Evangelical in the Ozarks


The title of this blog is "Catholic in the Ozarks," but one of the reasons why I think that's an interesting title is because the Ozark Mountains are heavily populated with Evangelicals.  Evangelicalism is a form of Protestant Christianity that focuses primarily on the message of the Gospel as understood according to classical Protestant theology. It places less emphasis on tradition and structure, with more emphasis on personal study and experience. Evangelicals include many different denominations -- Baptists, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Church of Christ, Church of the Nazarene, Christian churches, Calvary Chapels, Vineyard churches, nondenominational churches, etc., and those who simply identify themselves as "Bible Christians" or "Born-Again Christians."

Now one of the reasons why my family moved to the Ozarks about 20 years ago is because Evangelicalism in this area has provided some insulation from the corrosive effects of secularism on mainstream American culture.  When I lived in California, I remember people were often quite reserved about talking religion. It was considered a taboo subject. Here in the Ozarks, people talk about it openly and are unafraid.

Taking advantage of some homeschoolers discounts last week, I took the family to the Sight & Sound Theatre in Branson Missouri, where we saw Jonah. Some years back we saw the story of Noah's Ark there as well. Just like last time, it was an amazing production, and I highly recommend it for everyone; priests, religious and laity. One of the most wonderful things about living in the Ozarks, is the eager willingness people have to discuss their faith, and even articulate it in artistic forms as we see in musical productions, concerts, plays, etc. Branson Missouri is the perfect example of this. I've never seen such a place were the message of the Gospel is incorporated into so many shows and entertainment attractions. Even the local theme part -- Silver Dollar City -- has no problem spreading the message of the Gospel on Easter and Christmas.  Yes, it's Evangelical.  No, it's not Catholic. So what!  It's still the basic gospel, and I can tell you my children are better off enriched with this around them.

This is an area I think we Catholics need to work with Evangelicals on more closely. I'm certainly not talking about changing or modifying our faith in any way.  On the contrary, I'm talking about being thoroughly Catholic and at the same time working with these good people in the arts.  Their love of Christ is clearly visible in how they pour all of their creative energies into spreading his good news. This is definitely something we can work together on.

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