God don’t come to Mississippi, at least not often. I was 5 maybe 6. Grandma carried me to Aunt Nancy’s to play with my cousin Jennifer, about my age. It was summer. A thunderstorm came up. It was sound and fury. Jennifer and I holding on to each other under the little kitchen table. Aunt Nancy’s little house shook with every clap. The rain driving relentlessly on the tin roof. Aunt Nancy going on with her cooking and cleaning like nothing was going on. Every inch of the little house scrubbed threadbare and beautiful. In case he came. God don’t come to Mississippi, but here he was. He didn’t come to sit on the porch and talk. He was just coming through between jobs to terrify the children into behaving. He was rattling old Scratch’s cage and reminding him of who put who where. Sending him to hunt a hole in the cracks where the red clay had dried up and opened, then sending the water to close the cracks. It wouldn’t keep him for long, and when he came out and God was gone, he would be angry and take it out on the other kids until Daddy came home. Lucky for the devil, God don’t come to Mississippi, at least not often. 

I would lose a scholarly argument, but I would argue the same, that Adam, Eve, the serpent, the apple, the whole shooting match could have happened right here in the primordial soup of Mississippi. The God I heard about in the Methodist church where we had cub scouts  was a god of love and compassion and forgiveness. This certainly couldn't be the vengeful God of Mississippi. In my limited church experience, I never heard the verses of the “good book” that told us who to hate and why, that information seems to be carried by oral tradition. Mississippi loves a good contradiction. I once saw a beautiful black girl in rebel flag booty shorts and rain boots walking the campus of Ole Miss on a sunny day. God don’t come to Mississippi, at least not often. Its just too damn confusing. If Jesus came back today to lead his people from the darkness to the light, Mississippi would don masks and hang his black ass from the nearest tree, using his own scriptures as justification.

I recall being the palest face in my kindergarten class. It was the first time most of us had been around a bunch of kids, and we were all feeling each other out. When the topic of church came around Krystal, the meanest girl in the class, who once blindsided me with a brick on the playground, declared that God would turn anybody who didn’t go to church into a little helpless baby and drop them on a dirt road in Mississippi. Always Mississippi. I was confused and terrified. Why would a God of love do that? Why Mississippi? That's where my Grandma lived, my aunt’s, my uncles, my cousins. Everyone I personally knew there had such a sweetness about them. How could this be a place of punishment and fear? But why not? It is a land hacked from a jungle that seems bent on reclaiming it from the men what though they could tame it. The same men who, in their hubris, brought in kudzu to keep down the erosion and watched it turn on them, able to swallow an entire house in one wet summer. The land where an old testament flood comes every ten years or so to remind the people who is boss, or just that they aren’t. God don’t come to Mississippi, at least not often as best as I can tell, but I would argue that anyone who doesn’t believe in heaven and hell spend a spring and a summer there, and get back to me.

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