By Hardy Jackson
Religion and kudzu, a sign of the times I had not planned to write about again, but I’m gonna.
Nor had I planned to write about religion again, well . . .
I think it was Billy Joe Shaver who wrote “the first time the Devil made me do it. The next time I done it on my own.”
Here I go, writing about both.
And Kingston, North Carolina.
Let me explain.
The other day I got an e-mail from my buddy Jerry with a link to an interesting article.
Jerry grew up near me in South Alabama. He left there and went on and got educated at a Southeastern Conference school better known for academics than football – bet you can guess which, since there ain’t but one. Then he taught for a while at a Southeastern Conference school better known for football than academics, which could be any of the others. After that he spent some time at a Big Sky Conference school that claims to be the “Harvard of the West.” At last, he returned South to settle in the mountains of North Carolina, write a book and find articles like the one he sent me.
The headline read: “Holy kudzu! Vine said to resemble Jesus.”
Now a utility pole swaddled in kudzu is not anything to write home about. I can show you two or three along most any rural road in Dixie, but the one just outside Kingston, North Carolina was something special.
Kent Hardison noticed it right off.
Driving on his way to work at Ma’s Hotdog House, he saw how the vine was growing up the pole and out on the line, in both directions. And being a concerned citizen, he figured it was his civic duty to do a good deed and “blast it with Roundup.”
Then he took a closer look and like Saul’s Damascus experience, the scales fell from his eyes, “he received sight forthwith,” and what he saw was not kudzu on a pole but Jesus on the cross.
Realizing “you can’t spray Jesus with Roundup,” Hardison had his “sense from God” moment and set out to spread the word that the “kudzu Christ” was a sign that the Lord was “watching over the region.”
Now, we all know that Southerners are big on communicating with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. We pray a lot and we expect prayers to be answered. So, when someone says they got the “sense from God” to do what they did, who are we to say they didn’t. We never have put much stock in the notion that when prayers are answered they cease to be prayers and become correspondence. Everybody likes to get a letter.
We are also big into “signs” — as in the “Church of God with Signs Following” and its non-Trinitarian neighbor the “Church of Jesus with Signs Following.” So Hardison’s observation that Christ on the Cross in kudzu may be “a sign of the times” made sense to many.
Besides, Hardison added, some sorta sign was surely needed ‘cause “there’s been a lot going on in this area.”
Around here to.
Which is why I have been looking for something similar, sign-wise.
Haven’t found it yet.
Meanwhile Hardison, who has the soul and sensibilities of a theologian, found nothing odd about kudzu being a good way for Jesus, who once said that He was “the true vine,” to send a message to the faithful in Dixie.
As Hardison observed, “it doesn’t matter what you do, it (Kudzu) is going to be around.”
Then he added, “ain’t that a lot like Jesus?”
Well, I never thought of it that way, but I guess it is.
So, put away the Roundup and let it grow.
There may be a message in it.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.