Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Growing up Protestant

I wasn't sure where I was going with this one. It ended up being a rambling post about memories from my Protestant childhood.

Here in Bakersfield, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a fundamentalist Christian. When the dust bowl drove through the Great Plains in the 1930s, dispossessed farmers fled the bible belt along Route 66 to California. A great number of them settled in the San Joaquin Valley and now it's like we have our very own mini-bible belt.

It was for this reason that, born and raised in the nearby small town of Shafter, I never encountered anyone that didn't believe in the god of the Bible. Christian was just what you were. More revealingly, we didn't differentiate between Protestant and Catholic. We were Christian, and they were Catholic. Later in life, I met some Catholics. When I mentioned to my mother and sister that they were Protestant, I would get these polite uncomprehending looks and questions along the lines of "what's that?"

During my teenage years, one of my mother's priorities was that I make sure to only date Christians. And even that wasn't good enough. They needed to be True Christians (TM). Anyone can pretend to be a Christian on Easter. But a True Christian (TM) would proudly proclaim the miracle of Jesus to the checkout girl at the grocery store.

After my parents divorce, when my father decided to start seeing women again, I remember my sister's furious reaction when he brought someone home. I remember waking up to hear my 13-year-old little sister pounding on my father's bedroom door, shouting "there are children in this house!" I'm sure we all find it upsetting to imagine our parents being with each other, let alone some stranger. But this was more than run of the mill ick-factor. She was upset because her delicate child ears had heard two people engaging in premarital relations.

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