The influence of churches in the Southern United States is reportedly waning, especially in one Alabama town.
Sylacauga, Alabama is a city of only 12,700 people, but it has 78 churches, according to ABCNews.com.
The city is home to the actor who played Gomer Pyle on the Andy Griffith Show as well as the marble used to construct the U.S. Supreme Court building.
Churches have long had a big influence in Sylacauga, which meant that the city followed strict alcohol laws; but things are changing.
Sylacauga’s residents recently voted to legalize the selling of alcohol on Sunday. The churches in the area did not try to stop the law from being passed.
Sylacauga’s mayor, Doug Murphree, believes that legalizing the sale of alcohol on Sunday will help local businesses. Murphree himself attends a Baptist church in the city.
Patrons can now be seen drinking a beer and watching football after Sunday service in establishments like Marble City Grill. The new law says that businesses are allowed to sell alcohol after 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Some look back to previous days when churches were the central source of influence in the community.
Southern Baptist pastor Joe Godfrey stated, “I can remember when schools looking to schedule an event would call the local churches to see if they had anything ... that might conflict with the school's tentative plans. If so, the school would find a different date to hold their event. That is no longer true.”
Many, however, welcome the societal change. Some like Thomas Fuller, a religion professor at Baptist-affiliated Samford University near Birmingham, believes the waning influence of churches actually may provide a gateway to deeper personal faith.
“The fact that you didn't drink, cuss or chew or go with girls who do, didn't dance, didn't do this or that, was far more a litmus test of one's faith and devotion to Christ in a previous day and in many instances in a way that, I think, produced a superficial sort of religion in many respects," he said. "I think there has been some growth and development in outlook."
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia
Publication date: December 3, 2015