The Legal Standard
"Mama lives by the Bible, The Bible lives by the bed" are lyrics by Trent Tomlinson in a song entitled, "One Wing In The Fire". The song is about a daddy that gets drunk on Saturday nights, doesn't live right, but, by the songwriters standard, is really an angel with no halo and one wing in the fire. The idea is that even though daddy's life is defined by wickedness and although he doesn't pay much attention to the scriptures, mama is still upholding the family by using the Bible while trying to drag daddy into living right. The Legal Standard for Southernism is not the Bible, it's mama!
Those who practice Southernism engage in religious activities based upon the standard that mama has set, regardless if that standard has actually been set by God. In other words, a family practicing Southernism relies upon mama to know and set the bar for all things religious not ever verifying whether those things which mama upholds are indeed in accordance with the word of God. Therefore, the Biblical knowledge the exists throughout the Southernist family is rooted in any little amount of scripture that mama may have referred to or emphasized as important. The Southernist fails to realize that mama's standard is not the standard of eternal judgment, and that all men will be judged by Christ's words (cf. John 12:48). Whatever mama's understanding of the Bible may be, no one is going to be saved by what mama knows because "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor 5:10).
"There ain't no need to gather with the church because when I am out on the lake, there ain't no body but me and God out there anyway and that is my worship." These are some words quoted to this author that were in response to a question about attending worship services. Since the standard of Southernism is mama (as noted above), worship services only become a priority when mama says they are. These times usually include moments of family gatherings or holidays- such as Mother's Day, Family Reunions, Christmas, Easter, and maybe New Years. Based upon the standard of mama then, those that practice Southernism have chosen to serve and worship "the creature more than the Creator" (Rom 1:25).
Worship services for the Southernist may include a Sunday out on the lake fishing from dawn till dusk, a Sunday in the deer stand and in the woods that is devoted to shooting, skinning and preparing venison, or tailgating for, watching, and replaying the Sunday football game and/or Nascar race. Such worship is accompanied with the drinking of beer, smoking of cigarettes/cigars, and/or dipping from the Skoal can that is kept in the back pocket. The Southernist pays no attention to the numerous commands in scripture that focus on the gathering and affection to be shared by the saints (cf. Heb 10:24-25; 1 Cor 11:18; Eph 4:32; 1 John 4:7; Jam 5:16) because mama just never made those commands nor the essentiality of worshipping God in spirit and in truth (cf. John 4:24) a priority.
The Southernist's moto is "Nevermind that I don't live right, worship God in spirit and truth, or use the words of Christ as my standard- I am a good American guy that works hard and provides for my family." Justification in Southernism is found in a man's work. "If a man works hard, then worship doesn't matter. If a man works hard, then God's commandments don't matter. If a man works hard, then God is pleased enough." However, such a mindset of justification didn't work for a man named Cain back in Genesis chapter 4. In Genesis 4:2, the Bible says that "Cain was a tiller of the ground." Cain worked hard, labored on the land, and used his hands. However, when Cain worshipped God (cf. Gen 4:3), God did not approve of his worship because it was unacceptable and was not based upon God's word (cf. Gen 4:5; Heb 11:4; Rom 10:17). Cain did not find justification by simply working hard while yet failing to recognize and obey God's pattern for worship .
God certainly commands that a man work and earn his living (cf. 2 Thess 3:10-12). However, salvation is not by a man's occupation. A man's occupation did not die on the cross. A man's occupation did not deliver words of spirit and of life (cf. John 6:63). A man's occupation is not the way unto the Father (cf. John 14:6). A man's hard work does not justify him before God, Jesus, and only Jesus, justifies men before God.
Southernism is real. It is a vast religious group that defines the beliefs of many- some who are in the south and some who are not. Although there are many portions of Southernism that involve God (ie. mama's Biblical knowledge is the standard, being in God's creation equates to acceptable worship, and working hard in your occupation pleases God), Southernists must understand that there is a difference between associating with God and being in fellowship with God. Just because God is recognized and acknowledged by the Southernist does not mean that God approves of the Southernist. God does not command association, God commands sacrificial devotion (cf. Luke 9:23; 1 John 1:7). Southernism doesn't save, but Jesus does!
By Sean B. O'Brien