There is a charming little town set up on the outskirts of the city as a museum to preserve the history of what life was like “back then.” The buildings are a collection of structures brought in from many little towns – a cabin, a general store, post office, jail, a train depot and a few outbuildings. Striving for authenticity, the display is today’s interpretation of what life must have been like; with a few “holes” filled in with much more modern items (dollar-store throw rugs, color photographs, manufactured dolls) than would have been found in the late 1800’s, Still, when I toured the little town with my camera clicking away in November of 2009, I was caught up in the charm and the respect for the people who put the display together, all the while battling the incongruences in the back of my mind.
We all have our set of preconceived notions about the way things ‘should’ be. That is our world view, our frame of reference and the way we navigate through life’s ups and downs. When inconsistencies, incongruences pop up, the world is tipped, tilted, skewed until we find a way to shove those disparities into neat little compartments in our mind, returning us to a livable equilibrium.
The only southern state on the western side of the Mississippi River, Arkansas is smack-dab in the heart of the proverbial Bible Belt. Hailing from the north east, upstate NY, I had my own set of preconceived notions of what the Bible Belt meant, and at the top of that pile of preconceptions was the idea that church-going, God-loving people must be good people. No matter what the definition of “good” is, I wanted no more of the ultra-conservative, gangster, big-fish-in-a-small-pond mentality of the shit little town I came from.
More churches means more people go to them. More people going to church means more people have a sense of right and wrong. More values built in means fewer judgmental, selfish, self-centered, irresponsible, close-minded, greedy, cruel people. Right? If the constant exposure to the 10 Commandments and Jesus as a role model doesn’t minimize at least some of the darker aspects of personalities, what will? Right?
I long ago deduced that people go to church to be forgiven their sins, and that forgiveness gives license to rip through the week doing whatever ill they desire. It’s a perfect cover for the typical spouse abuser that believes everything is just fine as long as he apologizes after turning his wife’s face into a bloody pulp. He’s an outstanding member of the community, gives generously at church every Sunday, and no one would believe what goes on behind the front door of his beautiful home no matter how many of his wife’s x-rays prove otherwise.
For the most part, it’s not quite that drastic. Not all the time. But my heart sinks when I hear a capable, talented woman proclaim her life is good because God made it that way, or when a man sends out a prayer request that he finds a job compatible with his ministry – the man’s ministry, not God’s. Neither acknowledge their responsibility for their current state of affairs.
Take a moment to examine your beliefs, no matter what they might be, and be honest with yourself. Are you practicing what you preach or just spewing pretty words?
Just like it is unlikely to find a molded figurine with a Made in Taiwan sticker on its base in an 1800’s home is as unlikely that being a good person only applies to Sundays. Not hardly. You is or you ain’t. It’s that simple.
See more photos taken of the quaint, charming pioneer village of Little Red on my photo blog, Out in the Back Yard: November 2009 archive.