Friday, March 27, 2009


I heard a woman interviewed on radio today--Susan Campbell, I think her name was--who has written a book called Dating Jesus about her experience growing up in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas as a fundamentalist Christian. Ms. Campbell writes for the HARTFORD COURANT.

I come from the Appalachian Mountains of the southernmost county of West Virginia and grew up in the Pilgrim Holiness Church, which meets the definition of 'fundamentalist'--nails it on the head, in fact. Get out your maps, boys and girls and look at how mountains come out of Western North Carolina and Southwestern Virginia, across WV and Kentucky and parts of Tennesee all the way to Arkansas. That area, beloved, is as foreign to you (if you didn't grow up there) as Bosnia and the south of France. You have no idea what life was like--still is--in Appalachia (the name I would call that area). You are looking at (if you still have your maps out) some of the most isolated and distinctly different parts of the US. You'd need a tour guide to understand the culture there--and there is this: you most likely know someone who came from there. The county I grew up in, McDowell County, is about as big as Rhode Island and had, when I was a boy, about 60,000 souls living there. It now has 27,000 or so citizens, so the rest went somewhere. They might be your neighbors--like Ms. Campbell and I am to the good and hethren folks of Connecticut.

For the most part, Appalachia was settled by Scotch-Irish, British and a weird collection of other ethnic folk. And they got trapped in the isolation of the mountains and life went on and on without much interference from the wider world until television came along. About television: Walter Cronkite and others pronounced the name of that region as "Ap-pa-lA-chia". I grew up calling it "Ap-pa-lach-ia". But once TV and Jack and Bobby Kennedy came along, we started using the long A since those smart people much know better than us how to pronounce the name of where we lived. The electric company where I lived never changed the pronunciation so "AppaLACHia Power" served "AppaLAchia". Go figure.

Which eventually leads us to the religion of the mountains--a kind of fierce, unrenting, unapologetic fundamentalism. More later.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.