I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where you can pass by a church and not necessarily notice it. The mountains and forests surrounding us were our sanctuaries that drew awe from their majesty. In the South churches take up entire city blocks, and sometimes they take up the space of a small forest. They are huge, and I’m sure that my husband (who grew up in the South) has grown weary of my continual awe at their shear mass, “Did you SEE the size of that church?” Now, a community that allows that much building space (and destruction of green space) for a nonprofit building that is primarily used only one hour (if you’re lucky) per week, must be the most pious people we have in our country. And to be honest, this much reverence freaks me out.
Don’t get me wrong I have had Christian moments in my grunge-laden background. But in my experience the separation of church and state (and separation of church and most anything else) is usually for the best. Imagine my surprise then at my first religious encounter in the South. Shortly after our move I took my one-year-old daughter to a pediatrician for follow-up after a double ear infection and the croup that she so conveniently developed the day before our cross-country move. I was expecting standard health questions that assist in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of my child, but instead I was asked, “Do you belong to a church?” and “If your child becomes excessively ill would you like the doctor to pray with your child?” Well, no and no, but what bearing will this have on the medical care that my child receives? And how will the shadows of these mountainous Southern churches envelop our lives in this unfamiliar place?
Apparently Southern pediatricians prescribe antibiotics too.