I'm an immigrant. I don't mean in a geopolitical sense. I was born and raised here in the United States and continue to reside here. That being said, my roots and upbringing were in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas and I now live in Northern California, nearly 2000 miles away. If we moved this little journey across The Pond to Europe, I'd be living in a totally different nation, with a different language, food, and social norms. Even here in the great homogenous hulk that is the United States there are subtle differences in culture and language between Texas and California.
One peculiarity about me is that despite where I was born and raised, I don't have much of a detectable Texan accent. I'm not accent free mind you, but it mostly hovers just below the surface. It comes out when I'm very tired, nervous, or angry. I also noticed it poked it's head out when I used to voice-chat with people from Texas while I played games over the internet. It may have been a subtle desire to establish rapport, to fit in, to feel at home.
But most times, it's pretty much undetectable. I think it's lack of prevalence is most probably due to the fact that when I was growing up I was told by my “yankee” father that several idiosyncratic Texan pronunciations made me sound uneducated. I have no intent to make that sound negative. I'm actually glad that I don't have a readily distinguishable accent. It allows me to blend in a bit more.
Having lived here in Northern California for nearly a decade I've picked up some of the things that make it different from where I was born. Northern Californians say the word “bye” in a way that is some where between “buy” and “baa”, the sound we say sheep make. Sometimes the word “almond” looses it's “l” and sounds like “amond”, but “Walmart” mundanely does not become “Wa-mart”. (Life is full of little disappointments.) On a political/cultural level, there are many more laws here but less perceived moral restraint based upon assumed religious values.
Occasionally I run into fellow transplants. More often than not I recognize their speech patterns first. When I approach them I may or may not put on the accent. The larger the group, the more apt I am to drop into a Texas drawl. If it is only one, I may keep my enigmatic vanilla speech patters in place, but I start asking questions about where they are from and I see if I can drop a few geographical references that only a native would know. Then they can drop their guard and we can talk.
I can relate to them in a way that a native Californian can't. I know that a recent visitor from Texas expects the stereotypical Californian to be a deeply tanned liberal vegetarian who has spent most summers at the beach. (yes, I'm purposely being ridiculously hyperbolic) I know that when they say “mexican food” what they really mean is TexMex, it must be spicy, and at least one item on the plate must be covered in melted cheese. When they say they want a “coke” it could be any of a myriad of carbonated beverages, and when they want a hamburger, they are probably thinking more of a Whataburger (with bacon and jalepenos. Yummy) than In-n-Out.
In my estimation a more significant immigration in my life was moving from a modern propositionally oriented faith to a postmodern faith that is a bit more mystical in orientation. I wasn't born here in Postmodernity, I travelled here from somewhere else.
I can remember reading the Bible attempting to connect the dots in the text to unlock it's secrets, to be 'moved by the Spirit' as I read the text for myself. I remember the heady intoxication of being certain of the clearly present Truth, it was right there in the text (never mind that many friends were certain that the truth was something else based upon the same text).
It was good to know that due to my acceptance of God's free gift of Jesus, through grace by faith I was one of God's chosen. I was different from the lost, those that could not see the truth because they were spiritually blind. Some of them were blinded by their sin, some by their intellect, some by their man-made traditions.
I longed to see the lost saved, to say the Sinners' Prayer and accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. I wanted to see them delivered from their sins of accepting Evolution over the Bible, of their chosen homosexuality, of their Pro-Choice political views.
Then I moved.
As I moved through life and found out more about the world I live in I became more and more impressed with this Jesus fellow. Not only was he Lord and Savior, but he was brilliant as well. I began to see genius in how he handled interpersonal, sociological, economic, and political issues. I began to see Jesus as someone that wasn't just reciting idealistic poetry that can never be really lived, but as someone that saw the particulars of the world He lived in, the world I now live in, and had some real strategies to make a difference. His followers seemed pretty bright too. They understood that the answer to life's problems wasn't just about pie in the sky by and by. It was about living as if God was in control now. Living as if Jesus was King, not Caesar.
I also saw that I had been wrong. That I had mistaken how I made connections in the texts, my interpretation of the Bible, for the Bible. My theological constructs, my tradition (that I called Sola Scriptura), were in my head, not in the text, and should not be weighted as much as the text.
I found out that I had mistaken my view of certain parts of the Bible for an accurate representation of the scientific world. This wasn't a new error. My predecessors, Martin Luther and John Calvin had done the same thing when they opposed the Heliocentric model of the Solar System by quoting scripture to the contrary. I guess there's worse company in which to be.
Finding people who believed in Evolution, or were involved in loving committed relationships with people of the same gender who obviously loved the Lord also cracked my worldview open. It is easy to characterize certain classes of people as hating God if you don't know any one in that class. It becomes harder to ascribe a fatal flaw to someone and use it to dismiss their views and life outright when you get to know them and love them.
I have become the foreigner now. I am the one living outside the land of certainty and God's favor. I am the one 'blinded by intellect' and my association with sinners.
Ah, but I can still recognize the accent of those from my land of origin. I can see their unease when I begin to talk of things that don't line up with their interpretational matrix of scripture, and are therefore 'unbiblical'. I understand that I can appear as “one of them”. I understand the judgement some of them have for me, but I love them. How can I but love them, they are from the land of my birth.