The Southern United States is sometimes criticized for being “backward” by political and cultural elites.
But in some ways, the South and Catholicism are moving closer together, so perhaps the South is actually championing important values better than other parts of the country.
Our friend Dr. Alan Harrelson thinks so. A genuine Southerner and convert to Catholicism, he shares his thoughts on the unity of Catholicism and Southern heritage.
We’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere in modern society.
Many Southern writers emphasize this point. They criticize modern society for being far too interested in what’s happening now and how we can improve ourselves tomorrow, forgetting those who have come before us.
In the South, you’ll find an appreciation for tradition and the wisdom of elders that you don’t find as strong in other parts of the United States. Of course, the Catholic Church also builds its faith on tradition, holding fast to the teaching of Christ even when it doesn’t suit our contemporaries.
The South has never been as fully comfortable with moving into the 20th and 21st centuries as other places when it comes to the moral pragmatism that has become a dominant philosophy of Americans: “Whatever your truth is, is true for you. My truth is true for me.” Many Southerners have the wisdom to reject this thinking. The Church also rejects this type of radical subjectivism.
We have respect for a rural and agricultural lifestyle.
Russell Kirk — a major influence on American conservatism — identifies this as one of Southern conservatism’s major contributions to the United States.
Admittedly, we’re becoming far too urban in society. Farmers are the bedrock of a thriving state. The Church — while appreciating the positive aspects of urban life — has repeatedly defended farmers and their importance. As Pope Benedict XVI noted: “The process of industrialization has often overshadowed the agricultural sector, which although benefiting in its turn from modern technology has nevertheless lost importance with notable consequences, even at the cultural level. It seems to me that it is time to re-evaluate agriculture, not in a nostalgic sense, but as an indispensable resource for the future.”
Of course, many of the points here are broad generalizations. There are people who embody the values talked about here in the Northeast, Northwest, and so on. But the South seems to be taking a stronger stand on many important issues and it’s time for the rest of the country to follow its lead.