Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reflections on Faith & Culture in the West: Montana

Recently, I made a trip to the "Big Sky"state - Montana. In the popular "southern" imagination, Montana is simply 'Texas North' - a land of cattle ranches, farms and mountains. We learned this mythology from Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" with its bittersweet ending in the land of the Big Sky. The reality, however, is much different. Like Texas, it has its own geographical areas and divisions. But unlike Texas, the natural beauty of the northern range of the Rocky Mountains has created a stratified population that consists of recreative wealth and land owners, followed by an educated middle class and a lower service populace. Of course, this may describe anywhere in America, but more so in Montana. The natural beauty simply draws interest from all quarters of the populace.

What interests me though, more than the natural beauty or even the people, is the nature of faith practiced there. The natural beauty helps in this area. It helps people ask the question of God in general - but because of the beauty, the answer has to be robust. If God is real, then details are important. Thus the God that Christians worship is Father - Son - Spirit. But how so? What does this God look like? What does this God expect? How can does this God participate in my day-to-day reality? How do I participate in this reality? So in terms of Christian faith and practice, the reality of the risen Christ and the experience of the Holy Spirit are important aspects of the Christian life. There is no baptized culture in Montana, although you can see elements of the 'bible belt' there. It is still fairly secular and Christians must walk with integrity in order to influence the population with the gospel. Yet, unlike other places I have been in the United States, there is a tremendous openness to Christ and even a desire to know the living God in a powerful way. So the confessing Christians I have met are what I would call, "sticky Christians." They know what they believe, they want to know more and they aren't going anywhere. Christ is Lord.

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