Much of the visible religious culture of the Ozarks is expressed by evangelical and fundamentalist voices. These two movements in Christianity each tend to believe that they have a corner on truth, and usually have no hesitation in demanding others acquiesce to their viewpoint. One could visit local religious bookstores and never find a book outside of this conservative ideology – most of the wonderful current scholarship representing some of the best minds in Christian studies is unavailable there. I actually found a book in a local Christian bookstore that explains how dinosaurs and Adam and Eve lived as contemporaries.
No surprise that some in our culture look at actual science with suspicion (viewing scientific facts like they are opinions that can be dismissed if one happens not to agree with their conclusion.) Along with a distrust of science, much of the religious culture in the Ozarks remains strongly opinionated about two things: women are to be subordinate to men, and homosexuality is always seen as sinful. No wonder many young adults in our area see the church as “anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science, and anti-intellectual.”
On the other hand, our denomination has a legacy of valuing learning and critical thinking. Education of our clergy and our members seeks to use the best scholarship, which is always more than a literal reading of scripture. Our procedures of how we function as a church community (how we welcome our guests, function communally, and address needs in the Nixa area) are determined by common goals, not just cultural norms.
I believe that the four statements on our opening web page (and posted in our foyer) describe our goals of operation – they are not vision statements, but descriptions as to how our congregation chooses to receive visitors, discuss issues, and live in community. In particular, “All welcome, no exceptions” and “Grace, not judgement” should mean that we give everyone an opportunity to be known and valued on their own merits without prejudice. Leadership should be awarded to those persons who demonstrate ability, teamwork, and faithfulness to the vision of Nixa Christian Church – again, without prejudice.
We know our ideas are strange to most in our culture. But these ideas define who we are, and we are not apologizing.