East Coast or West Coast, which is better? Of course that depends on who you ask. It also depends on what filters or qualifiers you use to measure betterness (not a word). Having lived on both coasts, and a couple of places in between, I wanted to speak briefly to the foremost difference I’ve noticed in regards to Christianity on the coasts, particularly as it relates to the practice of Christianity (obedience, strictness, joy, freedom, etc.). This will by no means settle the debate of which coast reigns supreme, but it’s food for thought.
To explain the main difference I’ve witnessed between the coasts, I’ll use the analogy of opening a closed fist versus making a fist out of an open hand. I spent a short two years in Southern California, but it was long enough to use my astute observation skills to write this blog. I was frustrated for several months in SoCal because of the laxity with which some Christians approached living a Christ-centered life. Crude/sexual jokes and innuendos, what I deemed excessive drinking, disregard for content in movies–these are a few of the big ones that really chapped my buns. Of course I was made fun of and somewhat written off for being Southern, but I wasn’t the one wearing deep v-necks and jeans so tight they could be jeggings.
The same people that frustrated me became great friends, and I also discovered they truly love Jesus and the church. The ones that didn’t become good friends still frustrated me, but I think they loved Jesus too, just not enough to change anything. I noticed after a while that conversations changed and became more Jesus appropriate, meaning not crude (much). “That’s what she said” was a big deal at that time and even that started to fade out. Not sure I ever made a dent in the movie selection, but who knows? Over all, I saw some Christians with a pretty open hand towards Christian living slowly roll up their fingers and hold more tightly to (what I would call) more biblical standards for living.
Now, contrast that with the East Coast (Midwest included…sorry for being nonchalant with boundaries). When I say East Coast, I’m limiting that to the southernmost states since I’ve never lived in the North East. Christians on the right coast–take it as you want–tend to possess a rather closed fisted way of living. So if drinking a moderate and healthy amount of alcohol is good, then drinking none is the best! If having an occasional cigar or pipe is nothing to worry about, then never striking a match might win you some points. You get the picture, right? Now this is an over generalization, but I think it’s true for Christians down here more often than not.
Around Christian friends and co-workers along this coast (and the mid coast) I find myself wishing they’d loosen up a bit sometimes–enjoy a joke that doesn’t have ‘Baptists’ or ‘Methodists’ as the punchline. Don’t judge people who have an occasional drink (unless it’s Zima; you can judge those people). You’re no holier for having never let alcohol touch your lips–it’s no badge to wear. These are things I want to say (and have said on some occasions).
All this to say, if you’ve ever tried to open some0ne’s clinched fingers it’s quite difficult. It’s much easier to close the fingers of an open hand. I know the West Coast gets a lot of flack from East Coast folk, but there’s something refreshing about their transparency. Plus, if you can show the open handed folk something in Scripture then they have to decide how much they really care. The positives lead to there being much less judging out West.
The East, however, sometimes reminds me of Jesus’ interactions with the pharisees. Harsh, right? I’m a Southerner so I can say it. Pharisees were upset when Jesus hung out with sinners. They gossiped when he was around alcohol. They didn’t like it if he preached something different than what they grew up with. I’ve lived these realities myself, which is why I feel confident writing them. There is good to both sides. If you live with a clinched fist forever, you will probably be safe from committing some sins, but I dare say it will be in favor of some choice others. As for the open hand, there IS liberty in Christ, but liberty is not license to live in sin. Therefore, there are cautions that must accompany both sides.
I’ve said enough. What I would love is to start a conversation, so please make some noise (but don’t be mean).