In years past, people have always had a tone of sadness when they hear that Isa and I usually spend Thanksgiving at home, just the two of us. I guess to most a Thanksgiving celebration is defined by a house full of people and enough food to feed an army; and if it is just she and I then somehow it is a lonely Thanksgiving. So it was quite a contrast when those who know us as Tennesseans seemed to readily accept our more simplistic version of celebrating Thanksgiving.
We don’t have turkey and all the trimmings. I like the trimmings part but the turkey I can totally do without. Have I neglected to mention we are vegetarians? To stray from the topic for just a moment, I must defend my vegetarian ways and say this is not a fruity SoCal thing nor is it for environmental or political passions. It’s just what I like; and for the last 10 years, I have not felt like I have a missed anything by not eating meat. I know this is hard for people to understand but it really is true. Alright, back to the topic at hand.
I generally make Isa’s favorite meal, Green Chili Corn Chowder, and we share a pumpkin pie. This year is different. She has requested I make scalloped potatoes. This is apparently something wonderful that the school cafeteria makes and is so “scrumptious”. I haven’t made scalloped potatoes in years but feel fairly confident I can pull this off. If I can’t live up to the expectation of school cafeteria food then she’s been right all along; I am a bad cook! Besides eating we will likely spend the day just hanging out. Maybe I’ll surprise her and take her on a little adventure to someplace we haven’t been to enjoy the wonderful life that God has given us.
And on that note, I wanted to bring to light an observation I have made since living in the South. I have always had a deep gratitude for living in a country that allows me to be free to express my faith anyway I choose to. I think about this often. I go to church when I want to, if I want to, where I want to. I sing. I lift my hands. I pray. I do it in a church building or out on the street. I never think twice about the cost of imprisonment or martyrdom for doing so. Though there are no legal repercussions, there can be social repercussions.
As a generalization, in the West, people who are public about their faith do so with a bit of caution. There is an ultra-sensitivity to not offend the multitudes, probably even the majority, of people who are not like-minded in faith. They may have bible studies at the local Starbucks or pray before eating a meal but it is done discreetly. When they share Jesus with someone there is an almost apologetic approach. People who do not share the same beliefs become very uncomfortable when talking. You can see in their body language the tension and unease. Their words become few and their eyes scan the distance looking for a way out. As a result, Christians tend to fly under the radar.
In contrast, in the South, people are very open and candid about their lives as Christians. There is no hesitation to talk about it openly and there is very little thought given to perhaps another person may not share the same views. It is as though being a Christian is a given fact. I have yet to distinguish why there is such a different approach. Perhaps it is because there is a Christian heritage in families that goes back many generations. I am not really sure.
I can say that I enjoy the freedom of expression that thrives in the sub-culture here. To be perfectly honest, I never was one to hold back how I felt about a particular topic so my approach isn’t very different but how people approach me is. I enjoy going to the coffee shop and listening to people’s un-hushed conversations about Christ. It’s a joy and an encouragement to me to see people incorporate their beliefs into their daily interactions with people. That being said, it has also caused me to wonder if in all this liberty do people here ever stop to reflect on this gift of freedom they exercise daily?
This freedom comes as a right through our Constitution but that right continues to be protected daily. Every day our military fights to defend the things that we don’t give much thought to; but we need to. Many places in the world today still have to worship underground. They worship the Living God and spread His Word knowing they may die for it. I am thankful for my daughter, my family, my friends, the provision in my life, my health but I would be remiss to mention the one thing that is unique to us as Americans… our freedom to worship how we want to as individuals and the freedom to express it publicly. It is a gift.