Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm Perfectly Happy With My Lifestyle, Thank You

So, I just recently got back from visiting my family back in Georgia. And honestly, while I was there, I think I was confronted about changing my religious or political affiliation about half a dozen times. Now, most of these weren't direct, face-to-face, confrontations. Only two of them were. They were mostly things like billboards (Sean Hannity saying, "Stop Hillary"), books ("Why the Founding Fathers were Conservatives), and various religious displays (A manger scene at City Hall, churches with signs saying that anyone who doesn't accept Jesus is going to Hell, that sort of thing). What really got me was the woman knocking on my door, dragging her helpless, brainwashed child around, and telling me that Jesus was the only thing in the world that offered hope to anyone (incidentally, this encounter made me lose a lot of hope about the future of our country). Of course, none of this includes the minister who officiated my wedding asking if we'd found a church in LA- I expect him to. It's his job and he didn't mean any offense by it; he was just making conversation.

What it all boils down to, though, is that this community is on the defensive. And for the life of me, I can't figure out why. It is probably at least 90% Christian and easily 70% conservative Republican. There isn't much threatening their dominance in the area. And yet, they act like conservative Christians are the minority in the town and that they have to fight to keep it that way. They are essentially making up enemies and pretending they are under siege, and that if their whims are not catered to, then they will disappear. For example, saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is not trying to exclude Christians, it's try to include everyone else. But try telling that to most people in my home town and you'll get a lecture about how the country is a dangerous place for Christians these days.

I got to thinking about it and honestly, in the year and a half I've been in LA, I can't think of a single incidence of such confrontations happening (unless you count the crazy bums and weird religious groups on Hollywood Blvd who are little more than tourist attractions). There are a ton more people here, all on top of each other, and this sort of thing just doesn't happen. The diversity is much greater out here (ie- there are things other religions that might encroach on Christianity), but no one seems to bother each other. The political arguments here rarely get past the bumper sticker stage. It's not like we don't have both sides of the political spectrum out here, but people just don't seem to get as angry about it. Most people have adopted a kind of laid back, live and let live attitude. It's pleasant. I didn't even notice it that much until I went back to Georgia and realized how different it really is.

I have a theory about city living. The more diverse a population is, the more we start to realize how very little race, religion, and affiliation have to do with a person's character. You see more lots of different people around you and realized that we're all pretty much the same. Every group of people can have its jerks and its good guys, it doesn't matter. Yet, the farther you get from the cities, as the cultures start to homogenize and people start living with people exactly like them; the more you start to see the fear and anger kick in. I'm reminded of the line in Beauty and the Beast-"We don't like what we don't understand, in fact it scares us." My middle school music teacher spent an entire day lecturing us about that line when we were singing the songs from that movie, and now I understand why. It's a pretty stinging observation about provincial life.

I'm not quite sure how to end this post, so I'll just say this: If everyone in the world was exactly like you, it'd be a very boring place.


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