i grew up in southern california (the one region of the nation that is completely accent-neutral) but i’ve lived all my adult years in oklahoma. you’d think that after going to college, marrying a wife, raising a family, and floundering in career mediocrity for 25 years, that i would be conversant with the proclivities of the plains and her people. on the contrary. i contend that this area that i call “home” is so unique, so peculiar, that people who do not live here cannot possibly comprehend the daily complexities and perplexities.
trust me, you wouldn’t believe me if i told you.
nevertheless, i’m going to give it a try. i plan to take the next few days and describe life in the bible belt. those of you who live here will catch yourselves nodding your head in agreement, and those who live elsewhere will inadvertently shake your heads in disbelief. as always, i will be speaking from the context of church life (and, rest assured, the local culture has a massive impact on the church culture). perhaps as i revisit the spiritual distinctions of oklahomans, i will even find the elusive “key” to astounding ministry success…nah!
today i want to show you the type of people we hold in high regard.
oklahoma is home to author and poet ralph ellison, journalist bill moyers, broadcaster paul harvey, and former speaker of the house carl albert. many astronauts call oklahoma home including thomas stafford, shannon lucid, and gordon cooper. uber-gifted actor/director ron howard is from oklahoma, as is prolific writer of westerns, louis l’amour.
our current favorite son is the number-one pick of the recent nfl draft, sam bradford. in fact, athletes are especially revered in oklahoma; folks like jim thorpe, mickey mantle, bart conner, leroy selmon, shannon miller, jc. watts (who was also a u.s. representative), gil morgan (who was also a dentist), and wayman tisdale (who was also a jazz musician).
oklahoma has produced (emitted? disgorged?) lots of famous preachers/ministries, too. in fact, if evangelical christianity had a mecca, it would have to be tulsa. oral roberts, kenneth hagin, t.l. osborn, billy joe daugherty, carlton pearson, and willie george (just to name a few) all call tulsa home (and not a scandal in the bunch!).
by far, though, the gold-standard for celebrities in oklahoma has to be our musicians…oh, did you think i meant composers? symphony conductors? classical pianists? wake up, neighbor, i’m talking COUNTRY! what other state can lay claim to a list like this: gene autry, woodie guthrie, reba mcentire, vince gill, roy clark, bryan white, carrie underwood, jeremy castle, blake shelton, and joe diffee. and you can rest assured, that the home town of each of these luminaries has a sign on the outskirts of town that says, “home of…” in moore (where i labor) we are especially proud of our native son, toby keith. after all, if you don’t like america he’ll “put a boot in your a**.” warms my heart just thinking about it.
the king, though, the ultimate oklahoma super star has got to be garth brooks. garth (as we okies are allowed to call him) has sold more than 68 million albums to date, although his claim to fame is going to oklahoma state university on a javelin-throwing scholarship. garth retired from the music business in 2001 to spend time with his second wife, trisha yearwood (although he released singles all along, and staged a semi-comeback in 2005, and in 2009 he signed a five-year deal with the encore casino in las vegas…either he is really bad at handling money, or trisha yearwood is not that much fun to hang around with). anyway, garth is our man.
it’s a little strange that garth brooks is so big here when you consider that clinton riggs (he created the first yield sign) and bill pickett (this is the genius who invented the rodeo event, “steer wrestling”…how could he think that jumping off a running horse onto a running bull was a good idea?) are both from oklahoma. but what i’m trying to tell you is that we do things differently in the bible belt.
one final example of how flaky queer weird exceptional we are…
the two airports closest to my house, will rogers international airport and wiley post regional airport, are named after aviators who both died in horrific airplane crashes.
this, my friend, is the bible belt.