Sunday, April 03, 2016

More on Southern-Style Religion

First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina
South Carolina is home to a surprising number of religious organizations. Though you and I may have never heard of them, some have ambitious names with words like "Global," "World," "Harvest," and "International" in them.

Many of the churches also have really religious-sounding names we might snicker about back home in the post-Christian Northwest. You can still find Christian ministries and churches with more inclusive, inoffensive names that would be "acceptable" in the Northwest, but they seem to be the minority. Me, though, I'm pretty sure I would have a hard time inviting an agnostic friend or neighbor to "Right Direction Christian Center," "Temple of Deliverance," or "Chosen 2 Conquer."

The church we're part of has a strong substance-abuse recovery program, but they make no efforts at subtlety in describing their goal and approach: it's "U-turn for Christ." I cringe a bit every time I hear it, but then I remind myself, it's not wrong, it's just different! Subtlety just isn't a value here, not when it comes to religion; people are more open about these things.
There are also many churches representing denominations we've heard of but don't really know much about. Hubs works with a couple of guys from AME Zion churches, which are predominantly African American, and there are a lot of those. And everywhere, everywhere, there are Baptists, especially Southern Baptists. So many that the non-Baptists have a lot of opinions about them, including some strong anti-Baptist (not Anabaptist!) prejudices that catch me by surprise.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The Southern Baptist Convention's website reveals that within the city limits of Columbia, SC, are more than twice as many SBC churches (50+) as can be found in the entire state of Oregon. One city! The entire state!

I've had more contact with Southern Baptists than your average Northerner, but that's primarily due to their strong representation and influence in world missions (where they've made huge contributions!) I have not darkened the doors of many SBC churches, though, and I'm curious. Spoke at one a few weeks ago. Their mission pastor had just returned from the Pacific Northwest where he helped an SBC church in the Bellevue, WA area celebrate its second anniversary. He also told me about some folks from around here preparing to plant a church in Issaquah, WA, not far from some of my old stomping grounds. I thought about putting Oregon on their radar, but maybe that tip would be better given to these new Washington churches.

Wonder how much they contextualize their approach when they plant churches outside the South? Maybe quite a bit; maybe not. On the spot, I couldn't think of a good way to ask.

See also reflections on South Carolina religion in South Carolina Through the Storm.

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