New West Virginia Stereotypes

I've had more than one somewhat contentious argument with people about perceptions of West Virginians.

Each year, as a reward for our low-paying devotion to the campus newspaper at West Virginia University, the general manager would host us for a weekend retreat at Canaan Valley in north-east West Virginia. To say it is rural is to say that bears...well, you know what bears do in the woods, right? (And if you don't, visit Canaan Valley and you can see them do it.)

This was, needless to say, something of a culture shock to some of the student journalists who worked at The Daily Athenaeum. See, WVU has a large contingent of students from Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey, speficially because in-state tuition at places like Penn State, OSU and Rutgers is more expensive than out-of-state fees at WVU. Combine that with the fact you can get a heck of an education at WVU's Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism (shameless plug for my alma mater) and it's no wonder Morgantown is a multi-cultural place. Not only is it a college town, it draws from a large geographic area.

Back to the story. The chartered bus ride from Morgantown to Tucker County always provided interesting scenery. For those who grew up in the shadow of Philly, New York City or Cleveland, they got to see the true majesty of their adopted home. For the native West Virginians, we got to watch the city slickers' slack-jawed reaction to their surroundings. It was win-win.

Except that one time, when a young lady from Jersey, after eating dinner at a small, mom-and-pop shop, made the mistake of disparaging not only the home-cooked meal, but also the "rednecks and in-breeds" that lived in the area.

That evening, I couldn't hold my tongue. I angrily--and wrongly, I'll admit--confronted the girl and informed her if she didn't like the wonderful educational opportunity she was being afforded in this hick state, she could pack her bags and leave. I even offered to drop her off in nearby Thomas, West Virginia. My logic? It would be comical to witness a girl from the city trying to figure out how to get home from a town that effectively shuts down at 5 p.m.

In the coming days, bloggers from around the state of West Virginia, through an initiative from Jason Keeling and his ABetterWestVirginia blog will be offering "New Stereotypes of West Virginians." I both applaud and am joining in this effort. While others will undoubtedly cover their area of interest and show the rest of the world why the common perception of West Virginia is so frustratingly wrong, I'll be writing about stereotypes of West Virginia Christians.

Christ-followers everywhere have a natural bias against them...some of it is certainly warranted. We are slow to find common ground and quick to point the finger of blame. We are quick to show God's justice but not His mercy. That is especially true here, where trends are slow to take root.

What are your opinions of Christians in West Virginia? Do you have favorable opinions of them? Why or why not? Share your thoughts, and join the conversation.
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