I was born and raised in church with parents who were born and raised in church and it's all I've ever known. Where I grew up in southern Alabama, as part of the Bible Belt, religious diversity isn't common (or at least recognized). Living here, I can count the number of both Muslims and atheists I know on one hand and I don't know any Jewish or Buddhist people (as far as I'm aware). I attended public schools where we prayed before football games and swim meets and were given Gideon Bibles at graduation events.
Being Christian and southern aren't the only identities I share with the majority here: white, middle-class, straight, natural born citizen. My liberal views are really the only standout qualities from the majority that I have.
As far as my roots extend, both of my parents were sent to private, Christian high schools to dodge the integration enforced by Brown v. Board of Education. I graduated from a public, Blue Ribbon school with honors, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs for college preparation, and I know parents who refused to let their students transfer because they viewed a 70 percent white majority for the student body as "too diverse." Parents of students who didn't even attend my high school accused the teacher of the new Arabic language class of indoctrinating students with Islam, "a culture of hate." My town's city hall currently flies a Confederate flag and its image is also included in my county seal. In our area, our churches, schools, neighborhoods and even Mardi Gras associations are still racially and economically segregated.
This segregation of perspective is ingrained in the culture here, but especially in circles that claim love and unity. The white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant identity has historically not done enough, from twisting biblical context for justification of slavery to its overwhelming silence during the civil rights movement. Today its pews remain segregated, the pulpit remains passive in regards to justice and Christ remains whitewashed.
By limiting our perspective to that of our own white experience, we limit our fellowship. By limiting our fellowship, we limit our spiritual growth. By limiting our spiritual growth, we limit our interpretation of God. And by limiting God, we deny our purpose as people of faith: to love Jesus and love people. True unconditional love is equitable, not apologetic or passive or assuming. I don't want to worship where people of color are isolated, where LGBT people are condemned, where low-income people are looked down upon.
I am a firm believer in the concept of separation of church and state. But in an area where church is as much as a foundation for the community as fried chicken, we have no choice but to address the issue of segregated perspective in a spiritual manner alongside its legal, political and socioeconomic implications. We can't afford to shrug it off as generational or too controversial or unnecessarily politicized. Let's talk about it.
"Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow." - Isaiah 1:17