Manners Sliding Down South

Manners Sliding Down South November 7, 2011

Terry Mattingly reflects on a New York Times piece on the decline of manners in their “last bastion,” the South. Terry is something of a guru when it comes to journalism and religion, and he finds the religious element (unsurprisingly) lacking from the tale the New York Times tells.  Here is his conclusion.

Clearly, the Old South contained lots and lots of religion (and politeness) that hid ugliness and sin. That’s a given.

But the flip side is true, as well. There was sincere respect, dignity and justice in parts of that culture and much of it centered on religious values and people of faith — black and white. There were people who were polite to hide things. There were also people who were polite and kind because they believed that was the right way to live. Some of these people were secular. Many, many of them — black and white — were people of faith. Life was far than perfect, but they could sing “Bless be the Ties that Bind” (even if most of their churches tragically remained segregated).

So the New South may be less polite, teaming with people who have no manners. That is a secular story and that is also a religious story. In this case, guess which one got written, to the exclusion of the other?

I must say that one part of Southern culture that I’ve most enjoyed since moving down from Boston 18 months ago is the emphasis on mannered respect for one another.  I actually enjoy referring to people as “sir” and “ma’am,” and I plan to teach my daughter to show such respect.

Read the whole thing at GetReligion.


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