Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Bible Belt and Religious Hipocrisy

We visited Charlotte, North Carolina twice this summer - once for only a few days in July and then while Bill flew out to Vegas I stayed there for two weeks in early August. We actually stayed right over the state line in Fort Mill, South Carolina at a campground located on the grounds of the old Heritage USA theme park which was owned by the PTL Club of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker fame. Parts of the theme park are still visible in the area including the Jerusalem Amphitheater or King's Arena which you see pictured here on the right. It is located right next to the campground and has been partially demolished.

The old hotel tower is also still standing but is not currently being used. There were 165,000 people who gave $1000 a piece to the PTL Club in return for yearly 4 day vacations at the park that included a stay in the tower. Heritage USA filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to the dual blows of the PTL Club losing favor due to Jim Bakker's sex and accounting scandals as well as the fact that the park netted the PTL Club $126 million one year while enjoying tax exempt status, something the IRS promptly revoked. At the end of the legal proceedings each of the $1000 investors netted $6.54.

After visiting Georgia, North and South Carolina and other states in the Southeast I really must agree that it is very aptly named the Bible Belt. In Wisconsin religion is more of an afterthought sometimes rather than a focus.  Down here Church and religion appear in everyday life much more frequently such as laws that prohibit selling alcohol on Sunday or even **gasp!** serving it - how would the Packers EVER win without loyal fans tailgating and drinking beer? It is also an inexplicable feeling that I personally get down here. It is not easy to explain what I mean but there is just a sense that religion permeates people's lives more.  Do I believe that is a bad thing? Absolutely not! If it makes a person's life better and gives them meaning and purpose, more power to them. However, I do not believe anyone's belief system should be forced on others. There are way too many people, politcians for one,  who talk the talk but don't walk the walk. They talk about God and religion and put on a good show about being Christians but then do not want to help their fellow man. To me, this should definitely be a case of "What would Jesus Do?" and I am quite positive that He would not condone allowing children to go hungry or people to live without adequate housing and medical care. I would much rather not be aligned with any formal religion but instead live my life "paying it forward" and "doing unto others" without worrying about someone else's "rules" when they don't live by them themselves. My skepticism and cynicism about the Right Wing Fundamentalists is only reinforced by incidents such as the PTL Club/Jim Bakker scandal. These hypocrits and holier than thous try to coerce everyone else to follow God's word and then the truth comes out that they are no better but, in fact, are much worse sinners than you and I could ever be!



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