Since the 2004 elections during which President Bush was swept to victory on the basis of “moral reasons”, many Americans have become resentful and suspicious of the political influence of the religious right. Overbearing and often overreaching, the Christians of the south, often referred to as the “Bible belt”, have been outspoken in imposing their moral convictions upon the rest of the nation. Ironically, the headquarters of this fire and brimstone political faction is also the historical home of some of the nation’s greatest evils- slavery, racial discrimination, and gender prejudice among others. It would not take the keenest intellect to characterize religion in the Deep South as thoroughly and destructively hypocritical.
Even so, the story of Christianity in the south is not so simple. BBC Correspondent Justin Webb traveled to Mississippi to witness the fervent evangelical movement and found that more than anything, Christianity is a force by which genuine social change is enacted and inspired. Visiting a prison, Webb was introduced to a black pastor whose brother was murdered in hate crime by a white man whose niece was now one of his best friends.
Together, this black man and white woman were united in their common purpose to serve Jesus and change the world around them. Together, they ran the prison’s education and mentoring program, giving young convicted murderers and rapists hope for lives that they may one day. Webb noted that in a nation without a national health care system and where the prison sentences are brutal, it is often the fundamentalist Christians that are tackling the social problems of the south and the nation.
Webb’s piece addresses the increasing division that is growing between the religious right and the rest of the nation. He addresses it tactfully by showing the commonality of compassion and goodness which unites us all despite our different world views.