Sunday, June 30, 2013

Signs of the Times: Forbidden Fruit & Faith Lifts

West Virginia radio listeners have essentially two options - and if one is not a fan of contemporary country stations (Mr. Tiny is not), one had better be a fan of gospel music.  On one of our adventure days we tuned into WMLJ 90.5FM's "Gospel Hour;"  I feel like a higher power was involved in the choosing of that particular station because we were treated to an old-timey broadcast that included twin-sister accordion players, a trio of girls singing about the devil jumping with glee when they forgot to say their prayers, and the story of Baa Baa, the pet sheep of a "backward" young boy, Dave, who taught his father that every sheep is important when one is "looking with the eye of love."  Dave's father (who treated poor Davy with total disdain) learned a valuable lesson after Dave stayed out in the rain to rescue the injured and lost Baa Baa.  He said, "Now I can understand what a good shepherd really is, one who will leave the ninety-and-nine and will look for the one who has been lost from the fold."  Christian kitsch - why don't we have more stuff like this in California???

Many years ago, a wealthy, West Virginia businessman was taken ill;
upon his recovery, he made a promise to God that he would use his fortune
 to spread the good news.  Now, trios of crosses (built by the businessman)
 dot the countryside all along the highway in over twenty nine states (source).

We grew up in a strongly religious household but I guess living in California made us comparatively-casual observers when judged against the fervent piety displayed throughout the American South.  West Virginia is about as far north as one can get before becoming Yankee-fied, but based on the signs we were seeing, it was clear that it was time to tighten our "Bible Belt."  Much attention has already been given to the clever messages churches create on their marquees, but we just don't have anything like that in our neighborhood.  In fact, our neighborhood (small by California standards) dwarfs the population of West Virginia's capitol city and yet there are more churches per capita in a tiny West Virginia town than any city in California.  Therefore, I was utterly captivated by the signs and the sentiments.

Some signs are simple and straight forward.

"A change in behavior begins with Jesus changing our heart."
It's like a Christian fortune cookie.

"The presence of the Lord is here."
Should've brought a better host gift.

"Jesus and Justice are coming; ready yourselves."
Is Justice a sidekick, like Robin to Batman?  Tonto to The Lone Ranger?

Some signs are trying...but not quite hard enough.

"The older I get, the smarter my Father seems to get."
Father knows best, as they say.

"We're to[sic] blessed to be so stressed."
Too busy to find too many "O's."

And some signs are just downright brutal in their directness.

"It's HELL to die without Christ."
I hope I don't see you there...

Our favorites, of course, are of the more clever variety

"Forbidden fruit creates many jams."
I wonder what it's like spread on toast.

"Get right or get left."
This reminds of those Left Behind books (I never read them);
I always imagine piles of clothes and pairs of sneakers empty
except for trails of vapor.

"Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church."
Well, it's hard to get another type of ride when you're dead;
you could wait for the bus all day but it won't pick you up.

"Son block prevents sin burn."

"Isn't it time to accept God's friend request?"
I didn't even know He was on Facebook.
I'll be sure to get on it!!!

"Are U wrinkled with burden? See God for a faith lift."
I was only going in for a nose Job.  See what I did there?!

Then there are the signs that are so "clever" that the message is totally obscured.

"The banana that gets away from the bunch gets peeled and eaten."
Say what?!  The only thing that makes sense about this one is
the trio of crosses echoed from the full-size highway examples.

Even when its tongue is in its cheek (I hope it turns the other cheek after reading this post), it is clear to me that West Virginia takes its Christianity VERY seriously; the signs and the intentional year-round Christmas decorations (seriously, wreaths, garlands, and fully-lit Christmas trees) make it a wacky tacky miracle to behold.  

Nothing about snake handling on the sign, but how could I be sure???

Inspired by the religious zeal, my sister wanted me to go to a tent revival at one of those Pentecostal churches and write a blog about snake handling and speaking in tongues...but I was too scared.

Instead I went by the EconoLodge; seeing the success
of the churches, even motels are trying to horn in on the act!

"Open Up Your Heart and Let The Sunshine In"
Oh my gosh...that trio was The McGuire Sisters!!!!

Well, don't forget to "Let The Sunshine In."  See ya in church!


Mr. Tiny


  1. It was fun to see all these signs along the country roads of WV. It was also sometimes dangerous to take pictures of them after you made me back up on the highway. The bible belt is a great place to live. We have so many churches because we have so many sinners. ;) I do love all the gospel and praise music too. Good stuff.

    1. Well thanks to you for an eagle eye and some serious stunt driving! It's a good thing West Virginia's traffic patterns are so different from California's!!!

  2. There are so many churches where I live because apparently no one can get along! They'll even break off and start another church down the street from the original!
    As for the signs, they're sometimes...oh, who am I kidding...ALWAYS...they're ALWAYS a hoot. When I was in high school, my best friend and I would play 'spot the Jesus plug'. The best one we ever scoped: "The best position is on your knees". I wish I was making this up, but hand on the Bible (if I had one) it really said that! It still cracks me up to this day!

    1. I kept asking my sister how towns with such small populations could sustain such a great number of churches. It didn't seem like there were enough church going folks to populate all those pews!! Interesting to hear that it can be the result of congregational splits. "On your knees..." CHEEKY!!!

  3. Whoa...that is all kinda spooky, in an American Gothic kind of way...all that religion. Yikes! Don't blame you for not checking out the revival!

    1. Isn't it wild? It's fascinating that we're all the same country but the regional differences are staggering. My cousins lived in Alabama for a short time and the public schools still implemented prayer and corporal punishment; California would never allow that!!

  4. It's funny that you noticed all the signs! My grandmother lives next to a church in Vienna, WV, and it's had some pretty funny sayings when we've gone to visit her. It's definitely a lot different from NM, where I live. It's fun to visit such different areas though :)

    1. Isn't it great to see how very different parts of the same country can be? I wish I could do nothing but travel around and find all the goofy/crazy/awesome stuff. I LOVE IT!!

  5. I like the brevity of "Get right or get left"...and I'd be too scared to go to a tent revival, too! I'm always afraid they're like two minutes between "havin' a good old, zealous fervor!" to "Piper Laurie as Sissy Spacek's mom in Carrie".

    1. Wouldn't that be weird to go to a tent revival and hear people start talking about "Dirty pillows" like Carrie's mom? I would get out of dodge before the pigs blood and fires! Good things tents don't usually have lockable doors!!!! Hahahahahaha!!!!

  6. the facebook one made me laugh! one i've seen around here that i've always liked is "give satan an inch and he'll want to be a ruler" and one we could never figure out which said "don't let 6 inches keep you from heaven" whaaaaa?
    there is a sign, i think going south from nashville to pensacola that says REPENT and has 3D HOOVES and HORNS and FLAMES coming off of it! i have always loved it.

    1. Oh my goodness!! That sign sounds incredible and incredibly scary! I love that Satan/ruler line - hilarious!! Fortunately, the more signs I saw, the funnier they became; a lot of them didn't really make sense or were just kind of boring. The strangest part of all of these churches is that most of the people in town looked like they were headed anywhere but church. How do they keep all these churches going?

    2. oh i just remembered another great one! there is a truck stop that has a gentlemen's club with the AMAZING name "The Boobie Bungalow" They have a kind of half billboard, and last time we passed it the bottom billboard right under it was a bible verse about lust...oh i wish i could remember it! i feel like the owners of the boobie bungalow should complain to the sign company about that!