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Posts Tagged ‘Bible Belt’

The Disaster Year

October 17, 2011 | by

Photo courtesy of NOAA.

A neon-yellow flyer was tucked underneath the blade of my windshield wiper after work that Friday. It promised that the world would end the following day: Saturday, May 21, 2011. That morning in class, Ivan, a lanky boy who was always raising his hand to make pointless comments, had peeked from around his laptop screen and announced, “We don’t have time to talk about Beloved, Mr. Shelton.” Another student added, “With all due respect, sir, we’re all going to be smited tomorrow.”

I had landed in Joplin, Missouri, completely by mistake. I moved back to Indiana at the tail end of the Great Recession. “You need to press the reset button,” my mother had told me. I tried everything: registered with staffing agencies, mowed lawns, took career-aptitude tests, babysat, substitute-taught in the local school system, dodged loan officers. As a last-ditch effort I intended to go overseas and teach English in Japan. A number of my friends were teachers there already; it seemed to be some sort of small oasis in the occupational wasteland that awaits humanities majors. Read More »

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Other People’s Churches

October 13, 2011 | by

Photograph by Nick Viola.

“Close your eyes,” the man told us, and we did. “If you died today, do you know for sure if you would go to heaven? If you don’t, raise your hand.” When my hand curled slowly into the air, two strangers rushed over to me, kneeling one on either side of my metal folding chair, as if I’d just been struck down on a busy street. They greeted me in warm, soft tones. One opened a small leather-bound book and ran her fingers along the close-set type, then inclined the page towards me. She underlined a passage with her fingernail and commanded me to read it.

For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord, and believe in your own heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation.

At my feet, the two strangers blinked up at me expectantly. “I think I misunderstood the question,” I lied, because I hadn’t. Read More »

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