As I shopped in a supermarket in my northwest U.S. community, a woman asked me where she might find a certain item. I gave her the information.
“You’re not from here, are you?” she responded.
I admitted my birth and rearing in Nashville, Tennessee. It doesn’t matter that I’ve lived all over the United States and in several foreign countries for decades. The accent remains.
I was reminded of my origins when I read an article in The New York Times, “The Passion of Southern Christians” (April 8, 2017) by Margaret Renkl.
One paragraph especially moved me, reading it as I did after returning from a church service a week before Easter. The service had reminded us of Jesus’ disciple, Peter, and his actions following the arrest of Jesus by the authorities.
Fearful of consequences if he was seen as a Jesus person, Peter denied all connection with him. One person thought Peter had to be a follower, though, because his Galilean accent betrayed him.
Renkl wrote: “I have a lot of sympathy for Peter these days. Here it is nearly Easter, and for the first time in my life I don’t want anyone to know I’m a believer. To many, ‘Christian’ has become synonymous with angry white voters in red hats, personally responsible for handcuffing all those mothers and wrenching them out of their sobbing children’s arms.”
Yes, I’m a Southerner, still following Jesus, the person I first learned about in a church in Nashville, Tennessee. So it’s not just my accent but my religious persuasion that may mark me as “not from here.”
Despite the accent and the religion, I didn’t vote for Trump. As Renkl writes, “Watching Christians put him in the White House has completely broken my heart.”
On the other hand, with Renkl, I believe in resurrection. The accent matters no more in the Christian faith than those early differences between Jew and Gentile.