The Chicks’ 1998 single “Wide Open Spaces” tells the story of a young woman leaving home to live in a new place, where she will forge a life and identity entirely her own. His dreams “take the form of a place in the West”.
Listening to this song before moving from Pennsylvania to Casper, like much of his audience, I placed myself as the subject of the song. Fresh out of college, I had just taken on a hybrid job as editor and reporter for the Star-Tribune. I was heading straight for the endless skies of Wyoming and its incomparable views, very different from any I had ever experienced.
And now I was faced with the task of picking up a pace (journalism is about what a writer wants to focus on). I wasn’t sure about that until I got here and started looking for a local church. It struck me then: religion.
Let’s take a few steps back. I grew up in a Christian family. I’ve been to church, Sunday school, church camp, retreats, vacation Bible schools, etc., all my life. From kindergarten to grade 12, I was homeschooled, using a primarily faith-based curriculum. I then left Pennsylvania to study journalism and Spanish at Liberty University.
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More than just an immersion in religious culture, I was (and still am) a member of the Christian faith, which gives me a unique vantage point to observe the triumphs, the tribulations and, yes, the scandals and the problems of the modern church. in America. I had observed how religion affects us all my life. Now I have the platform to write about it.
“Church shopping,” as it is often called, is the process of trying on different size and fit churches until you find a place that works for them. The type of church or faith you seek (or, conversely, stray from) has a huge impact.
Moving to Casper was the first time I had the chance to do it on my own. I was confronted with existential and sometimes overwhelming questions, such as: Who am I? What do I believe? What kind of life do I want to live? The answers were for me in introspection and prayer, yes, but also in church.
Surely I can’t be the only one struggling with these things, I thought. And so my decision to cover the beat of religion was made.
Religion is an important and undeniable part of history and our heritage as a nation. We still feel today the effects of the religious decisions of our ancestors.
Our daily schedule is built around what we believe or don’t believe. For some, Sunday is a holy day for rest and worship. For others, it’s Friday or Saturday. Our annual schedules and holidays are also centered on our beliefs.
Our social media feeds, Spotify playlists, streaming platform watchlists, shopping habits, diets, budgets, weddings, families, schools, literary choices, vocations, social circles, travel – all of these are affected by our beliefs. Likewise, our atheism, our agnosticism and our interpreted and personal sense of spirituality have an equally important impact on the aforementioned things. Everything we believe, or choose not to believe, affects every corner of our lives.
Religion, quite simply, is a thread in the fabric of our culture that we cannot tear.
I hope writing about this topic will showcase an integral and often divisive side of Casper and Wyoming, not only opening up discussion, but also educating those of all kinds of faiths to better understand each other.
I should also note that although I am a Christian with strong beliefs about the gospel, the Trinity, and the Bible, I understand that there are many other religious groups and denominations in this city. More than that, there are also individuals and groups who may believe in no deity or identify only with one religion. These are just as crucial to this conversation. The last thing I want is for my writing to focus solely on evangelism or monotheistic religions.
It is equally important for me to discuss the intersection of religion and politics in order to write about these on all different points of the political spectrum. Various schools of thought can and should coexist in this area.
Finally, I want to write honestly about how certain religious groups have harmed, often unfairly, other groups or individuals. I understand that due to the effects of different religions, some people are now living with deep wounds and painful scars. Just like a fragile package, these objects must be handled with care. These stories are just as valid as those of people thriving in their beliefs and churches.
I am delighted that my first story can be presented as a hot topic of an issue that exists in our country today. Judaism’s views on abortion are important to consider as the people of Wyoming grapple with the overthrow of Roe v. Wade. Some celebrate, others cry; The Jews approach the subject with caution and faith.
In future stories, I hope to speak with various religious leaders from Casper to discuss more about abortion and what they plan to do in its wake. And I look forward to hearing from our readers: if you have story ideas or are a member or leader of a local faith group and would like to introduce yourself, please contact me at [email protected] trib.com. Even if you don’t attend a church, or if you lean towards atheism or agnosticism, I’d still love to hear your thoughts. Only in partnership with the community will I be able to do this.