Growing up Southern, I’ve always heard “normal Christianity” defined as “Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians,” or rather, “Bab-dists, Meth-dists, and Prebaterians.” Yet the reality is, the Churches of Christ pulled up behind the Methodists LONG ago! The typical Southern state --- yes, I’d exclude Northern Virginia from that, and certainly Maryland --- is 40-50% Baptist, 5-10% Methodist, 5% Church of Christ, and, believe it or not, 5% Catholic. (Louisiana is “sui generis” --- southern Louisiana is the most Catholic place in the US!)
Here in Memphis, TN, we have a Hindu temple, 2 Buddhist temples, 3-4 mosques, a synagogue of every flavor (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Sephardic, Hasidic), 2 Unitarian churches, one of which has a panoramic view of the Mississippi River in case the sermon is boring, and a grassy lot that proclaims itself the site of a future Baha’i Worship Center. We also have a GOA, Antiochian, and OCA churches.
Just curious: What are these STRANG THINGS one sees in the South one doesn’t see up North? I’m not being facetious; I have no idea what these would be. Are we talking Orthodox churches here?
OF COURSE, the response I get when I tell people I’m Orthodox is “You’re Jewish?” I try to educate them by saying “No, Orthodox CHRISTIAN” but that goes nowhere. Being a convert, I fight those ethnic modifiers as hard as I can, Natasha, but ultimately I give in and say “I go to a Greek Orthodox church.” (I’m not Greek Orthodox; I’m Scotch-Irish Orthodox!)
When I told my parents I was converting, my Mom cried --- she was convinced I wanted to “become a Jew.” I quickly learned to describe it “old-fashioned Catholicism but without the Pope.” This works well enough for most conversations, by the way. Adding, “We have married priests, practice birth control, and can get divorced and remarried” scores points with Protestants and all but the most conservative Catholics. I also asked “Have you ever seen The Deerhunter?” until “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” came out. Both movies help provide a “visual.”
Anyway, once my parents realized I still considered myself a Christian, they were better, but not much. Neither spoke to me for three weeks. THEN they invited the minister over; I got into an argument with him. Eventually, they did the proper WASP thing, and refused to discuss the subject further. (As Will says on “Will & Grace,” WASPs do three things well: Keep retail afloat, make a good martini, and don’t discuss things that would upset anybody.) Oh, to get under my skin, my Dad will refer to Father Paul as my rabbi, but for the most part, my family acts as if I attend some Baptist church other than theirsGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âª albeit an eccentric one, with its own date for Easter.
When my Mom died, my priest visited the funeral home like any of my other friends. My family stared wide-eyed as he went up to the casket and instead of the obligatory “Doesn’t she look natural?” did his stavron and quietly said the Trisagion prayers, but they said nothing!