A Church on Every Corner: Religion in the South

11 Nov

The South is often referred to as being a part of what’s called the Bible Belt. When I was a child, this was made out to be a good thing. Now that I’m older, I really can’t say that it is.

If we’re in the Bible Belt, then I must live in the absolute buckle of it.

Almost literally in the area, there is a church on every corner. The vast, and by vast, I mean 99% overwhelming majority of churches, are some form of Protestantism.

Baptist churches are most common. Almost every town I’ve been to has a so-called “First Baptist” church, and one of my friends said she once actually found the “Second Baptist” church.

Southern Baptist churches make up the majority. Then you have things like Free-will Baptist and Missionary Baptist, Primitive Baptist, and so on and so forth. I’m not sure what the actual doctrinal differences are, so I can’t expand on that

Next in line are Methodist churches. Methodist churches are actually and technically off-shoots of the Episcopal Church; I think they were actually kicked out of the Episcopal Church, but don’t quote me on that. I’ve never been to a Methodist service, but they’re pretty similar to Baptists from what I hear, though apparently the Minister wears a robe sometimes. It seems like I’ve watched Methodist services on TV before as well.

From there, I think the Presbyterian churches are the next most common. Again, I’m not totally sure what their doctrinal differences are, though I’ve heard they have a Calvinist view of things.

There are many Churches of Christ and Churches of God, which I also am not totally sure about.

Then you have the Assembly of God churches, the kind I attended. Pentecostals, in other words- the so-called Holy Rollers who speak in tongues, shake, quiver, run up and down the aisles, and get really loud in their services. Yes, I’ve witnessed the speaking in tongues and people being “slain in the Spirit.”

There are a few Kingdom Halls, which are where the Jehovah’s Witnesses meet, and I think two Mormon churches.

There are two Lutheran Churches that I know of in Dothan.

In Dothan, specifically, if you’re looking for what I call “Traditional Christianity,” you’re going to be hard-pressed. There is exactly one Episcopal Church, one Catholic Church, and one Eastern Orthodox MISSION.

We also have one Jewish synagogue.

I’ve also heard that there is a so-called “Traditional Anglican” church in Dothan meets at the Lutheran church. This blog isn’t going to be long enough to actually detail what the difference between the Episcopal Church and the “Traditional Anglican” church are, but suffice it to say that the Episcopal Church identifies more heavily with its Catholic heritage and the TAC more heavily with its Protestant heritage. Also, it’s quite likely that the TAC gets all riled up about the ordination of openly gay, “practicing” Bishops and the allowance of women into the Priesthood by the Episcopal Church and so chooses to splinter off and deem itself more traditional for being more prejudiced.

But oh well; you can’t please everyone, can you?

It seems, too, that we have an Islamic meeting center somewhere in the area, but I’m not exactly sure where it is.

The Unity Church, also known as the Spiritual Enrichment Center, which is somewhat New Age-y, is the only other place of a different kind of faith that I can think of.

So basically, we have no Buddhist, Taoist, Shinto, or Hindu places of worship in the local area. There are indeed such places in the South, and indeed, the Episcopalians and Catholics have some impressive churches across Alabama, but not in the Dothan area.

The people in the South are often a little crazy when it comes to the Bible. For many of the Christians here, the Bible is the literal, perfect, inerrant, actual word of God Himself, and to question it or the authenticity of the Bible is the absolute mark of heresy. The Bible is almost (but not quite) made into an idol by the way the people treat it.

If you aren’t a Christian and don’t want to convert, don’t reveal this fact to anyone in the South. Especially don’t talk about the Bible or question it.

Also, because of a misunderstanding of the Scriptures, people in the South often think that the use of the phrase “goddamn” is the taking of the Lord’s Name in Vain, which is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments. Thus this is elevated to the most offensive swear word in the minds of most Southerners. Take my advice: don’t use it unless you goal is to offend someone, especially among older people, because they will be extremely outraged.

That’s a brief synopsis about what the religion is like in the South- super conservative, though some churches are coming around as time passes and are becoming more open and educated.



Posted by on November 11, 2010 in food


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7 responses to “A Church on Every Corner: Religion in the South

  1. AdamEros

    November 12, 2010 at 1:15 am

    I’m sure it’s probably understood that your synopsis covers specifically the Dothan and Wiregrass area, but for readers who didn’t catch it I felt the need to reiterate that all of alabama does not have this same set up of denominations. For example in Auburn Baptists are far less common though still quite prevalent. There’s also more diversity up here in general. The Unitarian Universalist churches are quite popular up here, and we even have a Buddhist temple not far from us as well as a very notable pagan church which is Faery Faith based The Church of the Spyral Tree, though now they’re located mainly in Columbus instead of Auburn as they used to be there are still tons of members in this area. I know there’s a lot of other differences here from Dothan (which is quite notable since it’s less than 2 hours north of there) but I’m not as familiar with all of them.

    As a sidenote, as a child I attended a Holiness church which I know little about the history of but it sounds very much like this Assembly of God Church you attended as a child and I think that’s the reason I’ve always been so taken with Tribal religions as theres a lot more, for lack of a word, Passion involved in it which strongly appeals to me.

    • enamouredslave

      November 14, 2010 at 12:47 pm

      Yes, this was definitely meant to refer more specifically to the Dothan area; likely the Baptists are still the strongest denomination across Alabama, though.

      Also, I should point to the fact that Auburn is a college town, and with college students come a great amount of diversity as they’re actively engaged in intellectually stimulating themselves and come from a variety of locations throughout the world.

  2. Project Van

    November 14, 2010 at 1:17 am

    what a trip down memory lane!!!

    • enamouredslave

      November 14, 2010 at 12:47 pm

      Yeah, it really capture the essence of it all, doesn’t it?

  3. Steve Chapman

    November 22, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Having grown up in the deep South, and having chosen Buddhism despite the proliferation of Protestantism, my simple question is ‘So’? Like attracts like, and as long as they are progressing towards something positive: love, faith, growth, health…does it matter what flavor?

    • enamouredslave

      November 23, 2010 at 12:15 am

      I don’t know if I’m entirely sure what you mean by the “So?” in this instance. The nature of my blog is to address and express what life in the South is like to those people who have not lived here and do not live here, especially foreigners who might be interested in other cultures, though by no means limited to them and them alone.


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