There is a definite change in mood as you get closer to the East coast and as we got closer to Minnie’s fundamental family.
Between Kansas City and St. Louis there are dozens of adult book stores and adult clubs along the highway. That changes as you get farther east. The adult businesses were replaced with huge religious billboards that offered strange church-language messages-telling people that they were sinners and to repent and asking passerbyers if they knew where they would spend eternity. Sinners, repent and eternity. Old words that used to hold common meaning and now sound foreign and for some reason harsh. The world does not have a religious foundation like it used to. Culture changed dramatically. Christians haven’t changed that much over time.
Minnie’s family still hands out tracts to people. In my opinion billboards and tracts are an easy way for Christians to feel good about themselves without actually having to invest time and energy developing relationships with others. Then again so are looks and stares and judgments. I can’t dismiss them altogether, but I question their effectiveness. I can’t name one person that I know that was saved via a billboard or a tract. I do have friends who have accepted Christ as a result of other Christians who have become true friends to them. Offering acceptance, friendship and finally offering direction to a missing piece in their life.
But these antique religious messages also send a negative message, “CHANGE WHAT YOU ARE DOING”, but why? And change to what? There is no message of hope and no message to turn to a personal, intimate God who desires to relationship with mankind. It is a fundamental difference of what it means to be saved-of what salvation means. To these folks it is being saved from hell. To me it is being transformed so that we can enter into a relationship with God. One is positional and the other is relational. The first involves freedom from punishment and the latter involves a friendship that blossoms now and fully develops in another life-heaven.
Then there is the Amish and Mennonite country of the East-Pennsylvania Dutch country. First there is the names of the towns, cities and townships. Many are named after biblical words and names, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Emmaus, etc. But then it gets a little weird, Harmony, Fertility, Blue Ball, Puseyville, Lucky, Unionville, (I am NOT making this up!), Pillow, Fruitvill, West Middlesex. I thought there was a Chastity, PA, but I can’t find it now. What were these pious people thinking? OK, I know that some names hold much different meanings now than at one time…but come on! There is a bumper sticker that reads “In Pennsylvania Intercourse is just this side of Paradise” And it is geographically accurate. And those names all seem to clash with the visual (there is a town named Media)-horse and buggies and wool clothes and pastries and farmers markets and quilts and head-coverings and overalls and bikes for the progressive, and long beards and the black hats. We saw a horse and buggy that had been hit by a car. I do not know if anyone got hurt.
Like I mentioned before, The In-Laws are fundamental Independent Baptist. Which means they are first and foremost Christian-I consider them brothers and sisters in Christ. And then they are Calvinists (once saved, always saved) and then they are fundamentalists-which practically means that they have issues with those that don’t believe exactly as they do. I understand this, I attempt to have friendly, thought-provoking discussions, and finally agree to disagree, and most of the time we walk away still friends (or at least still related).
And there’s my cousins and my sister-in-law. Cousin Melanie married Josh. Melanie comes from a missionary family, she is a preacher’s kid-she grew up in South Africa. She has had some wild times in latter years, but she is now trying to lead a life that honors God. The rest of the family has high hopes for Josh. Now I wouldn’t label Josh as a pagan or anything, but he is not a professing Christian. I would label him as a seeker and I think that he might even want to accept it all blindly, but he just can’t. Why should he!? He seems to be analyzing and, well, seeking. And that is totally cool, I respect that very much. Sister-inLaw on the other hand just can’t wait for Josh to “make a decision” to follow Christ. It is this terminology and mindset that troubles me.
There are so many people out there just waiting for someone to say a prayer or to make a confession. To me those initial steps are crucial, but not the end all. For me it comes back to a relationship. At the essence it is a relationship with Christ, but the journey often involves relationships with those around us, friends, family etc. Fellow believers that offer advice, encouragement and most of all, an example.
It kinda starts with a warped view of Calvinism. John Calvin was a theologian and one of his core beliefs is “perserverence of the saints”. Which means that one cannot lose thier salvation, they just can’t wake up one day and not be saved-like they lost their keys or something. But is has also come to mean that one cannot willingly walk away from the faith. This is where we differ. I do not believe that anything or anyone else can steal our salvation away from us. But I do believe that we can leave it behind, we can walk away. It is though we walk beside Christ and as we pause (as we stumble, as we make bad disicions, as we hurt ourself and others) Christ continues. We can always ask for forgiveness and opt to catch up. But sometimes we don’t chose to catch back up, we camp out in our weakness and selfishness and often times lose sight completely and it is then that we need to re-establish our relationship with Christ-to be put back beside him again. It is the “inbetween” that folks aregue about. Where would one spend eternity if they are in that “out-of-sight” state. The state where they have done nothing to improve thier relationship with God and do things to hurt God. Sin is sin and it still separates us from God.
Apparently I am one who was hindering Josh from making his end-all dicision. I pointed out a shirt on the boardwalk at Ocean City, MD. It was a Harley-Davidson shirt and the back said, “If you can read this then the b*tch fell off.” I thought it was a pretty funny, I still do. It is just a shirt. It is pop culture. ANYWAY, Tammie let me have it via my wife. Apparently Josh said something to Tammie to question my salvation. And she was accusing me of preventing Josh from making that fateful decision. I am not so sure what Josh actually siad.
So Josh, sorry bud if I offended you, reall, forgive me. Even though Christians aren’t perfect some still have a sense of humor. Taste is another issue. I might not have much of the latter, but I like to laugh, a lot! And we could have a whole discussion on cussing and wholesome conversation. I always strive for wholesome conversation, but sometimes I cuss, it might be a bad habbit, but sometimes coming from someone like me, well it is out of place and adds to the funny! There are also those that cussed in the Bible, those that used very strong and curt words-cussing I do however, try to pay careful attention to who (whom?) my audiance is.
Tammie, I am sorry that it got back to you, but when Josh is ready to enter into a relationship with Christ I hope he has a full understanding of what he is getting into, at least that is what I see him looking for before he makes a dicision. There is nothing wrong with that. I just hope he doesn’t think that he has to surrender a life of fun and humor for a life of solomn boredom and family baggage. The Christian life is so full of LIFE and freedom and joy and fullfillment.