Culture Wars Then

The loud voices from every side that are involved in the oft referred to culture wars give me pause, and I remember the experience of my mother.

My mother was a divorced woman of six children in Kannapolis, North Carolina during the 1940’, 1950’s, and 1960’s. She hemmed washcloths in Cannon Plant #1 and attended a local Baptist church. It is that Baptist church during the 1950’s and its treatment of my mother that caused me to remember. While I was only a boy of only eight or so, I was old enough to hear adult talk and old enough to sense something was wrong.

A devout Christian, my mother took her six children to church twice each Sunday and every Wednesday night. She Believed and worked to make sure that her children Believed. The church we then attended accepted our presence in Sunday School and “preaching” and Training Union, and all else. However, my mother was told by church deacons that she would not be allowed to teach children Sunday School because she was a divorced woman. And, as one deacon strongly pointed out, the Bible taught against divorce, and it did not matter that my father was an abusive alcoholic who had deserted his wife and children. She was divorced, so no teaching children for her.

A few years after this ugliness, we moved to an in-town mill-hill house and began attending a Baptist church a few blocks from our new home. My mother confessed that she felt uncomfortable in a woman’s Sunday School class because she was the only divorced woman in the class, and she was often reminded of that either directly or indirectly. However, before long the church announced that an adult was needed to teach the children’s Sunday School and my mother stepped up.  Perhaps she was the only adult who volunteered to teach the class, but no matter, she began teaching the class and for the next fifty years she taught “her children” the Bible. When she retired from teaching the class, the church named the Children’s Sunday School wing in honor of her—the divorced woman who at one time was considered “unfit” to teach in her Baptist church.

All of this occurred over sixty years ago, and now, a divorced man, I have been a deacon and Sunday School teacher in a Baptist church. Some Baptist churches even have pastors who are divorced. There has been a cosmic shift and our culture survives. The issue of “divorcement” is not the only cultural change in these years, but it is the one I am most familiar with, and it demonstrates that things do change, and our culture can and does change as well. And we are no worse off for the cultural change.

For instance, many church attendees are quick to point out the sins of homosexuals. These church goers, while admitting “we are all sinners”, seem to condemn homosexuals because, as I am often told by church goers, “They continue their sinning life style.” Yet, the same church goers will admit  that every church is “Full of sinners”. But perhaps those sinners have a different favored sin than the homosexual– if one’s sexuality is a sin. In fact, I suggest we all have a favored sin, a breaking of a Commandment that we seem to gravitate to. Me? I’ve never met a woman that I have not liked, and I work at controlling that part of me, even at the advanced age of almost 75.  I once saw a church sign that read: “Don’t judge the other person because they sin differently than you do.” Amen to that.

What I find wrong in my mother’s ordeal with her first church and what she initially experienced at her second one is not what the Bible teaches, but how some deacons and church members interrupted its teachings. The Bible is a complex book that teaches simple truths such as “Love one another as I have loved you.”

All of this noise surrounding CRT, LGBT, BLM, and more will pass, but it will take its toll just as the “good deacons” did with my mother. But my mother knew that the battle was not about her, but one within each of the church leaders who were searching for an external enemy instead of looking inward, where the  greater threat stirred. Their names do not appear anywhere honoring their service to either chuch. But the divorced woman’s does.

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