What the Bible Belt Stereotypes Don't Tell You
Over time, as I settled more deeply into my place, I came to understand that when Nebraskans reference God, religion, and faith in everyday conversation, their inquiries about my church family and their requests to pray for me are not indicative of their judgment or preachiness, but rather, a demonstration of their compassion and their desire to invite me into community and conversation. The Bible Belters I met and subsequently came to know and like in Nebraska typically don't use religion or faith to judge or condemn, but to invite and embrace
In the last 13 years I've found my place under the wide sky, amid the acres of rustling corn, and, yes, even among men who consider corncob hatsappropriate game day attire. I've also discovered that while Nebraskans do talk about God and their faith more frequently and easily than New Englanders, most of the assumptions I'd made about the Bible belt turned out to be untrue. My pre-conceived notions had been influenced by extreme examples presented in the media. I'd based my pre-impressions on stereotypes, not fact; on sound bites, not sound experience; on the extreme, rather than the typical. True, I've met a few preachy, proselytizing Nebraskans, but I now know from experience that they are the exception, rather than the rule.
Michelle DeRusha writes a monthly column about faith and spirituality for the Lincoln Journal Star. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with her husband and their two bug-loving boys. Her first book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, was published April 15. Connect with Michelle at her blog, michellederusha.com, and on Twitter and Facebook.
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