The porch

We may think we are being true to ourselves when we shed the constraints of traditional values and morality, but in reality, we are simply allowing a new community to tell us who we are. Tim Keller

It’s too general to say I am from the South. True Southerners never say this. When someone asks me where I’m originally from, I say, “South Carolina.” If I’m talking to a fellow Southerner, he will say, “Which part?” I will answer, “Orangeburg, south of Columbia, or Cameron, home of Earl Dukes Barbeque.” And I will oblige them the same question and attempt some commonality in their answer. If they’re from South Carolina, they guessed it already from my brogue.

If I’m talking to a foreigner, say someone from Michigan, they stare at me and move on to some discussion about the weather or their vacation to Myrtle Beach they didn’t enjoy. That’s fine because I don’t know anything about Michigan anyway and would not travel there to escape the summer heat.

For Southerners, normal is best described by Granny’s biscuit recipe, snap peas and butter beans, and our love for Aunt Bessie Lee. Outside the South, normal is how most people think it’s cute how we say y’all and pretend to express an intellectual curiosity by asking a question to which we roll our eyes. A Southerner can smell pretense farther away than boiled turnip greens.

Because I’m Southern, I take it for granted. The South’s normal informs me. This means I am indoctrinated by long, summer evenings on the front porch, listening to my elders’ conversation hum between the crickets’ chorus and waiting for seconds of hand-churned peach ice cream.

There was a time when normal informed my Christian belief, which is to say I took it for granted, too. The problem with growing up is you have to leave the front porch. It’s a hard truth when you realize not everyone is Southern or Christian or—didn’t have a porch.

This hard truth revisited me the other day as I read an article stating our beliefs are the result of the community in which we’ve been immersed. Put another way, can someone from Michigan become Southern? Good question. Answer: No.

This article suggested believing as a result of community is itself unreliable. And thus, no community can produce truth. If we are so influenced, how can we ever know what is true? Is it true we believe what we worship?

Every age has its god. And ours has many. A belief cannot change the truth, but truth can alter a belief.

When normal informs me from what surrounds me, I miss God’s intent to grow my faith. Faith teaches me to look outside community to God for revelation.

Southerners never really leave the front porch.

“…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men…” (Ephesians 4:14, NKJV).

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