By Kenneth Justice
~ “After I became a Christian I felt I needed to stop attending my College Theater classes” she said
I arrived to Atlanta 3 hours ago and got stuck in rush hour traffic so I pulled off at the nearest exit and found myself at that coffee shop with the picture of the mermaid. I hadn’t been here twenty minutes when a young twentyish woman sat down at the table next to me, and with a “CLUNK” placed her massive bible onto the little wooden table.
“You’re the third person I’ve seen in twenty minutes with a bible in here” I said to her
She laughed, “Well we ARE in the bible belt!” she said in that particular Southern drawl that we all know so well, her laugh was cheerful and so I figured I’d ventured another question, “So are you in bible school or are all those notes I see on the table related to your personal bible study?”
She really appreciated that question and for the next forty five minutes the young woman shared with me her ‘mini-life story’. Born to a Lutheran father from Chicago and a Catholic mother from Minnesota, “I grew up as an agnostic and never thought about god until one year ago” she said. “One of my friends invited me to a church plant in the area and when I heard the message from the preacher I realized that I wanted to be a Christian”
What struck me as fascinating about the young woman’s story is that her life up till that point had been pretty…..well…..normal.
—-) She didn’t sleep around with a lot of guys during high school
—-) She didn’t drink or do drugs
—-) She didn’t go to parties
Essentially, she was a very normal, and for lack of a better word, ‘good’ girl growing up. “So I don’t get it” I said, “most people who become a Christian or find religion during college usually have some kind of back story as to why they converted. But I can’t see or understand what motivated you to become a Christian”
“You’re right” she said, “I really never did anything all that bad, and I wasn’t even looking for god, I just went to that meeting at the church plant and left there thinking that I wanted to be a Christian”
The first couple months of the young woman’s ‘new’ Christian life involved a heavy focus on changing a few things; “The one thing I did enjoy doing was cussing, especially because a lot of the parts I would play in stage shows involved a lot of cussing” she said, “and so it took me a couple months to stop cussing, but the big thing was that I had to give up my college theater major”
The young woman described herself as a “theater brat” and all of her high school years, as well as her major in college had to do with the theater; “I love acting and I love being on stage. But after I became a Christian I realized I was uncomfortable with the types of things they were teaching us in my theater classes at college” she said. She wasn’t very specific about what exactly ‘offended’ her in the college classes and merely said it had to do with issues related to gender, sex, and promiscuous behavior.
After talking with the young woman for the better part of an hour I was impressed with how cheerful she was….and also the speed at which she spoke; do all people in Atlanta and in the Deep South talk so fast? I have relatives in Kentucky and I don’t remember them being such speed demons with their vocabulary.
But more importantly, I was struck with a particular chord in her story that I’ve heard so many times; her new Christian life involved a lot of don’ts. Why is it that so many people who become a Christian or turn to a new religion often spend so much time focusing on what ‘not to do’? Am I wrong to think that the God who is there is more concerned about positive things rather than the negative?
The young woman, before she was a Christian sounds like she was as close to a saint as you can get without being called Mother Theresa. She even admitted that it wasn’t that she cussed all the time in her daily life, but it had more to do with cussing when she was acting in a play.
It’s always curious to me that so many Christians focus so much on what not to do and I often wonder if this is the thing that turns people off from religion and from Christianity. Often time’s readers will write to me and say, “But Kenneth, look at the Ten Commandments, look at the laws in the O.T….there is a LOT of stuff in the bible about what NOT to do” yet the reality is that the people in the bible, despite all those laws…..rarely obeyed them; in fact they miserably failed at obeying all those laws. And the message of the bible is that God shows people grace.
Being down here in the Bible-belt is VERY different from where I’m from in the Midwest. I’m a city kid that is used to hearing the F-bomb tossed around whimsically; “How the F**k are ya doing Kenneth!” coffee shop acquaintances will say to me back home. Yet here in the Deep South, something tells me people aren’t so cavalier with their language…..and maybe that is a good thing.
For now, it’s time for me to make my way to Midtown Atlanta where I’ll be stopping by Café Intermezzo this morning hoping to meet with a few readers and fellow bloggers, and of course to have a cup of coffee,
If you haven’t heard I’m currently on my Drinking in the Culture Tour visiting 100 coffee houses and café’s throughout the Western World, check out my homepage for dates and locations.