We’re still finding our bearings around our new digs–not just within walking distance, but also in the area.
Comparing Denver to the Bible Belt…it’s different here.
I might submit that last sentence to a “best understatement” contest, if I can find one. 🙂
I’ve spent the past sixteen years in two different towns in the south central U.S., where if you ran into someone on the street, chances were pretty good they went to church someplace and claimed to be a Christian. Bumper stickers invited you to a particular church. The Seattle-style coffee shops made their way south, but the conversations overheard within them were not nearly as postmodern; rather, they were almost always a Bible study geared around a Christian book, or people talking about what happened in their church, or trying to get one of the minority non-believers to come to church. And church edifices old and new would dominate the local skyline.
It’s different here.
Oh, there are Christians here. In my new favorite hangout/blogging spot (which I’ll discuss some other time), I’ve seen several Bibles out on the tables, and overheard a few conversations where God was mentioned. But the bumper-sticker thing takes a different tack (try, “What Would Buddha Do?”). I’ve been researching the local music scene here, and you can see a real diversity of belief coming out in the artist profiles. The church buildings, even the big ones, don’t seem to dominate the landscape (kind of hard to compete with mountains, maybe?). And there’s this store right across from where I’m blogging that I can’t decide whether it’s a convenience store or a Buddhist/Hindu shrine–incense burning, hundreds of idol statues including both Buddha and Kali, and bottles of Coke and Vitamin Water. Here in the heart of downtown America.
The thing is, you get the feeling that when you talk to the average person on the street, chances are just as good that he/she will be an atheist, Buddhist or new ager as they will be a Christian. That’s different than where I come from.
Other things are different, too. The complacency level, for example. Oh, it’s here, like everywhere else. But it’s like things aren’t quite as taken for granted as where I come from. People laugh at the funny lines in the movie theaters, rather than just sitting there. This past weekend there was an annual festival in Olde Town Arvada, and we walked up the street to catch the parade. When the parade began with the police and fire departments sporting American flags–people stood in respect, up and down the entire street. Some put their hands on their hearts. Where we came from, maybe a handful of people, military vets and old people, would have done that; but many others wouldn’t have even noticed. The Wild One cried.
Where we came from, when The Wild One would take out her camera in public, people would look at her with suspicion, or ask accusingly what she was doing, or just get in her way and ruin the shot. When the parade began, the people sitting next to us saw The Wild One’s camera, and made room for her, inviting her to take a prime spot right in front of them on the curb.
That’s when I cried.
Yes…it’s different here.
Okay, so Denver’s got it’s problems, and we’ve already seen some of them. I’m not saying it’s perfect–just that it’s different. It’s not the same battle.
This isn’t a post to knock where I came from. I guess what I’m saying is that my observations of what things are like in two different parts of the country are teaching and reminding me of an important truth. We so often harbor this Christendom mentality where if we could just “win our city to Christ” and the church could dominate the culture, things would be perfect. We mistakenly equate the Lordship of Christ with church influence–particularly the church influence of the religious or institutional kind. But I just came from a part of the world where the church has probably more influence than anywhere else…and I can tell you, it was far short of perfect. It created its own set of issues. This is supposed to be “Living Water”, but we forget that when water gathers all in one place and doesn’t flow….it stagnates. We want to find a place where the church faces no resistance, but when that happens, paradoxically, things start going sour. It’s like we need that kind of resistance to come to life.
I used to be fearful of non-Christian influences (see my posts about “Afraid of the Dark“). There was a time when I would have cringed at all this spiritual mixture and longed to be around Christians exclusively. But after 16 years in highly “Christian” environments…now I come into this spiritual mixture, and I find that people are awake, and I find myself breathing deeply again (and no, it’s not the altitude). And I can see so clearly how I was choking in the very culture I once thought would save the world.
It’s different here. I’m so ready for this. I am so glad.