Faith in the Bi­ble Belt

The Covington News - - Newton at Play - Lewis Griz­zard Lewis Griz­zard was a syndi­cated colum­nist, who took pride in his South­ern roots and of­ten wrote about them. This col­umn is part of a col­lec­tion of his work.

I grew up hear­ing that good things come to those who love the Lord; the More­land, Ge­or­gia, Methodist Church was deeply and com­fort­ably seated in the tra­di­tional in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Word. But re­li­gion, like so many other things, isn’t as sim­ple as it used to be. Nowa­days the good guys some­times wear black and white striped hats in­stead of just one or the other.

Al­most ev­ery day in the mail I re­ceive a let­ter from some tele­vi­sion evan­ge­list ask­ing me for a do­na­tion to help buy a new truck for his tele­vi­sion equip­ment or to pay off the debt for the new gym at New Tes­ta­ment Uni­ver­sity. The im­pli­ca­tion is that if I don’t send them cash, I’m on the ex­press train for hell.

Will I end down there with Hitler and At­tila the Hun and Bon­nie and Clyde just be­cause I didn’t send them five bucks for a new wrestling mat? Then again, is hell ac­tu­ally down there?

“ Can you dig your way to hell?” I asked the preacher when I was a kid.

“ Guess you can,” he said, “ but I can tell you how to get there a lot quicker.”

My grand­fa­ther wouldn’t have cared much for to­day’s big­time tele­vi­sion preach­ers. In his oft-stated opin­ion, preach­ers were sup­posed to marry folks, preach fu­ner­als, mow the grass around the church and ad­min­is­ter to the needs of his flock, which meant con­sol­ing the poor soul who lost his job, whose wife ran off, and whose trailer burned to the ground . . . all in the same week.

Our preacher even used to knock down the dirt dob­bers’ nests in the win­dows of the sanc­tu­ary so the in­hab­i­tants wouldn’t bother the wor­ship­pers while he was try­ing to run the devil out of town on Sun­day morn­ing.

Do you sup­pose Oral Roberts or Jerry Fal­well ever knocked down dirt dob­bers’ nests?

My grand­fa­ther also didn’t like it when younger preach­ers used note cards to de­liver their ser­mons. “ They ought to get it straight from the Lord,” he said many a time. “ Politi­cians use notes.”

The preacher at More­land Methodist when I was grow­ing up suited my grand­fa­ther just fine. He drove an old car. He had only one suit. He did the yard work, didn’t use note cards and al­ways at­tempted to an­swer the ques­tions of a 12-yearold boy when things didn’t add up. Once he even preached a fu­neral for a dog be­cause that lit­tle boy, who loved the dog very much, asked him to.

What would Pat Robert­son say over a dog?

What both­ers me to­day is that for ev­ery glam­our boy of the pul­pit, there are thou­sands out there who tackle the devil daily, one on one, with lit­tle or no au­di­ence, against long odds, and, oc­ca­sion­ally, on an empty stom­ach.

God bless them. And God, please don’t let my grand­fa­ther — I know he’s around there some­where — find out that we’ve got preach­ers down here to­day who use cue cards and hang out with politi­cians.

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