop there. Methodists are Methodists, Baptists are Baptists, ect. ect. They can't just be "Christian". Ooooh no, not around here. All these little differences, all these little titles, they're oh so important. I mean... really? With all the different movements, and eras, branches and denominations of Christianity, there's still this larger, greater picture. Shouldn't it just kind of be this large scale thing? That they're all on the same side? What's it really matter if you interpret the bible in seperate ways? It's not like any of the major denominations or branches are preaching that God was really an alien from Gallifrey (Hello Doctor). What does it really matter that you have your own specific group in which to cling to? Ah, but that's just it. It's another one of those tricky, fine print parts of life. Social Stigmas. How ever prevalent they are. Now, granted. This topic isn't exactly classified specifically to the bible-belt. But it's definitely more heavily emphasized, and in silly ways most frequently. I realize in any group of such size and magnitude there will always be sub-groups of some kind. But... Does it really have to be so important? If someone asks what religion you are (though to be frank, that's kind of a rude question) can't you just happily answer with Christian? Do you absolutely have to throw in that part about how you go to a Methodist church? Or a Baptist church? Or that church in the alley in downtown, across from the bar that keeps complaining about snakes on the loose? Damnit, I have to stop here... Now I can't get Samuel L. Jackon's voice out of my head...

Mercy forbid, that you ever work as a waitress or server on Sundays, or Wendesdays for that matter, as you know the church crowd is going to be large, cheap, and oh so absolutely ridiculously rude.
I could rant forever about life in the bible-belt, and it would take equal amounts of time to explain why that's a problem. There's definitely no question in my mind, I'm out of here the moment I have the opportunity. Perhaps it's the same in other places, but it's sad when as a general rule of thumb, you hate Sundays just as bad as Mondays. Mercy forbid, that you ever work as a waitress or server on Sundays, or Wendesdays for that matter, as you know the church crowd is going to be large, cheap, and oh so absolutely ridiculously rude. Not to mention how they're going to be practically riding you around like a saddled piggy (and you still won't get tipped) for working on Sunday. It never fails. I was a server for a while, and I'm pretty sure I'm still suffering from PTSD because of it.

Working with the public as I've always done is excruciating, and dealing with them even on a social level is often more uncomfortable than waking up with a hangover, in a makeshift bed of empty beer cans and bottles of jack, next to your proctologist (not the doctor I was looking for). For every facebook status asking for prayers, for every "God Bless You", for every stranger that approaches me with their church pamplets or books, I'm left feeling awkward and inappropriate. Even if it's not coming, I'm mentally flinching, cowering under wounds of the past. I'm expecting what I got used to, which is an uncomfortable one-way conversation ending with how I need Jesus, or how I'm going to Hell. Myself, well...

Somehow I grew up with the self control to not offend everyone I had the slightest urge to. Generally, these days, when I'm approached with pamplets, I listen, accept the papers, smile, nod, and thank them. Yes, of course, when the time has passed and they're out of sight, I toss the pamplets and wash my hands as if their Jesus-bug could spread, but still. When Jehovah's Witnesses come knocking on my door, I greet them with a polite smile, and generally ask them if they want something to drink, since I know they're going door to door. Because that's just the kind of person I try to be. Because that's the kind of person I think everyone should be. Open, accepting, and most importantly kind. It doesn't matter if we don't believe the same thing, it really doesn't. Not in this moment, not at this time. Worst case scenario is they're right, and go on to a happy afterlife. In their eyes, I don't. Regardless, that's no way to judge someone. That's no basis to how you should treat someone. What matters is who a person is, not what they believe. If they're kind, if they're welcoming and warm, what does it matter that they're a little different? Neither me, nor my non-Christian friends or acquantances are running around trying to "save" people from their beliefs. Think about that for a moment, dear bible-thumping southern neighbors of mine. Bet that would make you uncomfortable wouldn't it?

"Hello, I'm from End Organized Religion, and we're looking for people to denounce their Lord and Savior!"

Tell me you wouldn't slam the door in my face. Fucking. Tell me. How about if there were more non-Chrisians than Christians? If the tables were flipped, turned upside down (And I'd like to take a minute...). How would you like being the butt of their jokes? Being stigmatized? You probably wouldn't. It's simple really. Almost painfully so. And it's kind of my entire point really. Treat others how you want to be treated. It's not fucking rocket science.

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